Diabetes doesn’t have to dim your sex life. Here’s how to recapture your confidence, reconnect with your partner and reignite your passion.
Does your sexual desire leave, well, something to be desired? Diabetes can cause a number of sexual difficulties for men and women, including low libido, decreased vaginal lubrication, painful intercourse, inability to orgasm and lack of endurance, not to mention the psychological factors (stress, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem) that can make it difficult to feel sexy or connect deeply with your partner.
Indeed, women who receive insulin are twice as likely to report sexual dissatisfaction and difficulty achieving orgasm compared with women without the condition, according to research in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. And there’s a strong link between diabetes and erectile dysfunction (ED) in men as a result of nerve damage in sexual organs.
The good news: Diabetes doesn’t have to stand between you and a satisfying sex life. You can learn to recapture your confidence, reconnect with your partner and reignite your passion. Here’s how.
Open up to your healthcare team
Intimacy may be the last thing on your mind while visiting your endocrinologist or diabetes educator, but don’t be bashful about mentioning your sexual difficulties. Spark the conversation by asking, “Is it common for diabetes to interfere with a person’s sex life?”
Sexual dysfunction may be a significant marker for heart disease among men with longstanding type 1 diabetes—it may be even more indicative than high blood pressure and high cholesterol, say researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. Work with your healthcare team to pinpoint what, specifically, is standing in your way—loss of libido, ED, low self-esteem—and how to better manage your condition to reduce these obstacles.
Set aside spouse-only time
When was the last time you and your partner spent some quality time together—without television, cell phones, the Internet or the kids? You don’t have to plan an elaborate getaway or dine at an expensive restaurant. Take a morning walk, or stargaze on a blanket in the backyard. Just find some time to talk, hold hands and reconnect without the interruptions of daily life.
Break a sweat together
You already know that exercise helps manage your diabetes, but did you know that it can also improve your sex life. People who exercise regularly are more self-confident, feel more sexually desirable and report higher levels of satisfaction, according to a study in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality. Take a hike together, sign up for a ballroom dance class, go on a bike ride or just toss a Frisbee in the backyard.
Have a beauty day
Get a free makeover from a cosmetic expert at your local department store, complete with sultry eyes and kissable lips. Or invite a friend to come over and experiment with your makeup.
Flirt, flirt and flirt
Flirting can have a powerful effect on your marriage, serving as a playful reminder that you still find each other attractive and desirable. Squeeze your spouse’s knee under the table, exchange a meaningful glance or send a sexy text message. These small gestures will go a long way toward keeping your romance alive.
Get real with your loved one
Avoiding the issue won’t make it go away. Share how you’re feeling with your partner. Be honest about how diabetes affects you. Say something like, “I know our sex life hasn’t been great, but my diabetes has really had an impact on my self-esteem.” By admitting there is a problem, you’re offering reassurance while showing that you care about your relationship.
Rethink the definition of sex
A sexual encounter with your spouse doesn’t necessarily mean intercourse. Slow down and rediscover each other through foreplay. Kissing, snuggling, massaging—all of these can bring pleasure, build closeness and nurture intimacy.
Offer positive reinforcement
Let your partner know when something feels good. A simple “That feels nice” lets your partner know they’re pleasing you, and that can take the pressure off.
Consider a sex date
If you feel ready to try intercourse, some experts suggest planning a sex date. Be sure to test your blood sugar beforehand to avoid a low blood glucose reaction. And if you use an insulin pump, you may want to set a temporary basal rate or disconnect it during sex to avoid going low.