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Sexuality and Intimacy

Feet poking out from underneath the sheets

Sexuality and intimacy are important at various stages of our life and intimate expression can be especially significant at the end of life when time together with our loved ones may be limited.

Sexuality is the way that people feel and express themselves sexually, it can be difficult to find a precise definition, especially within todays much more enlightened society. It can involve biological, psychological, physical, erotic, emotional, social and spiritual feelings and behaviours, and can be quite complex.

Couple cuddling in bed together

We generally talk about intimacy as feelings of being in a close, loving, personal relationship, a close affectionate bond, familiarity or friendship. Intimacy can also be more physical, including touching and kissing, holding hands and hugging, it can also mean, being emotionally close to someone else, as in the intimacy of an old friend.

We don’t need research to tell us that the presence of intimacy in our lives, feelings of being understood, accepted and cared for, make us feel better. These feelings can be expressed in different ways, for example, a look, terms of endearment, a partners responsiveness, showing empathy, watching a film together, acts of kindness or physical touch.

Contact of a non-sexual nature, for example the hugs, squeezes, a look, handholding, strokes, random touches and brushing your loved ones hair can all help to connect us with the people that are important to us. Even giving yourself a hug, a stroke or some self-love can help enormously.

And of course, both of these words, ‘sexuality’ and ‘intimacy’ will mean different things to different individuals at different times. But importantly they are both very closely related to your own sense of individuality, sense of wellbeing and sense of self.

Benefits of sex and intimacy

There can be many benefits of intimacy, closeness and sex in relationships, some of which are listed below:

  • a way of expressing and communicating feelings
  • feelings of being understood, accepted and cared for
  • feeling really listened to and heard
  • can help to alleviate depression
  • feelings of reassurance
  • help to find joy in the moment
  • help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety
  • feeling connected to others
  • providing a distraction and relief from your illness
  • they can make you feel better about yourself
  • fostering feelings of wellness
  • feelings of tenderness, closeness and friendship
  • and simply makes you feel good
Couple talking over cup of tea

Our physiology is changed by touch, and plays an enormous role in our interactions, growth and healing. Touch can be very powerful, and when sexual intercourse through perhaps penetration or more physical interaction may be very difficult or impossible, the act of lovemaking and the more sensual side of intimacy, can still happen through touch or language, using skin to skin contact and words to help make that connection.

You may discover that exploring different ways of finding sexual satisfaction can bring you closer to your partner, or if you aren’t in a relationship, then exploring your own body may help you connect with yourself at a different more intimate level.

A lowering or loss of sex drive can happen for various reasons, age and illness can of course affect our libido, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a problem, however, it can mean one or both of you may be left feeling frustrated or rejected. This is where communication, talking about how you are feeling can really help.

You might also find that your illness increases your thoughts around sex and intimacy, and as your illness continues your feelings around this may change too, as may your thoughts around many different things, and this is ok, this is normal.