Intimacy and sexuality: other issues
If you don’t have a partner
Many people are single for long periods of their life. For these people, emotional support often comes from family and/or friends. Just because you are not currently in a relationship, it doesn’t mean you are not a sexual individual. Moreover, your PH doesn’t mean you can’t engage in responsible sexual relationships as a single person.
Starting a new relationship
It can be very difficult to decide what to tell a new partner about your PH, and also when to tell them. There is no simple answer that will work for everyone. To help you decide, it may be useful to consider how safe you feel in your new relationship, and perhaps to talk through any fears with your new partner. This is particularly relevant if you have a hidden body image change (such as a pump to deliver your PH treatment) and you are anxious about it being discovered.
A good way to start new relationships is to use internet dating services. These services vary in how they work and in the numbers (and types) of people they attract. So, it’s worth looking into a couple of options before signing up. Perhaps the best approach is to talk to someone who has used the service. The issue of telling people about your PH shouldn’t stop you looking for a relationship – remember, it’s up to you how much you tell people about your PH and when you tell them.
Body image is the mental picture we have of our own appearance and how we think we should look. This image may not be drawn from what our body actually looks like but rather how we think we look. Throughout life, our bodies are constantly changing. Our body image can be altered whether or not PH and its treatments cause a change to our appearance. It may happen because our confidence has been knocked because of the diagnosis of PH, or maybe our PH has worsened and we aren’t feeling too good.
Changes in body image can cause feelings of distress that go far beyond the physical effects of PH and its treatments. When there has been a change in body image which is sudden and dramatic, you may feel ‘abnormal’. You may also have feelings of shame, embarrassment, inferiority or anger. When a change to your body is a visible one (such as having to wear a pump to deliver your PH treatment, or nasal cannulae for oxygen) these feelings can be made worse by the reactions of other people.
Dealing with changes to your body image can be difficult. It may help to talk through your concerns with your partner, a close friend or family member. They will reassure you that you have nothing to worry about. Talking to your PH nurse may also help. They will have seen many people go through the same thing as you. And of course, the PHA UK is always here to help. We understand the issues involved and can offer friendly advice and support.
Relate and the British Association for Sexual and Relationship Therapy (BASRT) offer advice and counselling for any sexuality issues you might be facing. Their details can be found at the back of this booklet.