Flickr 3006348550 - Reader Question: Breast Cancer and SexEvery Monday I like to post a Reader Question, and then give my thoughts and invite you to chime in as well.

Here’s a rough one:

I was diagnosed [a few years ago] with breast cancer and had a lumpectomy followed by radiation.  Our sex life was wonderful after that.  My wonderful, Christian husband stood by me and always made me feel like I was so precious.  My breast were scarred but still intact and still a great source of pleasure for my husband and for me.  We assumed cancer was behind us and then [recently] I was diagnosed again with cancer this time in both breasts and the recommendation was that I have a double mastectomy.  I chose to have reconstruction surgery and my husband again stood by me.  While my plastic surgeon was pleased with his work I have never been comfortable with what I low look like, I would say my chest is now a hot mess.

I was devastated that something that gave my husband so much pleasure was now gone along with our sex life.  He never asked for sex anymore and I never initiated it.  I wouldn’t let him see me without clothes.  I just hate my body. I have suspected that my husband had started watching porn and this past month I have confirmed that with a discovery on our family computer.  It was left open and thank goodness I was the one who found it not our children.

I have confronted him and he of course says he is done, through, over it.  He says it’s something he watched “occasionally” until a couple of years ago and now he watches almost every Friday and Saturday night.  We have started having sex again because I want to feel connected to him.  We both want this marriage.  We love each other, our life and our family.  He has agreed to stay off the computer and come to bed when we do.  No more staying up late by himself.

Where do we go from here?  I know our lack of sex has contributed to this and I do not feel blameless but part of me says did he not want sex because he was more interested in his videos?  Was he repulsed my body?  I can’t have porn in our home with our kids.

What a difficult situation! I’ve lived with breast cancer in my family, too. Oh, God, may we find a cure soon.

I think here we need to separate the two issues: the porn and hating your body.

When sex gets difficult, people often turn to what seems easy

It’s actually quite common to fall into porn use during these traumas in our lives. We want to feel like we are still sexual, and it’s an easy way to escape the cares of your daily life.

At the same time, it obviously is not something you can tolerate. It’s a sin; it will hurt him; and it will hurt your marriage. And it definitely can hurt your kids if they see! I’ve written at length on how to handle a husband’s porn use; you can see all of those posts here (just scroll down to the right question).

Share your grief

Once the porn is dealt with, you need to take a look at how you now see your body. You’ve suffered a horrible trauma. You’ve lost something that was precious to you. It is absolutely okay to grieve that. And, in fact, it’s probably easier if you both can grieve it together.

Part of the problem when we go through something like this is that we stop communicating. We’re afraid of telling our husband what we feel, because we’re afraid of the rejection he may echo back to us. And he’s afraid of telling you how he feels, because he’s afraid of hurting you. And you’re both scared of the future.

It sounds like what has happened is that you’ve both tried to deal with this alone, and it hasn’t worked out really well. Likely what you need to do is just start talking again.

Start small–go for walks, talk about work, talk about the kids, pray together about little things. And then start talking about more deep heart issues. Maybe even take turns just hearing each other out–you talk for five minutes about what you’re grieving while I hold you and I don’t interrupt, and then we’ll switch.

Learn to Love Your Body

I truly believe that the first step in loving your new body, even if it’s not your old body, is in finding that deep emotional and spiritual intimacy first. Once you’ve both been able to have a good cry together, and you’ve been able to yell at God together, you’ll feel closer. And that closeness will long to be expressed sexually.

At heart, sex is intimacy. It isn’t just two bodies joining together; it’s two souls joining together. The more you can feel like one SOUL, the more you will want to feel like one BODY.

That may take some time, because you have to let him actually see you. That’s hard when you don’t like being naked in front of him. But start with talking, and then low candlelight, and see where things go.

And remember–sharing what’s truly on our hearts boosts intimacy, it doesn’t break it. Keep honest, and keep open, and you’ll find that it gets easier to share again.

And now I’d really like to leave this one for other people to answer–maybe people who have been through something similar. How do you learn to love your body again when you’ve had surgery, or an injury? What steps have you taken? Please chime in and share your story. I think it would encourage so many readers.

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