Recently I taught at a local cancer center about Rekindling Desire, Intimacy and Romance After Cancer. Over the course of 12 hours together, we explored many threads that weave into the tapestry of intimacy, romance and desire ~ self-love, acceptance, forgiveness, beliefs and mindset, sexiness, beauty, tenderness, hope, laughter, creativity, physiology and more. Desire and intimacy have so many more nuances than how our body works now that cancer is in the picture. And many of us focus on the mechanics and the outcome, thinking that’s where we need to put our attention.

Part of the reason we do this is because it’s what we know, or at least what we think we know or think we should know. When we peel back a layer or two and really look, we see that we didn’t learn early on what the true nature of intimacy and sexuality can be. Instead, we’ve learned that it’s all about getting turned on, getting our partner turned on (if we have a partner) and then having an orgasm.  Orgasm has somehow become the gold standard in measuring our intimate and sexual life. And many of us feel inadequate when that doesn’t happen; think there’s something wrong with us or our partner; or fall into resignation and judgment. All of this has a huge impact on our self-esteem, sense of attractiveness and desirability, and our libido.

Rather than face this, we come up with all kinds of resistance. It’s not surprising ~ who would want to engage in this risky process? When you pressure yourself to have sex it’s much more difficult to relax and let your body open and respond. And having satisfying sex requires relaxation and opening.

What to do???

For starters, take orgasm off the table, at least for now. Take intercourse off the table, at least for now. Slow down, breathe, and give yourself some slack ~ reduce the pressure to perform. Think about your definition of intimacy and see if you can expand it to include the heart, emotions, spirit and your entire body. Most of us want to feel seen, loved and accepted for who we are, as we are. When we feel these things, it creates intimacy. There are lots of ways to have these experiences that don’t involve intercourse and orgasm.

Here’s a simple exercise to try:

  • Sit facing your partner and hold hands as you look into each other’s eyes and take a few deep breaths to connect and relax.
  • One of you asks your sweetheart, “How can I love you more, Honey?” Be curious and listen to what they say. It may be a word or phrase or a sentence or two. When they finish the thought say, “Thank you.”  Take a breath, look into their eyes and ask again, “How can I love you more, my love?” Again, listen and really receive what they say, as if you were listening through your heart. Your beloved is telling you how they feel loved by you. Pay attention.
  • When you answer the question, say the first thing that pops into your head without editing it. You may be surprised at what comes out of your mouth. Feel what it feels like to be asked and to be fully received as your sweetheart asks and listens to you.
  • After 3 or 4 times of asking the question, switch so that the one who was asking now becomes the one to respond to the question. Follow the same format.
  • You can do this in a few minutes. Jot down a few notes about what was said so you can remember. Then each day, pick something from the list and give it to your sweetheart with as much love and generosity as you can. Ask if they feel loved. Listen to what they say.
  • If you are single, ask yourself how you can love you more, and listen to what you want and need. Then give these things to yourself with as much love and generosity as you can. Take yourself on a date and love you up.

By doing this exercise, you may find that it’s easy to give and receive love in many ways, and that romance begins to shine more brightly.  You may also discover that your resistance to intimacy begins to melt away.


© 2012 by Barbara Musser, Sexy After Cancer.

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This blog does not reflect the opinions of The Pink Fund, its Founder, Board of Directors, Advisers or Volunteers. It is not meant to serve as medical advice of any kind. Any questions about your health and sexuality should be directed to a licensed physician or therapist. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the writer who voluntarily blogs for The Pink Fund without compensation.

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