I thought I would get this out of the way right now.

Physical attraction and sex are important for the male species. It might sound shallow, but it’s true. Women can usually list multiple qualities they want in a man, and romantic aspects will be ranked all over the place in terms of importance. But for men, they’re almost always at the top.

There are romantic peaks and valleys in every relationship, and, hopefully, your peaks have been greater than the valleys up to this point. For instance, in my marriage we experienced peaks when we were trying to have children, then we would hit a valley during her pregnancy.

Why does it change?

All you need to do is read the studies and reports in your cancer materials to confirm that you are about to enter an extraordinarily long valley. Chemo treatments, due to the drugs, can lower her sexual desire. Surgeries can make sex difficult and painful. Radiation can cause irritation and soreness.

The negative emotions you can experience as you deal with different phases of her cancer might preoccupy your thoughts, which in turn, can affect your desire. Days can quickly turn into weeks, weeks into months. Before you realize it, you haven’t even attempted to strike up any romance. Not to mention that when you do, you will most likely be met with rejection—which doesn’t help.

Physical changes

Some reasons this happens may be due to the physical changes from surgeries and chemotherapy.

Helping my wife take care of her surgical sites from her mastectomies hit both of us hard. The difficulty for her was the private nature of the area involved. For me it was seeing an attractive part of her body disfigured. Instead of stimulating romantic desire, that part of her body became an enemy that could’ve taken her from me. It affected me more than I thought it would.

With most chemotherapy drugs, your wife will not only lose the hair on her head, but she will most likely lose it everywhere. Seeing your wife in this state might be traumatic for you, as well as for her. She almost becomes unrecognizable. You will get used to it, but it will take some time.

Don’t be the one to point out all of these changes. She will notice them and you will only make her feel more self-conscious. Do not forget that she is still the same dynamic and beautiful person you married. How you treat her during this ordeal will tell her a lot about you. Step up to the plate and show her the love she deserves.

Emotional romance

Use this time to connect emotionally. Emotional bonding will allow the physical bonding to simmer on the back burner for a while. The balance of the two will return eventually, but why not nurture this aspect of your relationship for now.

Because of all of the time spent together going through this process, you will be reminded of the reasons you fell in love. You will be able to reconnect with the things you have in common. You will be able to discuss religious views you share and how they can help you get through this. You will get practice in handling her emotional extremes, and learn how to deal with your own. Your circle of emotional support connections will grow with the doctors and other people you meet. Fellow survivors and their families will become some of your best friends.

You will start to recognize positive emotional changes in yourself that will come from this experience. Because of these changes, you will begin to see your wife in a new light. Older feelings will resurface and new ones will be forged.

The attentiveness you show her and the acceptance you demonstrate will have lasting dividends with your relationship going forward.
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