A stroke won’t just affect you, but everyone around you too. It can put a strain on your relationships and can also affect your sex life. But there are things you can do to help you cope with the impact it has.
The impact on your family and friends
Your stroke will probably cause a lot of worry and uncertainty for the people around you. Planning for the future may be difficult and your family members may feel overwhelmed if they suddenly have to take over things that you used to do.
Many people worry about the impact their stroke has on their partner and family, fearing that they’ve become a burden. This can make you withdraw from them and feel alone.
Friendships can slip away after stroke, often because people feel awkward or stay away because they don’t know what to do.
What can I do?
- Share information with your family and involve them in making decisions so that they know what to expect, especially when you go home, and how they can help you.
- Even if you can’t do exactly what you did before your stroke, there’ll still be a role for you within your family and activities that you can enjoy together. So focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t, and build from there.
- Talk to your friends about what has happened. They may not understand the impact that your stroke has had – they may not realise how tired you get, for example, or that you can’t get out as much as you used to. Be open about what you need and what they can do to help you.
The impact on your partner
Your stroke is likely to be just as life-changing for your partner as it is for you, which can put your relationship under a lot of strain. Your roles may change quite significantly, especially if your partner is caring for you, and it can take a while to adapt to these changes.
It can be difficult for both of you to talk about how you feel, because you think you should ‘stay strong’ for the other. But if you don’t, tension and resentment can build up between you.
What can I do?
- Coping with the impact of stroke is not easy, but the best thing to do is to talk to each other about it.
- If you find it difficult, counselling can often help. Relate and Relationships Scotland are organisations that offer counselling and support for relationship difficulties, or your doctor may be able to help you find another counselling service that can help.
- If you have communication problems, your speech and language therapist will be able to help you and your partner find ways to communicate your feelings to each other.
The impact on your sex life
Emotional changes, physical problems and relationship difficulties will all have an impact on your sex life. Muscle weakness or pain, for example, can make sex difficult or uncomfortable. Or if you’re feeling very down you may not be interested in having sex.
Your relationship with your partner is likely to have changed as a result of your stroke, which can mean that you see each other differently. Stroke can also affect the way you see yourself, so you may not feel as attractive or desirable as you did before.
The impact on your sex life can be especially difficult if you’re not in a relationship. Starting a new relationship is hard enough for anyone, but especially so if you have problems with getting around or speaking. It can be difficult to talk about these issues when you’re first getting to know someone.
What can I do?
- The first step in dealing with any problem is to talk about it. Although sex can be a difficult subject to bring up, it will help to be open about it. All the health professionals you work with should understand these issues and be able to discuss sex and relationships with you if you want to.
- Practical problems can almost certainly be overcome – it may be a case of trial and error. Your physiotherapist or occupational therapist should be able to give you practical advice.
- If the problems are emotional, there are also professionals who can help you. If you’re feeling low or depressed, talk to your doctor, as there are treatments that can help you with it, such as medication or counselling.
- It may help for you and your partner to talk to a therapist or counsellor together, as this can provide a safe space for you to tackle issues that you find difficult to address by yourselves.
- Relationship therapists work with individuals, as well as couples. So if you're not in a relationship they could help you find ways of talking about any difficulties with potential partners.
Find out more
There's lots more advice about dealing with the impact of stroke on your sex life in our leaflet Sex after stroke.