Redefining Intimacy With a Chronic Illness

Often times, as chronic illness warriors, we struggle with trying to make it through the day. Tasks that are easily mastered by those living without chronic illness are usually turbulent task for those with it. 

Sometimes it’s hard for us to will ourselves out of the bed let alone clean house, cook dinner, and tend to our families. There are a lot of areas in our lives that suffer because we are suffering. This includes, the seldom mentioned, intimate areas of our lives.

Because it takes so much energy out of us just to do the little things, very little energy is left to give to our mates. Nonetheless, intimacy is a very important factor in keeping a relationship happy and thriving.The definition of intimacy is a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship that you have with another person. This person is often your mate.

Intimacy is much more than the physical act of intercourse, however. Intimacy is, most often, the act of emotional closeness with another person. It is possible to be intimate with our friends, our children, even our pets. Many people confuse intimacy with love making (I blame the movies); and though sexy time with a significant other is a way to feel closer to them, we must remember that intercourse is not intimacy. We aren't saying that sexy time isn't an important part of a relationship to some degree, but if you don't know how to be truly intimate with a person, then your relationship will fade if your illness ever prevents you from a roll in the sheets.

Intercourse isn't even mentioned in the definition of the word "intimacy" because these two words, though many like to interchange them, are actually not at all interchangeable. As we all know, you don't have to know a person well before having intercourse. The same is not true for the act of intimacy. It is very difficult, most would say impossible, to be intimate with someone you don't really know.

In this blog we will touch on (no pun intended) ways to keep the spark in your love life even when you feel your spark has fizzled.

Hand holding. A soft kiss on the nape of the neck. A simple "I love you" for no particular reason. These are all ways to be intimate without being restricted to the confines of your bedroom. Better still are that those examples follow the true definition of the word much more closely then the act of sexy time.

Courting—as the more "mature in age" generation calls it—shouldn’t stop when a commitment has been established. The very things you did to attract your mate should be the very things you continue each day throughout your relationship. The Honeymoon phase shouldn't be restricted to a short lived phase.

When we are first entering a relationship, everything is fresh and exciting. Everything is coming up daisies. It's all very peaches and cream, so to speak. Love is in the air. It still has that new car smell. Most people call this phase "the honeymoon phase" but I call that CRAP! If the honeymoon phase is so exciting, why do we ever leave it? 

We start our relationships in the honeymoon phase because life has not been given a chance to alter our perception of what being in a committed relationship really is—but what if I told you that the honeymoon never has to end as long as we don't let the world ruin our perception of being in a committed relationship? That's right, ladies and gents. The only reason the honeymoon phase ends is because the world has turned us into cynics.

Sometimes being in a relationship for an extended amount of time has a way of gripping us by the neck. We lose sight of what made us fall in love to begin with. Circumstances have a way of interfering or altering the natural order of things. Everything is golden until it isn’t. So the question remains. How do we fix this? 
Talking is key to unlocking the doors of intimacy. With the everyday hustle and bustle, stress, and adulting that life requires, intimacy can easily be lost in translation. Sometimes we get so caught up in the mundane rigmarole of taking care of business we forget to take care of ourselves and our mates.

As mentioned previously, talking is an integral part of creating a healthy relationship. Checking in with your mate can make all the difference when trying to make them happy and comfortable in the relationship. Talking will not only help your significant other feel heard, but it will help them feel at ease knowing that you are truly interested in the things they have to say.

Just as every good journey begins with a single step, every good conversation begins with a single word so start talking. Talk about hopes, dreams, even your day—however unexciting it may have seemed. Allow your mate to be the support system that you need. Share your interest and desires, not just the physical ones, but the uplifting ones, as well. Share your goals and aspirations, after all team work makes the dream work. Make sure you remember to actively listen to your partner and remind them to do the same.

Though we spend a lot of time on this post discussing talking, it isn't the only way to be intimate with your better half. Date night isn’t just for new couples. The best way to escape from the drama that life has the tendency to bring is by enjoying the company of the one you love. Dinner and a movie or just a simple stroll around your neighborhood together can change or lighten up the atmosphere. If strolls are too much for you to handle at this point in your illness, have a quiet night at home playing bored games or sitting on the back porch listening to the birds. All of these activities will bring about new ways to be intimate. 

Take time to slow down and smell the roses, as cliché as it sounds. It's ok to lose yourself in each other’s presence. When you and your mate are connected, outside distractions and annoyances just don’t matter quite as much. 

Remember that anyone can be physical regardless of the presence of love. Being truly intimate without being physical is much harder than the physical act. That might be why there is so much confusion in the definition. Perhaps people redefined the word because it was so much easier for them to be physical than actually be intimate. It's up to us to take back the true definition and make sure we practice it every day.

Until next time, make sure to hug and kiss the one you love—let them know what they mean to you and ensure them that chronic illness will never change the way you feel about them even though it may alter the way you’re able to express it. Flirting and talking are awesome! You should try it!

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