Wifey Wednesday: Disability and Sexuality

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I write a post, and then you all chime in by linking up your own marriage posts to the Linky below!

Today, please welcome guest poster, Alicia Reagan, who shares a touching post about disability and sexuality: her paralysis, how it has impacted her intimacy with her husband and what they are doing to be intentional about it. 

Disability and SexualityYou read about it. You hear about it. You have talked about it. Many are on this blog because of it. Your sex life is a dreaded and frustrated area. You are unhappy and ready to give up on it all together. I get it. I really do.

On March 12, 2009 my life drastically changed. I woke up completely paralyzed. The diagnosis: Transverse Myelitis – a neurological disorder where a virus attacks your spinal cord. My life would now be lived from a wheelchair.

I became disabled shortly after my husband and I had celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. My hubby and I always had different sex drives, but other than a few conversations about my needs/his needs as we adjusted to married life, we really had no majors in our bedroom. Then paralysis came.

There really aren’t the right words to describe the emotional side of something so physically devastating. Woman are sexual beings and we already deal with enough insecurities as it is, but now add a physical problem and it takes a toll on your psyche. Muscles atrophy, your body shape changes, and you have the idea that everyone (including your husband) is looking at you like you are a nursing home resident!

I remember the first time we were going to be together sexually again. My body cannot move and position like it once did, sensations are gone and not what they used to be, spasms take over at the worst times, and nerve pain can rage and completely halt everything. “How are we going to do this?”, he asked. I answered, “I don’t know Honey. We will just have to figure it out.” Little did I know what figuring it out meant.

When a couple is fulfilled in their sex life and they find that intimacy there, that is wonderful. But when a couple is faced with a situation where they still desire certain things, but just cannot physically do what they did before, then it can be a very volatile area in their marriage. When your body quits working, it does not mean that your sexual desires stop. You have to find a way to work through this. This looks different for men and women because we are wired different. In the case of paralysis, we are even different in our physical abilities as a male or female. However, we are the same in the fact that all humans are wired for sexual needs in our relationships so this area must be figured out.

The first year I worried for his emotions so I just endured everything. I dreaded sex because I got nothing but pain….both physically and emotionally. It was hard to watch him enjoy something that I was not enjoying. I fought anger at what I could not do and jealousy towards him that, although our Iives had changed, he seemed more than happy in this area. I stayed silent. I was the perfect little martyr because I did not want to hurt him by telling him how much I did not like this part of our life anymore.

My silence and sacrifice was the wrong move! It made me feel so resentful of him. I would conjure up reasons why he was not being sensitive to my needs and he should be able to read my mind and know how I was hurting sexually. I never told him these things though he could feel it. He stayed very sweet and loving, but I was hurting.

One day, we were having an argument about something unrelated and he mentioned how distant I had become in the bedroom. Not physically, because I was a “good wife” and never told him no. But emotionally, he could tell I was different. It opened a flood gate of venom that spewed out of my mouth about how different and miserable and awful it all was and I just couldn’t deal with this part of paralysis.  By the way, this is not really a talking feature when people ask how you are doing!

Although I regret spewing it all over him in that kind of scenario, it opened a door for us to communicate about this area of our lives. This kind of conversation is hard to have with your spouse, but I have learned it is much harder if you do not have these conversations.

I don’t have the answer for every couple as that is a personal area, but Jimmy and I finally came to the conclusion that what we both were desperate for was intimacy. As a female paraplegic, I was physically able for my husband to have sex with me (although many people thought that we could not and were mourning for Jimmy — that made me mad!), but the lack of connection with my paralyzed body also brought a disconnection with my emotions.

Years 2 & 3 were years of adjustment for us sexually. We realized that in many ways we were like newlyweds again having to discover what works and what doesn’t. Although many things are different (my body, abilities, sensations, self-image, energy, pain levels, spasms), other things have not changed. We could not focus on how things had been, we could only focus on how things were going to be from now on.

Since Jimmy had felt like we were in a good place sexually because his needs were being met, we had to focus on what was frustrating me. Paralysis changes nerve sensations and things that used to feel good can feel horrible, or non-existent. However, there were new things that were to be discovered that never worked before and now brought pleasure. Jimmy had to learn to be sensitive to my emotions as it doesn’t take much to flash you into the past and be upsetting, and he had to learn to listen to what my body was saying to me and he had to follow my directions. We learned to see this time of adjustment as a disability problem, not a relational one.

There are times that I have sex with Jimmy when my body is screaming no. I do it because I love him and I know that he physically needs me at that time. There are times we do not have sex when Jimmy’s body is screaming yes. He does that because he knows that it would pain me too much and he loves me more than himself. This is intimacy.

Jimmy and I are far from perfect in our marriage and in our sex life. However, this imperfection is the exact place where we know this is bigger than us and so we cling to God. We need His help every day to help us be the couple He desires us to be. We are a work in progress and we will still be when we are married 50 years. We love being married to each other and are committed that we are going to keep fighting for what we love.

Statistics show that marriages with disabilities have a very small percentage of making it. Being disabled has added a whole new layer of struggles in our marriage, but we don’t want to be a statistic. We would like to help change that trend and say that all marriages are worth fighting for. If our story helps to encourage other couples to stay committed in their marriages, then it is all worth it.

I get that you may be frustrated in your sex life. Don’t settle. True love can conquer all – even paralysis. If you are going to fight, then fight for that love.

