ILLNESSES THAT MAY DECREASE SEXUAL DESIRE: WHEN TOUR PARTNER HAS A LIFE-THREATENING ILLNESS

When Larry had his heart attack, he was not the only one when felt frightened, sad, and helpless. Natalie experienced these emotions as well. "The thought of losing him made my blood run cold," she says, tears welling up in her eyes. When Larry came home from the hospital, Natalie nursed him back to health while also working extra shifts as a waitress to make ends meet.

"It got tough, though, when Larry's sick days ran out before he could go back to work and we had to live on my tips for a couple of weeks." The stress of those times made sex the: "furthest thing" from Natalie's mind. "But once things settled, down, I got interested again," she recalls, admitting that she had no idea when it would be safe for Larry to have sex again. "I waited for him to let me know. I guess you could say I'm still waiting."

As the months passed, Natalie found it more and more difficult to stop herself from thinking about sex and she often; found herself trying to block out feelings of anger, fear, and resentment as well. "I'm not proud of it," she confesses. "But sometimes I felt real sorry for myself. I would wonder what the hell I had gotten myself into. Forty-three years old and married to a man who couldn't or wouldn't have sex. I'd be so ashamed of myself for thinking like that. I tried hard not to think about sex at all, but it didn't work."

When one partner in a marriage or relationship becomes seriously ill, the couple's usual pattern of give and take, dependence and independence, closeness and distance, is disrupted. Roles may change, most notably if a wife who once stayed at home must go out to work or a husband must assume responsibilities that were once his wife's domain. The "strong" partner may suddenly become weak and dependent. As a result, the partner who once needed more attention and emotional support must attend now become the "caretaker," as well as attend to his or her own needs. Further complications arise as schedules must be rearranged to accommodate hospital visiting hours, doctor's appointments, medical treatments, and many other changes in the couple's "normal" routine. Clearly, the partner who is not ill has as much adjusting to do as the partner who is.

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Men's Health-Erectile Dysfunction