In many couples affected by MS, the partner without MS is a caregiver to the partner with the condition. This can change the sexual relationship in many ways. The partner without MS may find it hard to juggle between the roles of lover and caregiver. He or she may feel grief, anxiety, or depression as the partner with MS becomes ill. Caregivers get tired too, and the stress of working plus caring for their partner may make them feel too tired or drained for sex.
As time progresses, and the partner without MS becomes even more of a caregiver, he or she may stop thinking sexually about his or her partner. If the partner with MS is extremely dependent and cannot function on his or her own, the other person may even feel guilty about wanting to have sex with them. The caregiver must also adapt to the MS partner's changing body image and abilities. This can be hard in a society that doesn't provide many "sexy" role models with disabilities.
Here are a few tips for people caring for a partner with MS:
- Take some time for yourself. Being a caregiver is tiring and stressful, and you deserve a break now and then. Ask family and friends for help, or talk to your MS society about respite care. Giving yourself some "recovery time" can help improve your energy and prevent you from feeling resentful of your partner.
- Talk to your partner about how you are feeling, and how you can work together to develop a "new normal" sexual relationship that will be satisfying to you both.
- Develop specific signals or rituals that separate sex from caregiving. This will help you balance your roles as lover and caregiver.
- Join a support group for partner/caregivers of people with MS. You can meet new people, share your experiences, and learn from the experiences of others.
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