If You Can’t Have Sex, Let Your Partner Find Someone

The Captive Care Giver Paradox

And older couple sit together on a park bench, slightly separated and looking in different directions.
Photo by Matthew Bennett on Unsplash

If you can’t have sex with your partner anymore, let them find someone. It’s the humane thing to do. They shouldn’t have to suffer through your illness.

How It Starts

Having a spouse who can’t have sex because of a physical or mental illness is hard. In the early years, though, you only think of them and how you can make their life better. You wade through all the medical uncertainty, look for answers, and find new ways to live.

When hub had his initial flare-up, there wasn’t much to it. It got the ball rolling towards a diagnosis that would come a few years later. We thought we had a mild form of the condition and were lucky. The second relapse knocked him off his feet.

Three weeks in the hospital, another six in rehab, months before some normalcy returned. It took several years to recover some things, and depression set in. A second mild relapse occurred several years later.

In the summer of the mild relapse, we finally managed to have sex a few times just before it happened. That was five years after the major event and six years ago now. There has been zero since. We’ve had sex three times in eleven years, and I’m 49.

Captive Caregivers

And then you’re trapped. You can’t move forward or backward but are stuck in a cycle of living your worst nightmare.

It took nine years to start wondering what other people did in these situations. I found people discussing this problem were twenty years older than me. I couldn’t find any stores of people my age dealing with it.

One story I loved featured two couples, each with a disabled partner, who had moved in together. The disabled partners each had a room. And the healthy partners shared a room and all that went with it.

I thought it was a lovely arrangement. By taking care of each other’s needs, they were able to care for their disabled partners.

This almost ideal arrangement fascinated me.

By chance, my lover is in the same situation as I am though their spouse is physically disabled. I dream about living together, but my fantasies involve us living together alone.

There Are No Good Choices

There are only three choices when this happens:

  • Leave them
  • Live with your loss of intimacy
  • Have an affair

And none of them are that appealing. The person who divorces their sick spouse is an asshole. If people think you’re doing it for sex, they will crucify you.

It’s the worst-case Madonna-whore complex scenario you can think of. The virtuous woman tending her sick man and sacrificing all cannot leave him for cock. They’d eat her alive. It’s the stuff that makes for great movies and miserable realities.

Staying true leads to skin hunger. This is a condition resulting from a lack of physical intimacy with another person. It happens to people in solitary confinement or the elderly living alone. Skin hunger is more than sex, but includes the loss of hugging, holding hands, or slow dancing.

Betrayal is the worst sin of all. Not only are you cheating, but you’re cheating on a person who is a victim of their circumstances.

Asking permission doesn’t always work either. How do you bring it up? If the answer is no, then what? You’ll be under suspicion every time you step out the door. The reason you asked didn’t go away, so now you’re stuck if they say no.

The caregiver doesn’t win in these scenarios.

The Toll

Going elsewhere for sex and then coming home can be jarring, depending on the severity of your spouse’s illness. The mixture of pleasure and guilt can get to a person.

For me, though, I’m often reminded by my spouse why I step out when they bite my head off for no reason. A less charming feature of his illness is the flash-anger during confusing moments. He can’t handle more than a question and has difficulty navigating follow-ups. It’s tiresome.

The Solution

Let them go! If you are a sick spouse, let your partner go. Let them have some intimacy and romance. Let them have sex with a friend. It will be better for you because they won’t be suffering from loneliness while trying to care for you.

Permission eases guilt and allows them to enjoy sex again without conditions. In a relationship with a sick or ill spouse, both suffer differently, but both need care.

Permission will ease their suffering too.

What Can You Do As a Friend?

If you know someone in this situation, mention it to them if you can. While a spouse can’t exactly say they’re looking for a side piece, you could suggest it to your sick friend.

You could also recommend finding someone to the caregiver and offer to cover for them while they’re out.

We only get one shot at this life, so if you can help ease someone’s pain and suffering, then you’ve done the right thing.


Here’s when I knew I needed someone —When I Knew It Was Time To Have An Affair
Everyone cheats for a reason.medium.com


© Teresa J. Conway, 2020

By Teresa J Conway on .

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Exported from Medium on March 25, 2021.

Author of How to Cheat: Field Notes from an Adulteress, several short stories, I'm active on Medium @teresajconway where I sometimes share my blog posts, and I'm a fair-weather tweeter @tjconway69.

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