Recently my husband went for a spine operation. The recovery process was not what we expected. He lost movement in his hands and legs.
or some time he was in nappies. He was in hospital for three months. I had to help with his bathing, feeding and going to the toilet until he was strong enough to make it on his own.
By the grace of God he has made a tremendous recovery and is almost back to normal. I say 'almost' because he still cannot get a full erection. But also I think I have lost interest in sex.
I think I still see him as being sick or that I need to care for him. He has admitted to me that he has masturbated which means there is progress. But I just can't seem to get myself to be with him. What should I do?
Mary replies: It must have been a very worrying time for you when your husband lost the power of both his hands and legs and then had a very long hospital stay.
I'm sure while all this was going on you were simply concentrating on caring for him and on helping him back to full health. It is completely natural that you stopped thinking of him as a sexual being while he was a patient and needed your help to carry out even the most basic of bodily functions.
Thankfully he is now well on the road to recovery and you are trying to get back to being an equal couple again.
The problem, however, is that you are now having trouble seeing him as the man that you want to have sex with and you feel that you have lost interest in sex. But you haven't really lost interest, it's just that your body has become used to you not having sex and so the flame has dwindled to a mere flicker.
The fact that you have taken the trouble to write to me shows that you haven't totally lost interest, but something needs to shift in your thinking before you feel it.
So let's start with you and what you can do to start seeing yourself as a sexual person once more, not the carer and not the nurse.
I know nothing about you, other than what you have told me in your email, but you should know yourself very well. Start reminiscing about the sexual you. When did you become aware of yourself as a sexual person? What were your early sexual experiences like?
Remember anything that made you feel good sexually, whether it was a touch or a kiss or a stroke, counts as sexual experience.
When did you have your first orgasm? When were you first fully sexual?
As you got more experience, what did you find that turned you on? Was it kissing or was it words? Was it the spoken word or the written word?
What about films? Did you ever find yourself getting aroused when watching a movie?
So many questions that only you can answer, but I ask them to try to get you thinking about yourself sexually, and not just focusing on the act of sexual intercourse.
I feel that there is a danger that you are thinking only of the actual act when you start contemplating having sex again with your husband.
When you are comfortable with thinking about the sexual you, then start reminding yourself that you can be that person again, provided you are in the right frame of mind.
And what will get you into the right frame of mind?
You have probably had a lot of serious times in the recent past and so that mood needs to be lightened. Maybe you need to hit the 'Pause' button with your husband and get back to dating again, and having some fun and laughs.
Then progress to just kissing and caressing, probably what you did with each other in the early days when you were dating.
You should even put a ban on going any further than that for the moment, until you both feel ready.
He will probably be quite relieved because he will need to get his confidence back regarding his erections.
The signs are very promising right now in that he has been able to masturbate, hopefully with some erections, and so he will probably need to take things slowly as well.
My point is that if you get back to having fun together and are able to remember how and why you enjoyed each other's company - enough to get married after all - then in time the memories of all you have been through will recede and you will be able to enjoy one another sexually once more.
And try to remember that there is no right way or wrong way of having sex - there is only what is right for any couple at that particular time.
So don't be trying to get it right - just enjoy whatever you do together.
And try to remember to have fun!
You can contact Mary O'Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O'Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately