Intimacy After Multiple Surgeries

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

My fiancée have been together for approximately 2&1/2 years. We met at 41/42 respectively approximately 4 months after I had had a hysterectomy and pelvic reconstructive surgery with mesh. Despite many personal and professional challenges for both of us, we have remained together, become engaged, moved in together, and had planned to marry at about the 2 year mark in our relationship.
The most daunting challenge has been an additional 5 pelvic organ prolapse surgeries (two explants prior to becoming engaged/moving in and three since). December of 12 through April of 13 was very tough. I had a total explant surgery in December, nearly died in January, spent from January to March with a nephrostomy tube (my fiancée did much of the wound care) and in March had my second mid-line surgery in 90 days to repair the complications. I am now approximately 6 months post-op, with an excellent prognosis.
There is no doubt for either of us that we care immensely for one another, however, due primarily to my medical issues (he was actually injured by the eroding mesh twice) – physical intimacy has been exceedingly limited since the beginning of our relationship and totally off the table since the month after he moved in (the last 16 months).
Now, in a nutshell, the physical intimacy and is gone and with it much of the emotional intimacy and physical affection. He says he loves me, says that I am his best friend. However, he also makes statements such as “You almost died on me”, “I’m afraid that I will hurt you”, “You just can’t turn that (feelings of intimacy) on and off like a spigot”, “I’m a little afraid after getting my side view mirror knocked off in the car wash (reference to his injuries)”, “I saw, heard, and smelled things I cannot get out of my mind”, “I’m overwhelmed.” He has withdrawn; I’ve become frustrated and needy.
I have scoured the internet looking for resources that might help him/us – either my search terms are poor or there isn’t much that seems relevant to our situation. As an active duty member of the military with a security clearance he is reluctant to seek counseling. I’m seeking options, insights, resources, and suggestions as to how to best navigate our situation and hopefully restore our relationship. Thank you!!

A: Your situation is unique and because of this I think you need a specialist. Recovering from a medical condition and reestablishing intimacy –particularly sexual intimacy — requires the services of a sex therapist.

These individuals have had specialized training in helping couples reestablish and enhance their physical intimacy. I suggest you consult this organization for help locating someone qualified.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Oct 2013

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2013). Intimacy After Multiple Surgeries. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 2, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/10/21/intimacy-after-multiple-surgeries/