Intimacy Reflection Letter: A Communication Tool After Cancer
Published on: 03/16/15
Communication is the topic today. I know that’s a big topic but we’re going to talk about it over at least two episodes.
Talking about sex is difficult. And especially with the person you’re having sex with. But talking about it gives you an opportunity make the sex better, and more than that, to make the relationship better.
So when we throw Cancer into the mix, it complicates things even more. If sexual dysfunction is a side effect of your treatment, it will be difficult to keep your relationship healthy, if you’re not able to communicate about your feelings, your concerns, your wants and your needs.
So though there are rules and strategies to keep in mind related to logistics of the conversation. The where, when, what, and how.
But before we get into the conversation, let’s talk about something to help you prepare for any conversations on sensitive topics, involving feelings, fears, emotions, and egos.
Writing a letter. It can make the conversation easier for both of you. It’s like a conversation starter…
And it accomplishes 2 things:
- Helps you identify thoughts and feelings,
- determine how and what you want to say,
- identify what you hope to accomplish in your conversation when you have it.
You can capture your feelings over a period of time. Revisit your thoughts at a later time and change the wording to express a slightly different emotion. You can tweak it until the words represent how you feel and the thought is clearly conveyed. A letter is ideal for saying what you want to say, in the sequence you want to say it, in one complete thought without interruption. We both know that a conversation on sensitive topics, like sex, and expressing feelings, can get messy. The right words but the wrong tone can send a negative or unintended message. Writing your thoughts will eliminate that. However, this letter can be for you only. You don’t have to send it. It can simply prepare you for your conversation and will help you clearly state your feelings. I have several letters in books that I never sent, but the exercise of writing them did me good.
- The other reason to write a letter is to position the conversation you want to have. If your relationship is at all like mine, when I say we need to talk, he doesn’t think it’s a conversation to look forward to. In fact, I think he dreads it. Communication of feelings isn’t his strength. I’ve learned over time that those conversations make him uncomfortable and can be stressful for him, as he is aware that he may not express his feelings correctly and leave me with the wrong message. So writing your thoughts ahead of the conversation will give him a glimpse into your wants, your needs, and what you hope to accomplish by discussing them. All of this relates to changes you feel since cancer and the impact those changes have had on your sexual relationship and your relationship overall.
This may also address one of the questions I asked you to answer for this week.
What do you want your partner to know without having to tell them? This is a perfect place to consider telling them.
Here’s my fist letter to my husband after months of failed attempts to have intercourse.
I’m writing this because it seems easier than talking. I know how disappointed you are that things are different for us. I know you hate it that sex after cancer causes me so much pain.
After rewriting this several different ways, I think I just want you to know I’m sorry. The last 6 months have been difficult for you too, and you haven’t complained at all.
I wanted so badly to have things for us go back to the way they were. My body just hasn’t recovered like we all expected it would. Sometimes I wonder if you’ve given up on things getting better. Don’t. I haven’t. We’ll figure it out. I start rehabilitation next week and they’re hopeful about that. No matter what, just know I miss feeling that close to you too. We might have to just get more creative.
I want to talk to you about this and promise it doesn’t have to last all day. Can we talk on Saturday before we leave town? Won’t take more than 30 minutes. PromiseJ. I Love you.
Ok, there was plenty of feeling, fear, and emotion and concern throughout that note. But you definitely know I recognize he’s disappointed. I let him know I understand it. Tell him not to give up I haven’t and there’s hope and I promise any discussion
So I got to say all of that unfiltered and uninterrupted. He got to read it, process it, think on it, and prepare his thoughts for a conversation on Saturday. He also knows the tone of the conversation, the subject matter, and my desire to figure it out.
Your conversation will be much more productive if you can get some of those feelings out there ahead of time, so you can focus on understanding each other, and strategies to help resolve the issues, as opposed to just dealing with the emotions that may result from being so open and raw with your feelings and fears.
What would you write in your letter? Are there things you’d like to say but you aren’t saying?
Next week we’ll discuss 6 rules and strategies to keep in mind when planning and having that first conversation about sex after cancer. Until then consider writing your first note/letter that captures your feelings and positions that first conversation to make it easier for you. I look forward to our conversation in 2 weeks.
And remember, you can also find great information and resources on my website at aftercancer.co. While you’re there, sign up to join the community of survivors struggling with these same issues. You’ll receive advice, tips, and resources directly to your email inbox. Your questions are always welcomed and encouraged. Comment below or contact me at aftercancer.co.