My best friend in 7th grade had a brother with muscular dystrophy. He was confined to a wheelchair, got moved in and out of the bathtub and bed by his father, and had a pretty girlfriend. At first, I wondered why a teen girl would want to carry her boyfriend’s books while he wheeled his way to class. Obviously, I was the shallow one. Once I got to know him, I realized he was smart, funny, and pretty great. His girl knew a good thing when she saw it.
Yet his disability was a challenge at times. Disabilities are.
But disabilities shouldn’t keep us from love and marriage and, if at all possible, sexual intimacy.Disabilities shouldn't keep us from love and marriage and, if at all possible, sexual intimacy. via @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
What’s Your Challenge?
One post on sex and disability is not going to cover the whole range of issues out there. Your challenge could be chronic pain, physical impairment, loss of sensation, inability to achieve an erection, etc. What works to address one disability doesn’t address all.
What is consistent across the board is that sex advice—like much of the advice I have on this blog—should be tailored to your specific situation.
With that in mind, I’ll offer broad suggestions here and include some resources at the end.
Expand Your View of Sex
Years back, I wrote a post titled “What Is Sex?” in which I pointed out an important truth: Sex isn’t just intercourse, but the entire range of activities we use to sexually arouse and satisfy one another.
Indeed, most of the interaction between the lovers in Song of Songs is not intercourse but kissing, touching, and what we call “foreplay” (though maybe we shouldn’t, because it can be the whole encounter). Consider all the ways you can be sexual with your spouse: kissing, touching, stroking, manual play, fellatio, cunnilingus, and more.
Erogenous zones go beyond our genitalia, and our minds are deeply involved in our sense of pleasure. Use every option you can and want for being intimate with one another.
Choose a Good Time
Your disability can make some times better than others. For instance, if your condition involves fatigue, consider when you’re likely to have more energy. You may need to work around when your medication kicks in or give yourself ample time to set up aids you need to make the sex session a satisfying one.
If you wish for more spontaneity, then speak up on those occasions when the planets align and you’re good to go. Strike while that iron is hot, hot, hot!
Embrace Your Body
Nearly everyone struggles with body image at least some time in their life. But those with disabilities can feel extra self-conscious. You may simply be focused on your physical differences, or if your disability is visible, you may have felt defined in others’ eyes by your disadvantage. Now you take all that self-awareness, go to the bedroom, and get naked? Well, it wouldn’t be surprising for body image issues to be more prevalent.
But your body is amazing! God created you as a sexual being, your spouse chose you, and you can and should enjoy physical intimacy as much as possible.
Perfection is not required of any of us. We all have challenges. Embrace the body you have and the wonderful things you can do with it. You may need some adaptation to get it done, but you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
Get into Position
It’s more important or even imperative that you stick to certain positions that work for you and don’t exacerbate your pain or disability. Try different sex poses and angles, considering where you cannot take weight or pressure.
Also, you may benefit from using assistive devices. That’s everything from a chair to a wedge pillow to “sex furniture,” like loungers. If movement is overly restricted or exhausting, you could even look into a product like this one that simulates sexual thrusting.
Talk with Each Other
Communicating what you need and want with sex is always important in marriage. But even more so when you have physical challenges that require some workarounds.
Express what works for you, what doesn’t, what you want, what you can handle, when you need a break, etc. Also, invite your beloved to share their concerns and wishes. Yes, the spouse with the disability needs extra accommodation, but your mate should feel free to express their own feelings and desires.
Maybe not everything you want can happen, but even sharing your longings can create intimacy. And by talking it out, you can often come up with options you hadn’t previously considered that could satisfy you both.
Use Marital Aids
In addition to props for positioning, you may need to add lubrication, use a penis ring, or try a vibrator. I’ve expressed a few concerns about sex toys, but the benefit is clear when it comes to disabilities.
If you’re struggling to arouse your spouse or to feel aroused, to sustain motion, or to reach climax, you may need an assistive device. Marital aids are a blessing when they allow married couples to enjoy satisfying sex that couldn’t otherwise happen.
Acknowledge Your Pain
Sex can trigger pain that comes with your disability. If a position or activity is too painful, say so. Don’t hide it from your spouse or try to grit your teeth through it. Acknowledge when you’re in pain and look for ways to alleviate it.
God designed sex to include an array of options for connecting with your beloved. So adjust what you’re doing or do something altogether different.
You may have to deal with some discomfort regardless, but minimize it as best you can. Some people with disabilities say the pleasure they experience during sexual intimacy even diminishes or counteracts their pain.
Seek Specialty Resources
I’m a Christian sex and marriage blogger, not a disability expert. Health professionals, organizations specific to your disability, and online resources addressing disability often have good information about sex.
Ask your doctor, nurse, or physical therapist for resources they’re aware of to help people with disabilities have successful sex. They have likely fielded such questions before and/or can point you in the right direction.
In the meantime, here are a few resources I can recommend:
- A Celebration Of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy by Douglas Rosenau includes a chapter on “Making Love When You Have a Disability.” (affiliate link)
- When Chronic Pain Makes Sex Difficult (Or Even Impossible) is a post from My Beloved Is Mine! (@SongSix3)
- Enjoy a Plus-Size Sex Life, Part 2, from The Forgiven Wife, is aimed at plus-sized folks but includes advice applicable to those with disabilities as well.
- Sex Positions for Disabled People, from Christian Friendly Sex Positions, includes more than 70 position ideas.
It may be more difficult for lovemaking to happen, but many couples have figured it out and you can too. Don’t miss out on the physical intimacy you could have in your marriage. Research, communicate, adapt, and then enjoy sex with your spouse!