Regaining Intimacy

People often think of sex when they hear the word intimacy, and while sex is an important part of being intimate, it is not the whole picture.

Intimacy is about how you and your partner stay physically and emotionally connected, and can include things like date nights, holding hands, sharing activities or talking about the things that are most precious to you. While intimacy includes physical touch, other times it’s purely emotional.

For many people, intimate relationships suffer or change during and after cancer treatment. Dealing with cancer treatment, busy schedules and even financial stress can put pressure on couples and cause them to grow apart.

Fear and emotional distancing may have also led to changes in your relationship. Despite serious illness, many couples do grow closer and feel connected in ways that they never thought possible.

Time to talk

  • Set aside your best time for your partner (when you have the most energy) to talk about changes in your intimate relationship, and what steps you can take to reconnect. Talk about things you have done together in the past that brought joy, as well as your hopes, dreams and goals for the future.
  • Be open-minded, playful and curious and see this as an opportunity to discover new things about your partner.
  • Sharing what you have gone through, your feelings and fears can be an important part of improving or keeping your intimacy. Your partner may have his or her own fears, like being afraid of hurting you, feeling guilty or selfish for wanting to be intimate with you, or not knowing how to voice feelings.

Tips for reconnecting

  • Take a warm shower or bath together
  • Take a nap together
  • Write love notes or an email to remind your partner of your love and appreciation

You might also want to discuss seeking help from a professional, such as a couple’s counselor, or consult with your doctor or nurse about your questions and concerns.

Since sexuality is an important part of life, it’s also important to talk about the physical changes you’re experiencing as a survivor. See our resources on sexuality for more information about changes in sexual functioning during and after cancer treatment.