Do you remember how good it felt to be making love with your partner? Remember the feeling of your bodies close together, the pleasure it gave to both of you, and the lovely warmth of lying together afterwards? Do you recall how the simple act of making love seemed to bring you closer to one another on so many levels?
If you or your partner has experienced prostate cancer – and treatment – the chances are that your love-making has changed dramatically. Perhaps you both struggled to adapt to the changes and eventually gave up trying. Or maybe you persevered and found a way of retaining intimacy in your relationship.
Maintaining touch is critical to overall health and wellbeing. A recent American study states that:-
[researchers] found that receiving more physical touch from a spouse while discussing a stressor was related to lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and greater perceptions of being able to overcome the stressor. Greater affectionate support, which included hugging, helped reduce the adverse impact of the stress…”
It is perfectly okay for couples to decide to stop having sex, if both parties no longer wish to engage that way. There are other ways to be intimate and keep your love strong.
How has prostate cancer impacted you and your relationship?
How do you feel about the impact of prostate cancer (and its treatment) on your life? How has it has affected you? If you are married or in a relationship, has prostate cancer affected the closeness and intimacy between you and your partner?
The changes in your body can be dramatic, and sometimes traumatic. These tend to create new challenges regarding personal desires, needs, affection and physical intimacy.
This journey can be transformative for some couples, bringing them closer as they work together on finding new ways to maintain their intimacy and connection.
For others, maybe due to age, health issues, the impact of hormone treatment, or problems within the relationship, intimacy might fall into the “too hard” basket.
So, let’s discuss the potential benefits of sleeping next to your partner, skin to skin.
One of the easiest ways to maintain physical intimacy (without sex) is sleeping naked together.
It is entirely natural for humans to want and need touch. Spooning together in bed is a lovely way to feel that physical connection and affection. The “love hormone”, oxytocin, is released when there is skin-on-skin touch. Some studies have shown that oxytocin helps to reduce anxiety and stress. Oxytocin also helps with couple bonding.
Sleeping naked is thought to enhance our self-esteem (which can take a battering from cancer and cancer treatment). Spending time naked with one another helps us to feel loved and accepted (warts and all).
This may not be for you, but we can certainly recommend it as an easy way to keep connected.
How to get started
Here are some tips from an article in an over 50s online newsletter which you could consider if it has been a while since you both slept naked.
- Try sleeping in only a T-shirt or underwear for the first few nights to help you adjust to the sensation of wearing fewer clothes.
- Let your partner know that you’re making changes to your sleep routine and invite them to consider sleeping naked along with you.
- Invest in better sheets and bedding, so you’re comfortable when you start sleeping nude.
- Make sure your doona or comforter is warm enough, and add blankets if needed.
- Create a bedtime ritual to help you wind down and start lowering your body temperature before you shed your clothes for the night.
- Go at a pace that feels good for you and begin sleeping completely nude only when it feels comfortable.
Our personal experience
From a personal perspective, whenever my wife and I have been intimate, that release of oxytocin, for both of us, certainly improves our sense of wellbeing. We feel closer to each other. This is particularly noticeable when we haven’t been intimate for a while, and we tend to get a bit scratchy with each other. We know what we have been missing, and how much difference it makes to our lives and our relationship. And yes, we do sleep naked at night, and so enjoy that skin-to-skin contact as well.
We both enjoy the feeling of sleeping nude together. Whenever our bodies touch (accidentally or on purpose), it brings us pleasure. We often fall asleep cuddled up together. Actually, it seems that we drift off to sleep faster when we are spooning than if we are lying apart in bed.
If you are curious about how to re-establish that physical connection without it having to be sexual, then we suggest you have a look at our friend Tess Deveze’s website.
Who is Tess Deveze?
She is the founder of ConnectAble Therapies, a Melbourne-based occupational therapy consulting service focusing on sexuality, intimacy, arousal, communication and partner dynamics.
Her clinical experience as an occupational therapist is primarily in sexuality during and after cancer treatments, as well as sexuality and disability.
Tess is a registered member and practitioner of the following organisations, whose codes, ethics and practices she adheres to:
- The Occupational Therapy Board of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)
- The Society of Australian Sexologists Ltd (SAS)
- The Somatic Sex Educators’ Association of Australasia (SSEAA)
We have recently completed Tess’s six week Connection & Cancer; Reclaim your intimacy and desire course. Although our sex life was okay, doing the course brought us even closer to together. We particularly enjoyed the early weeks of the course – learning to caress each other without it leading to sex. There was plenty of touching and caressing, which led to us both feeling more relaxed. It was liberating to do that without the expectation of having to go “all the way”.
This course, and the well-researched information supplied by Tess, can support couples who have had to face changes to their desire and intimacy, following any treatments that have impacted on them.
So, do yourself a favour, and check out Tess’s website for creating positive changes in your desire and intimacy.