The worry surrounding your stem cell transplant could make your relationship more complicated. For some couples, a situation like this brings them closer together but for one reason or another your relationship might become strained or even break down. Many people find it difficult to talk about sexual issues, often finding it embarrassing. However it’s the most natural thing in the world and if you bottle up your feelings it could make things worse in the long run.
It will be important for you to talk to each other about how you are feeling so there are no misunderstandings. If your partner appears distant, help them open up about their feelings; they could be hiding their concerns because they don’t want to burden you with extra worries.
‘Try to talk about how you feel, rather than making any assumptions about how your partner might be feeling. Sit down with them and say, “I’m feeling this about my body, I wonder how this is affecting you?” You could start by talking more generally – about how you’re feeling about treatment and your relationships – before diving straight into talking about your sex life.’
Krystal Woodbridge, psychosexual and relationship therapist
ALTERNATIVES TO SEX
If you feel uncomfortable about having sex for whatever reason, there are still plenty of ways for you and your partner to feel close. Find time to enjoy each other’s company, talk about things that make you both happy and try to forget about your situation for a while. Holding hands, cuddling, kissing and massaging each other are all types of physical contact that can help you feel close.
Some people find it helps if they ‘reset’ their relationship following their transplant by going back to dating their partner. This removes the immediate pressure of having sex and allows intimacy to grow at a pace that is more comfortable. It’s still possible to feel close to your partner without the physical act of having sex.
‘Life is good. Life is a little bit different. We make the most of every little thing – things that we used to take for granted, we don’t anymore.’
Mariacristina, whose husband George had a stem cell transplant in 2014