Obstacles to Sexual Intimacy Post-Combat for Soldiers and their Partners

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What were some of the biggest obstacles for the two of you once you wanted to start up being sexual together?

Abby: I think one of them was will it work! Every time he’d become erect or I would try to fondle him in anyway he’d say it hurt. And it’s driving me crazy because for him me providing care in the hospital was like a mom, but for me it was the feeling that I love you and care for you but I still have a sexual desire for you, I’m really horny over here, so I want us figure out what’s going.

We ended up figuring it out over time. I asked one of the nurses is this something that can be normal. And they said yeah, it may just take some time.

I think the next biggest challenge for me was where am I going to position my own self. Amputees, and especially double amputees have a lot more positions, but they also lose a lot of positions and leverage. As partners you discover that no, you can’t go in that position because if I tip you just a little you’re going to fall over and it’s going to hurt you. I was also scared to use any area down by where his feet should be because I thought maybe that would remind him his legs were there. But I think that was about the newness of it because now I’m not so scared, now I’m like “yeah! I’ve got way more room to work with now!” Over time we’ve learned that we can do a lot of things other people can’t do.

B.J.: I can remember joking back in ’03 when I first got injured when we were discovering that yes, you lose the leverage and this and this, but you can fit in many different positions when you’re shorter!

So I joked around that I’m going to write a book on the Many Positions of Amputees just to try and lighten the sense everyone around you has about sexuality. Sexuality is something that everyone goes through challenging times with but you get through it and it’s still a part of maybe not your everyday life but it’s a part of your everyday thoughts.

One big thing is for the wounded service member is making sure both partners are ready and that you have the communication open between the two of you, to make sure both partners are getting satisfaction, not just physically because the mental aspect is bigger, I think, when you’re injured because you look at yourself and think am I actually doing this right? Am I satisfying my partner? A big issue for me early on was the psychological part of it. At the time I wasn’t ready because sex was physically hurting me but at the same time I didn’t want to disappoint my wife, whose sex drive was off the wall!

Abby:Thanks babe! I think that our ability to be patent and wait until we were both ready started a long time before his injury. I think that started when he left the country. If you love someone and that’s the person you want to spend your time with then you wait.

B.J.:When you start having sex for the first time you do lose focus because you’re thinking through your head, how am I going to make this work so I can give her the satisfaction that she’s trying to get, and at the same time not trying to disappoint your partner as a person with a disability going through the process for the first time or even the tenth time.

It definitely takes a while to get through the mental aspects of how can I do this without disappointing my partner, and how can I do this to where we both benefit from it. It’s more psychological, just trying to get through that.

Abby:Also I think just doing it for the first time is a whole new experience. It’s not like the first time you’ve ever had sex, but it’s the first time you’re having sex with someone who is looking at themselves differently, and I think that has a lot to do with it. My concerns were more about was I going to hurt him, can I do this or that. But to me it came off as if he was having a new experience and I think every injured person is new.

Abby:I think you have to start with your partner. That’s the first and foremost person you’re going to be worrying about in the bedroom anyway. And you have to ask for help. Most people don’t bring sex up because they’re just as nervous as you are about it. Health care professionals should be able to talk to you about that stuff. I would ask questions like are there any complications I’m going to face? Is there anything you can help me to get me where I need to be? Do you see anything off of any of my injuries that maybe could cause a problem or warrant a reason that I should change the way my sex life is now. They should be able to tell you.

B.J.:But at the same time you yourself can only be the one to limit yourself. If the doctor says you may not be able to. Well, you may not be able to the “traditional” way but there’s other ways and other means.

Abby: It’s true, there is always a way to find a way around something someone has told you that you might not be able to do again. We’ve definitely found that.

I think B.J. and I were open with each other and he trusted me. He told me sex hurt and that he wasn’t ready yet and I trusted his instincts and said if you’re not read than I’m not going to push you. So I think the more open and honest you are with your partner and the more you learn to trust each other the easier it comes.

Read the complete interview with B.J. and Abby Jackson.

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