Intimacy: Basic Human Need

After having cancer, you may feel alone. You have experienced fear and pain that you never expected. You may look different and even have lost parts of your body. It is easy to withdraw into a corner to tend to your wounded self and spirit. Yet, every man and woman needs some kind of closeness with others. 

Emotional closeness includes feeling loved, valued, and understood. It typically occurs during a talk with another person, but sometimes a raised eyebrow or a smile can also send a message of warmth and sharing. Physical closeness can include a whole range of acts: holding a grandchild on your lap, hugging a friend, having a therapeutic massage, or having sexual touching with a partner. Although you can live without intimacy, you may not realize how lonely you feel until you experience closeness again. 

Cancer can actually improve the intimate relationships in your life. For men or women who already were in a committed relationship when diagnosed with cancer, about 30–50% say they feel closer to their partner than before the illness. They stop taking each other for granted. They are grateful to have each other’s support. They are less likely to argue about the small hassles of daily life. You and your partner may even become better lovers as you re¬learn to give each other pleasure despite a sexual problem. 

Some say that surviving cancer helps them savor the beauty and joy they find in their families. Fewer than 10% of couples blame a cancer experience for creating distance in their relationship. There is no evidence of an increased divorce rate after one partner gets cancer.

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