a pair of bunny slippers peers up at the bed

Prostate Cancer's Effect on Partner's Sexuality

After spending a few weeks writing about Selfless Sex and focusing in on the sexual health of your partner, I still wanted to focus on your partner, this time from a slightly different perspective. I came across a study exploring the sexual observations made by the partner and what they felt. It’s important for you to understand that you and your partner’s attitude about sex and sexual health may change over time. In a roundabout way, I was really looking for support for Selfless Sex but I may have discovered something else that is equally as important.

There are numerous studies looking at how prostate cancer affects the sexual health of men. Studies looking at the men’s partners are harder to find. This study looked at how their partner’s attitude towards relationship quality, including sexuality, changed over time following treatment for prostate cancer.

The study's findings

This study had some interesting results. To begin, the partners reported satisfaction with their loved one’s medical treatments but the number of partners reporting issues with their sexual relationship increase as time went on. When partners were questioned at the 6-month and 12-month mark, more mentioned problems with sex at the 12-month mark. Seventy percent mentioned that prostate cancer had a negative impact on their sex life. Interestingly, the patient’s attitudes matched their partner's attitude when looking at the effect prostate cancer had on their sex life.

Now here is where it gets interesting. This study went on to say a moderate percentage of partners who did not mention any sexual changes at the 6-month mark changed their response to negative at the 12-month mark. Researchers assumed the partners felt a 6-month recovery period was expected, but changed their mind when their sex lives did not return to the pre-treatment/pre-surgery state after 12-months.

Old Dog, New Tricks

Okay…as I’ve been writing these articles over the past few months, I really focused on getting men to adopt new thoughts and techniques to try in the bedroom. What about their partners? They need to learn, unlearn or relearn a few things as well, right? Bottom line…they have to redefine sex as well.

For months now, I’ve been saying the gentlemen with prostate cancer are the ones who have to make a change and adapt to their new reality. For those who experienced zero effects from treatment, your sexuality may not change at all. Therefore, your partner may not notice any sexual changes. For everyone else who experienced side effects, you’ll experience changes and your partner will too. Your partner should be educated by a doctor or therapist regarding how your sex life will change. You partner need to understand their sex life may be different than it was in the past.

Can you teach old dog new tricks? Of course you can and, when factoring in life experience, you probably can learn it better. Granted, partners also have years of unlearning to process and learn new ways to have sex. I have faith in them. The one thing I’d like to impress on your partner is not to lose hope and become discouraged about sex. Yes, the study I mentioned said partner's sexual attitudes become more negative over time. That may be true but that’s where the relearning comes into play.

Never lose hope

In closing, this study should not make you give up or lose hope, not in the least. After all, it's only one study. At the same time, the couple as a unit needs to understand their sex life and sexual behaviors may not be what they once were. I really support the idea of a team approach when fighting prostate cancer. While the medical doctors are doing their thing, a sexual counselor or therapist should be working with the couple to educate them on what their future sex life may look like. The counselor/therapist should give the couple new sexual ideas to try that won’t injure anyone while being satisfying at the same time. Thank you.

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