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Post-Combat Soldiers and Sex

Dealing with Sexual Changes in your Partner or Spouse

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Updated November 12, 2007

Communication Problems
You may be holding a lot back from your partner and it can feel like you don’t know where to start, or what you are and are not willing to share. Getting a referral to a psychologist can be very helpful in getting support for you to figure out how to start talking again with your partner about intimate things after combat. You don’t have to be ready to talk about sex and your feelings at all times. There’s nothing wrong with saying you don’t want to talk about sex. But relationships require compromise, and the compromise here may mean that you at least tell your partner why you don’t feel like talking (so they don’t assume it’s about them or their fault) and agree that when you do feel like talking you’ll let them know.

Making Sexual Assumptions
Sexual assumptions are easy to make when we feel unsure, insecure, or just have questions and feel like we can’t ask our partner for answers. The best way to eliminate the stress and confusion caused by sexual assumptions is to agree that both you and your partner have the right to ask any question of the other. It doesn’t mean you’ll agree to answer the question immediately, or that you’ll like the answers each other gives, but if you can answer honestly at least you’ll both know how the other feels, and this is almost never as bad as what we imagine they’re feeling. If talking about this doesn’t feel comfortable, you might want to start by writing to each other. This might seem strange at first but writing down your questions and feelings and then sharing it with your partner can be a great way to start a conversation and it can be surprisingly intimate.

Changes in Sexual Routine
If you’ve come home and find that neither of you are able to get back into an enjoyable sexual routine, you might want to try and talk honestly about what sex was like for you while you were apart. It’s important for both of you to feel like you’re allowed to talk about any aspect of your sexual relationship, while at the same time agreeing to time conversations so they happen when you both feel ready to talk.

Being a Care Provider and a Lover
For many couples having a partner as a primary care provider can be a real challenge. But all sorts of circumstances can make this necessary. Trying to balance these two very different relationships may be one of the biggest challenges a couple can face. It’s important for both of you to remember that even if you need assistance it doesn’t mean you aren’t an individual capable of giving and receiving lots of sexual pleasure and attention. At the same time, if your partner is providing care they can’t use that as an excuse not to engage with you sexually as an equal, where they both give and receive sexual pleasure and love. Because these relationships are so tangled, it can be useful to talk with a psychologist or other people with live with impairments about how you manage to balance these roles and what you can do to keep your sex life going. If it’s possible, you may want to think about finding an outside provider. For some couples, this can really help with the boundaries between care giving and intimacy, and it can give both partners more privacy, which for many people is a big part of feeling good about their sexuality.

Disability is Not the Only Problem
Even though you didn’t ask for it, and may not like it, the fact is that the focus is on you throughout treatment and rehabilitation, and your partner may feel like they got lost in the process. Remember that your partner is an individual with their own sexual desires, needs, and problems. They need space to talk about this stuff with you and may also benefit from talking with a psychologist.

Read more:

Learn how combat experience can affect:

Interview with B.J. and Abby Jackson – Creating a Sex Life after Combat

Interview with Dr. Mitch Tepper – Working to Address Sexuality for Wounded Warriors

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