Having Sex When You Have a Disability

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:

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!

13 thoughts on “Having Sex When You Have a Disability”

  1. Probably the most common disability that affects sex is ED, erectile dysfunction. Age often brings about a lessening of ability, and so many of the medications that older men need list ED as a side effect. I began having that problem years ago. I tried Viagra and its cousins but didn’t feel the high cost of the pills was worth the minimal boost they provided. Another alternative is called tri-mix, which is a combination of three powerful vasodilators in the form of a liquid that is injected into the side of the penis in the area called the corpus callosum. This is the spongy area of tissue that becomes engorged with blood when a man has an erection. I believe that tri-mix could probably cause a man to get hard even if he was in a coma. But tri-mix isn’t cheap either, and it has a short “use by” date, not to mention that having your wife stick a needle into your penis is more frightening than romantic. So after trying the alternatives, I came to the conclusion that intercourse was a thing of the past for us, and it was a depressing conclusion. After a period of mentally wandering in the wilderness, I realized that there was no reason why we couldn’t make oral lovemaking become the main event. This has worked out so well for us that I feel more satisfied as a provider of pleasure now than ever before. It’s heavenly to cuddle with my wife after she’s been given a big “O,” and then later, she can reciprocate. This response might not be exactly what you were looking for when you created your original post, but I hope you find it worth adding, and I hope that it will encourage some couples out there that when God allows one thing to be taken away, He often provides for another thing that might be even better, even in the marriage bed.

  2. I know mental health issues aren’t always thought of with this, but I do have Aspergers as J knows and so for people who are on the spectrum wondering if it’s possible for Aspies to marry and have sex, yes it is. I even know that before I married, my mother and sister were both concerned because I’m so shy about my body and would I be able to handle being naked in front of my wife on my honeymoon?

    Yeah. That never was an issue for me.

    1. Ooh, that’s a good point. I could certainly do a post about sex and mental health. There are challenges there too, but most are surmountable. Thanks, Nick!

  3. Anonymous for his privacy

    My husband has had an ileostomy for many years, long before I met him. There’s a great site called ‘Inspire’ that has pages for people with different medical conditions. I read the ostomy group for about a year, just trying to anticipate and understand his situation. Everyone is different! Many of the men and women on the support site were anxious and worried about dating and sex with an ostomy bag. My husband is never anxious or worried about anything, he didn’t even think twice about it. As I shared on that support site, the only thing I would suggest for men with an ostomy is to invest in the smaller temporary closed collection bags for those special times, because no one wants to be poked in the eye by the clip on the bottom of a bag, if you get my drift. (I told my husband I had posted that and he said, ‘You didn’t!’) As for me, I love my husband, other than worrying that I might detach the bag I never had any concerns, and it’s not even an issue.

  4. I have an older husband, and I want to share two things we have learned together: even without an erection, he can enjoy sexual contact, and even though he only gets to the ‘O’ about every third time, he says ‘getting there is most of the fun anyway’. (Not being a guy, this surprised me, I thought it would be frustrating, but evidently – very evidently – not!) I read somewhere that Walter Cronkite said about old age, “Never turn down a drink and never ignore an erection.” Husband is a teetotaler but we don’t ignore that other thing.

    1. Thanks for sharing that! Yes, sexual intimacy is the whole deal, and I’m glad y’all have found a way to remain physically and emotionally connected. Blessings!

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  6. We are navigating this in a small way. My husband is great at supporting me with the issues I have with my chronic illness (MS) in general. But because fatigue is such an invisible part of it, he hasn’t internalized how much that affects the quality of sex for me. Sex at 9 PM is so much better than at 11 PM, but because he’s a night owl, it’s hard for him to want to go to bed earlier. Complicating this is the fact that, being the higher drive, I only say no when I’m incredibly, incredibly exhausted and know I have to conserve my energy/get my sleep or I’ll majorly pay the next day(s). So the result is that I don’t feel like the quality is there for me, most of the time. While I enjoy every encounter, it’s frustrating to know that orgasm is going to be harder or even impossible for me to achieve, simply because of how late it is when we engage.

    1. Dh goes to bed at 8:30-9 pm, i go to bed around 11. If i have sex, I’m full of energy for hours. We compromise by having sex earlier in the evening, like 7 or 8, and we just don’t go to bed together. I always get things done after he goes to be. And sex makes him crash.

  7. An old saying – old, because it also has a ring of truth to it – seems to apply here: Everyone has something wrong with them. I’ve been dealing with persistent, heavy sweating most of this year. Decidedly unsexy, this, and I’m convinced it’s related to a childhood illness that I had surgery for, aggravated by stress. Very possibly even caused by it, at least in part, though I am seeing a doctor about it. Whether the longterm effect of finding out and treating it is more and better sex, or not, it is better to know. Prayers.

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