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Relationships and sex after stroke

A stroke doesn't just affect you, but everyone around you too. It can put a strain on your relationships with family and friends and can also affect your sex life with your partner. But there are lots of things you can do to help you cope with the impact of your stroke on you and those closest to you.

How a stroke might affect you

Coming to terms with what happened to you can take time and having a stroke can affect people in different ways:

  • You might feel uncomfortable having to depend on others and you may feel that you have lost your independence or your confidence or both.
  • Your stroke may have damaged parts of the brain that controls emotions and this can make things even more challenging for you.
  • You may be dealing with physical changes as a result of your stroke including fatigue, pain, muscle stiffness or problems with your vision or speech.

All of these changes, whether physical or emotional, can have a huge impact on your daily life, intimacy with your partner and your relationships with family and friends.

The impact on your family and friends

Your stroke will have caused worry and uncertainly for your partner, family and friends too. They may be struggling to understand how you are feeling. Your roles in the family may have changed. You might not be able to get out and about as you could before. Children, especially, may have to take on new roles and responsibilities or be worried you will have another stroke. All these things can affect your life and those closest to you.

The most important thing you can do is be open and honest with those around you and if it helps find other sources of support from health professionals such as a stroke nurse, local support groups, counselling group or helplines such as the CHSS Advice Line nurses.

The impact on your partner

It may be that the roles in your relationship will have changed and this can take time to get used to. Your partner may have had to take over as the main carer for you or the family as a whole or have had to become the main financial provider.  These changes can affect how you see each other and how you feel about each other. Fears, emotions, moods and frustrations about communication can build up and add to feelings of tension and resentment. All these things can mean coping with the impact of stroke can be difficult for both of you. Try to keep communicating and take some time to re-establish your relationship. Be aware of each other's needs as much as possible.

Sex after stroke

If sex was important to you before your stroke there is no reason why you cannot have a active, fulfilled sex life after your stroke, whether this is initiating a new relationship or resuming an old one. Some people do report a loss of intimacy with their partner after a stroke. However, keeping an open mind, addressing any physical and emotional issues and giving yourself time to adjust is often the solution to getting your sex life back on track.

You may be concerned that having sex will bring on another stroke. This is quite a common worry for many people however it is highly unlikely that it will and there is no reason why you cannot begin to have sex if you feel ready to do so.

Speak to your a health care professional you feel comfortable with if you still feel unsure about having sex or if you experience any difficulty in your sex life. Try not to feel embarrassed as they will be used to talking about such personal matters even if you are not.

If you would like to speak to someone confidentially, you can also call our Advice Line Nurses on 0808 801 0899.

See the CHSS booklet Relationships and sex after stroke (PDF) for more information and sources of help and support.