My wife was diagnosed with fibroids. We are looking at different treatments for her but it is wreaking havoc on our sex life. What can we do?
Fibroids which are non-cancerous tumors that grow in/within a woman’s uterus - are unfortunately rather common among women of child-bearing age. In addition, women of African descent are more prone to them, for reasons yet unknown.
Symptoms include heavy bleeding and clotting during a woman’s menstrual cycle, cramps, anemia due to excessive blood loss, fatigue due to anemia and to the stress of having tumors living off of you, frequent urination and/or constipation due to the tumors pressing against the bladder/rectum and many more symptoms.
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It makes sense that these often benign tumors are causing problems in the bedroom. As you can imagine, your wife may not want to have sex as often because her mind and her body may be preoccupied with the weight of the diagnosis, the treatment and the symptoms. It can be difficult to think about pleasure when you’re bleeding heavily for days at a time. Depending on location of the fibroids, it can also be uncomfortable or downright painful. You may therefore find while she avoids it for those reasons, you may avoid sex because you can see or sense how painful or uncomfortable it is for her. Since your wife is already under the care of a doctor, I will leave the possible interventions to you and them. Instead, let us look at ways in which you can reclaim your sex life as you are exploring treatment options for your wife.
Be kind. It is easy to overlook the non-sexual when seeking the sexual but compassion, empathy and support go a long way in increasing the connection between you two. This isn’t kindness with an ulterior motive; this is the kindness that says “you are mine and I hate the fact that you are going through something that I can’t change. I want you to know that I am here for you, and I am here with you, through rain or shine.” This is the kindness that notices a frown on your wife’s face and asks “are you alright? What do you need? How can I help?”
This is the reassuring kindness that says “I love you, and these fibroids don’t change that” because you would not believe the impact that fibroids can have on a woman physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and financially. This kindness will also be critical in handling your sex life as a team and not as one person who wants sex with another who doesn’t. This kindness could very well be the difference between ‘an inconsiderate sex-hungry husband who doesn’t care about his wife’s pain’ and ‘a loving, supportive husband who refuses to lose the sexual and non-sexual connection between him and his wife.’ That is why my first suggestion is that you be kind.
Be gentle. Now, millions of women globally have been/will be diagnosed with fibroids but the impact of that diagnosis will vary from woman to woman. While some are in incredible pain daily, others only experience mild discomfort during their cycle.
While some bleed heavily but can manage, others are rendered helpless during their cycle. What this means is that you and your wife will have to allow open, honest discourse between you about how she’s feeling at any given moment. This will become especially important during sexual intercourse. Make no assumptions; prepare for the possibility that your sex life and sex rhythm may have to change because some of the positions that you were used to may be less enjoyable during this time.
Where as before this diagnosis you could enjoy whatever position you liked, this season of your marriage may require that you change the order of events and/or deduct some positions from the sex rotation; I often recommend that couples begin with a gentler position like the missionary position and then transition to other more involving positions as they feel more comfortable. The point is to communicate openly and to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t.
In addition, resist the temptation to think of sex as intercourse only. There are many ways for you to experience sexual connection and satisfaction, without intercourse. Explore these options and allow what is threatening to be a joyless season to become a season of sexual (mis) adventures, with its own hits and misses.
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Be hopeful. Yes, fibroids are not a fun diagnosis to get but there are many different options when it comes to interventions available to you. Try to remember that this is a season that has come and a season that will pass. You are already under the care of a doctor so engage with them openly, ask them questions and express your own hopes and wishes for her treatment. If your wife is having a difficult time processing the diagnosis, revisit the first suggestion & make kindness your business.
This may mean that you become the carrier of her hope because she may be caught up in the fear of the future. This may mean researching your options so that when you talk with her, you will be able to assuage her concerns from a point of knowledge. It is ok to become the keeper of the faith during this season. Sexually speaking, you need not lose your sex life. Yes, things may change but a change does not mean an end, because seasons come and seasons go, so this too shall pass.
I wish you and your wife the best outcome as you decide on a treatment option, and a happier fibroid-free future.
Maggie Gitu holds an MA in Marriage & Family Therapy. She practices as a Marriage, Family & Sex Therapist. Reach her at [email protected] or via her Facebook page: Maggie Gitu