What do we mean by intimacy and sexuality?

The dictionary defines intimacy as a situation in which you have a close friendship or sexual relationship with someone and it can also be described as closeness between people in personal relationships.

In this context, sexuality refers to how we express our feelings and sexual desires with the people we love or feel close to. It’s about making the most of our intimate relationships and having a fulfilling love life.

Intimacy is about more than sex.

Touching, kissing and hugging are all physical acts of intimacy. They may in turn lead to sex or be part of lovemaking but aren’t in themselves necessarily sexual. They can simply be signs of affection and closeness.

Intimacy can also mean the freedom to show and share your emotions without fear or embarrassment.

It can be almost impossible to maintain the same levels of intimacy when you’re suddenly thrown headlong into a world of hospitals and specialists, tests and medications, changing roles and uncertainty.

Being able to confide in someone, to rely on their support, or to simply feel their arms wrapped around you at a time when you need them most can be very reassuring.

Sex and PH 

Sex is an important part of life and having a chronic illness does not change that. However, it can often be the first and most obvious part to suffer as a knock-on effect of a serious illness such as PH.

PH won’t turn off your sex drive altogether, but the symptoms and some of the treatments may well suppress it.

Remember that either both or one of you may be feeling really stressed out by everything going on.  Even if you’re not at the ‘burnout stage’, the pressure of things may have a temporary effect on both or one of your libidos. Be ready to accept, if only for a short time, that although you can have sex, you might not want it at present.

That’s not to say that PH won’t have a real and lasting impact on your relationships and sexual activity. It will – but often in more subtle ways than you might think. Breathlessness, lack of energy and fatigue are actually relatively easy problems to deal with compared to some of the possible psychological effects of having a long-term condition. These can include low self-esteem, poor body image and performance anxiety. PH can also exist with other conditions such as congenital heart disease and connective tissue disease, which also impact on the degree of sexual ability and level of intimacy.

It is important to let your partner know if you don’t feel interested in sexual activity. If can be helpful to explain how you feel so that they do not feel rejected. You can also suggest what you are happy to offer as an alternative, such as, ‘I don’t want to have sex but would love to cuddle.’’

If your partner is feeling sexually frustrated there may be ways other than sex that they can reduce this frustration. You could perhaps discuss masturbation as a way of reducing sexual frustration. Don’t be ashamed of masturbation – it’s a very natural act.

A creative and open-minded approach to overcoming these physical and emotional obstacles may ultimately lead to a more enjoyable and rewarding love life – maybe even better than you had before!

Attitudes towards sex

Attitudes to sex can vary enormously from person to person. Remember that you are a unique individual, and when considering sexuality and intimacy it is important to focus on all your needs, wishes and desires.

Sadly, many people worry about what is considered ‘normal’. Sexuality is not fixed. The reality is we can change our minds, find new things pleasurable and learn how to communicate in new ways because we have to. We all have the potential to feel good about who we are, and to choose how we share that feeling with others.