Alicia ReaganI am Alicia Reagan — a Christian, a wife, a mommy and a paraplegic. No that ins’t a disease — it means that I am paralyzed. I use a wheelchair full-time and that keeps my life as a Christian, a wife and a mommy very interesting and exciting. I talk about all of these things at aliciareagan.wordpress.com. I love writing, and my blog is a combination of everything I am, who I am becoming, and what I think about enjoying the ride of life. I hope you will enjoy this journey with me.

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Just enter the URL of the individual post in the linky below! And make sure to link back here, too, so that other people can read all these great marriage posts!

 

 

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the link party! It’s my first time linking up! I’m so excited!
    Katelyn recently posted…Thinking about Homeschooling: SocializationMy Profile

  2. On Monday I just wrote a post about 8 ways we are selfish lovers and today about ways to be a servant lover. I must say Alicia and Jimmy are showing prime examples on how to be servant lovers! Amazing. Thank you for sharing!
    Cassie recently posted…8 Ways We Are Selfish Lovers From “Real Marriage”My Profile

  3. This is the article I have been waiting and praying for for so long. Thank you thank you thank you!! I also have TM and have been partially paralyzed since 1993. I got married a little over 4 years ago, and our sex life has been a struggle from the start. I have some feeling, but not enough and it’s so frustrating! I would love to be in contact with Nancy if possible, just to hear more of her story and encourage one another. Thank you, Sheila, for publishing this story!

  4. ButterflyWings says:

    I guess we were “lucky” that my husband knew I was disabled when we met.

  5. Alicia,
    Thank you for sharing your struggle and how God is helping both you and your husband adjust to the demands of change. You perfectly reflect how a marriage must ebb and flow together as one flesh. I absolutely love your heart to honor God and unselfishly love your husband, even when it hurts–literally!
    I pray God continues to lead you and bless your marriage.
    Debi Gray Walter recently posted…Romantic Table For Two Photo ContestMy Profile

  6. Wow, thank you for sharing your life with us Alicia! Your marriage is such a unique example of living out the vows “for better or worse”. Too many people want to say the vows, but forget them when it actually comes time to own them. Thank you for working not to become a statistic but instead to be an example of what true love really is all about, putting your spouse in front of yourself. I think so many people think this means becoming a doormat. In your case it has allowed both of you to learn and grow closer to God and to each other by becoming selfless instead of selfish. Prayers for strength as you continue to live this new path your life has taken.

  7. Stephanie says:

    Do you have a blog/other articles that you have written? I would love to hear more from you.!

  8. I have to say it’s a small world. I have been reading this blog for a little over a year now. I have been married for almost three years. I knew Alicia when she was in college. I was a member of the church associated with the college, and I always enjoyed listening to her sing in church. It’s great to see how God is using you and your husband. You all so precious and are always encouraging.
    Rebekah recently posted…Letter of the Week: Part 6My Profile

  9. Such an important topic and a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing your story and the wisdom you’ve gained. Blessings for your marriage!
    J (Hot, Holy & Humorous) recently posted…Is an STD Affecting Your Marriage?My Profile

  10. I am proud of my sweetheart Alicia for writing this article! She is so passionate about reaching out and I love her for it! I pray that what she has written can help others!

    I should also confess that I reach Sheila’s blog here too. Unless it is an article only for women I usually take a peek. We referred to this blog together several times during the adjustment phase Alicia wrote about!

  11. What a brave, amazing post! I think that people wonder about this issue, but don’t know who to ask about it. I’m so thankful you wrote this, and so awed by your all’s testimony.
    Megan G. recently posted…what’s in a dossier, anyway?My Profile

  12. This was just beautiful, Alicia & Shelia, and you have spoken to all of us wives, and those who want to be. I love your emphasis on both of you thinking of the other, and your honesty that it has been a struggle. It is uncanny (no, not uncanny, just God!) that today I went to a large conference for students with disabilities (my daughter was born blind). We met professionals who are blind or have other disabilities. One man was 33, a little over 3 feet tall, and had only one arm, and his one hand had only 3 digits. He was delightful. We met a PHD that is the Director of an Eye Research Center whose face and eye was 75% burned at 4 years old, and he is blind and has facial disfigurement. He was unbelievably charming, funny, bright, and I am not kidding, all of it together made him ATTRACTIVE!!! I say all this to say, not only are all things possible with God, but to look at what you are able to do, not what you are not able to do, and to accept, be grateful, and joyful is a lesson for all of us. I count you, Alicia, as one of the role models for my daughter that I met today!!!! You go, Girl & Sister!
    Juana Mikels recently posted…Three Conditions to Being A Disciple & Wednesday’s Prayer Girls & Link-Up Party!My Profile

  13. Thanks intended for giving these superb subject matter.
    Britt recently posted…BrittMy Profile

  14. I love this article. I pray God’s blessing on your marriage Alicia.

    An article I have been searching for is for the intimacy between a wife and her paraplegic husband. This is the dynamic of my marriage. We are going on 9 years…and well, sex is boring. I tend to avoid it because it is the same thing over and over again. No romance at all. My situation is so unique and I haven’t been able to talk to someone who truly understands. :/

  15. Thank you. My husband is disabled. He has a calcium deposit in his brain so the whole right side of his body is in co stand spasms. He is still able to walk but it is very difficult. Things we use to do like hike, dance and go for walks are too hard for him now. We can ride bikes and do a little canoeing. He also went through a battle with prostate cancer, which was aggressive at age 50. Both issues have helped us become much better communicators in the bedroom. Thanks for sharing your life.

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