Dear Mrs Salisbury: How can we be intimate without having sex?
Psychologist Robyn Salisbury helps a reader with a relationship dilemma.
QUESTION: We are a couple in our early 50s. Three years ago my beautiful husband underwent surgery for bladder cancer, and we are grateful for his prognosis but he has been left with Peyronie's disease.
Now his penis is so bent and twisted that intercourse is painful and difficult for both of us. He has been told the surgery to correct this is painful and not 100 per cent guaranteed to even be effective. He is angry at times that he cannot make love to me and, even though he will not admit it, I'm certain he has become insecure.
This man is my best friend, my soul mate. Yes, making love is important to both of us but there must be some other way we could be intimate, surely?
ANSWER: There absolutely are many ways to still make love that give great pleasure including orgasm and will maintain intimacy, passion and all the vitality sexuality can bring. First, though, there is grieving to do.
It's totally understandable that alongside feeling grateful to be alive, your man will be grappling with what this loss means for his masculinity and self-worth.
You know there is far more to him as a man than his capacity to have intercourse, but this aspect of his sexual expression may well have been central to his sense of self for more than three decades.
Anger and despair are normal stages of grief – just empathise rather than trying to override them with your loving reassurance. This will allow trust and deep emotional intimacy and overcome any possibility of avoidance of all intimacy developing. I know this means you have to hold your own sense of desirability and self-worth by yourself for a while but you sound strong and positive so I'm confident you two can do this.
When your husband is ready to focus on non-intercourse sex, agree that your goals will be to have fun and give pleasure. Spend much longer than you usually would kissing; there's no rush to go anywhere. Touch each other through your clothes, undress slowly or not at all.
Over time, kiss or touch everywhere, find out where each of your favourite places are. Shower or bathe together, concentrate on all the sensations, breathe deeply and linger in your favourite ones. Get a book or movie on erotic massage, use your creativity to find your 101 ways to seduce, pleasure and enjoy each other.
Robyn Salisbury is a clinical psychologist. Email questions to MrsSalisbury@sextherapy.co.nz
- Sunday Magazine