A WALK ON THE BEACH
A GUIDE TO PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
relationships - dating - love - intimacy - health
The way you think about your relationships, the skills and attitudes you bring to them and the time and effort you put in can make all the difference. People are social creatures and relationships matter to us. We enjoy them, we cry over them and we're curious about how to get our relationships to be the way we want them. How well your relationships work can have a big impact on how satisfied you feel with life. Stimulating, resilient, satisfying relationships with partners, friends and family rank high on many people's wish list for a happy life.
COUPLES
8. Caring For Each Other Through Illness
Sudden serious illness or disability is always a shock and huge adjustments are required. A relationship psychotherapist looks at what happens to love when one of you has to take on the role of carer.

8. Caring For Each Other Through Illness

The effect of a sudden onset of illness in a relationship has been likened to a bereavement. Once the initial feelings of shock have passed, there may be immense anger. There may also be feelings of regret and guilt over what has not been done during earlier years. Gradually, these feelings change into sadness and loss.

Many people feel they have to deal with these emotions alone, and may become isolated and resentful. But when couples are able to talk openly, it can be a time when they grow closer.

Terminal illness
When an illness is diagnosed as terminal, the remaining time together can be a mix of bittersweet moments. There's also often a sense of urgency to make the most of every moment you have left.

Some couples find themselves slipping back to earlier feelings of intense connection, but for others there can be a distressing feeling of growing separateness. In some people, the knowledge that they'll soon be alone creates the need to begin psychological and emotional distancing.

This is usually completely unconscious and a natural response to try to soften the blow of the inevitable ending.

From partner to patient
Some couples find that when a partner becomes a patient, the relationship feels more like parent and child than equals. Finding ways to adapt to a new model of partnership will help you to ensure your relationship continues to be fulfilling.

It's important that you're both able to feel a sense of independence and autonomy. The ability to do that will vary enormously depending on your circumstances, and you may have to be creative and enlist the support of others to make that possible.

Keeping communication at an adult level - avoiding slipping into childlike exchanges - will also help to maintain a sense of equality within the relationship.

Remember
* Talk regularly and openly
* Encourage times of autonomy - and times when your caring roles can be reversed
* Be sensual through taste by trying new foods together
* Create a sensual atmosphere with candles and aromatherapy oils
* Enjoy physical intimacy with hand or foot massages, perhaps, bathing together and lots of hugs
* Laugh together

Physical intimacy
Physical intimacy is an important part of most relationships. Some couples think that when one of them is ill or has a disability, they should give up their sex lives, but this needn't be the case. Many couples enjoy finding new ways to be sensual together and regaining physical intimacy. In fact, the increased creativity required to fit around bodily limitations can make sex better than ever.

If you experience sexual problems as a result of your condition or medication, there are a wide range of medical interventions available. Speak to your doctor about appropriate options.

Love can grow in sickness and in health if you both commit to sharing your feelings (no matter how hard that may feel) and both learn to adapt as circumstances change. And remember, even if you can't be sexual together anymore you can still be sensual. Touch is an essential part of being human, so take every opportunity to be close.