A breast cancer diagnosis can change your entire life perspective, as can undergoing a mastectomy or lumpectomy to remove the cancer. After such a procedure, many women find it difficult to reestablish intimacy with their partner. Women may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when it comes to their appearance, or feel that their partner no longer relates to them.
Struggles with intimacy after a mastectomy or lumpectomy are common; about 70 percent of women report such issues. You are not alone when it comes to these feelings. The good news is that by following the tips below, you can move forward and become intimate with your partner once again.
Start by Talking
Reestablishing intimacy after a mastectomy is a gradual process, not one that take place in one night. You can get the ball rolling just by having open and honest conversations with your partner.
Sit down somewhere non-intimidating, such as on a park bench or at the kitchen table, and start off with light conversation about the weather or your pets. Slowly move the conversation towards the topic of your illness, the mastectomy, and how it has impacted your relationship.
It may take a few conversations to get there, but you and your partner will gradually start to feel more comfortable talking about the topic of intimacy after your surgery. Once you're able to talk about it, the physical side of intimacy may begin to progress naturally.
Listen to Your Partner
You have been through a lot in the past few months, but realize that this experience has been challenging for your partner too. Many women are shocked to learn that their partners also mourn the loss of the breasts. When talking to your partner about the illness and your relationship, make sure you listen to their worries and struggles too.
Understand and acknowledge each other's struggles to lead to a new type of deep intimacy in your relationship.
Set Aside Time
When intimacy makes you feel intimidated, you may put it off and convince yourself you are too busy. But the longer you wait, the larger the divide between you and your partner will grow. Set aside time in your schedule for intimacy, even if that just means talking at first. Treat this scheduled obligation as top-priority, only canceling or rescheduling in a true emergency.
Find Lingerie That Makes You Feel Confident
Once you're able to talk openly about your relationship and illness, and you're ready to move on to being more physical, treat yourself to a few new pairs of lingerie. Even if a prosthesis allows you to fit into the lingerie you wore before your mastectomy, you are a changed woman, and some new lingerie will help you embrace that change with confidence rather than running from the new you.
Look for lingerie made specifically for women who have had mastectomies, as these items are less apt to irritate your surgical scars or make you feel too exposed. You can even ask your partner to help you shop if you feel comfortable doing so; this activity alone can help rebuild your intimacy.
See a Therapist
If you follow the tips above and are still finding intimacy a challenge post-surgery, do not hesitate to see a couples' therapist. Sometimes, a third person can break down the barriers in a relationship and help you bridge a gap that has formed. Therapy can provide you with a safe, non-threatening environment to start your discussion of intimacy or address specific struggles that come up along the way.
Reestablishing intimacy after a mastectomy or lumpectomy can take time. With the tips above, you'll be on the right track. Visit Next Step Boutique if you are looking for mastectomy bras or camisoles to help you feel sexy and confident once again. We offer a variety of products to fit your changing body.