Relationships & Sex

Disability, sex and relationships: dealing with frustration

In our series on disability, sex and relationships, expert and resident agony aunt Tuppy – who runs Outsiders, a private club for disabled people looking for a relationship – answers your questions. This week she talks about not letting anxiety get in the way of love…

Dear Aunty Tuppy

I hope you can help. I am a woman who has had ME for the past five years. I am married to a Type 1 diabetic man, Rory. We have three children who are now 8, 10 and 12. The older one is currently going through a very difficult self-harming phase. As you can imagine, life is stressful and tough.

Rory is a wonderful husband and takes care of everything when I am fatigued and cannot cook, clean or deal to the children (when he’s not at work – he is a dentist).

But Rory has started getting very aggressive when we are in bed. One minute we are making love tenderly, and the next he starts saying degrading things and pinning me down.

As you can imagine,  things are very difficult for me to cope with, what with the ME, a difficult child and an aggressive husband. So any help would be welcome.


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Dear Ann,

First thing’s first – it’s worth establishing whether Rory’s aggression is actually down to low blood sugar, which is a common problem for diabetics. I’d suggest speaking to him about it and working out a few strategies for when this happens. It could be a simple as keeping some Lucozade next to the bed. This contains glucose, which is more quickly absorbed than other sweet items, and should enable a quicker recovery.

I also showed your message with a friend who has diabetes and is about the same age as Rory, and this is what she had to say:

I’m really interested in your message as I’m also Type 1 diabetic, now for 46 years. It is those with type 1 who suffer from getting low blood sugar more frequently.

I am under the research clinic at Kings College Hospital after I went through a rather volatile situation myself when I was stressed. Stress, which it sounds like you both have a lot of at the moment, makes sugar levels go really high. This can usually be corrected with an insulin injection. However, the injection can cause the low sugar problem when you go to bed.

Rory needs to make an outpatient appointment to speak to the dietitian or nurse, as they help with things like this –  they have really helped me. I would also suggest he does the following:

  1. Visit the Daphne website – it’s really informative and offers flexible solutions for dealing with stress, illness etc.
  2. Get a blood testing kit from a medical production company or on prescription. Using this at home will help him, and you, identify when his sugar is low.
  3. If Rory has issues with foot ulcers, which a lot of diabetics do, get special foot insoles to stop foot ulcers. They cost as little as £25 and you can buy them online here for Liqua Care, or get them on prescription. Obviously, having something as painful as a foot ulcer will not help you to have a healthy and comfortable sex life.

I hope that helps

Now we’ve talked about Rory, it’s time to focus on you. I would love to help have a less stressful life and enjoy sex more. I am wondering whether you need some support with the children? I worry about what will happen if you are fatigued when Rory’s sugar is down, will he be unpleasant to them?

Also, how do you cope with the children when he is a work and you are fatigued? Perhaps it’s worth speaking to social services to see whether you can get some free assistance? Or you could alternatively pay a professional carer to come in when required. Taking some of the pressure off you both would help elevate things, and hopefully give you both some time back to spend with together.

Have you sat the children down and talked to them about your condition and Rory’s condition, and ask them how they can be of help to you both to keep the family happy and functional? They need to know that when daddy turns aggressive, he does not mean it and it is his diabetes that is causing him to be this way. Tell them he needs Lucozade. Describe what it’s like to have ME, and that you are not being lazy! Tell them that neither of you are responsible for your conditions – they are not your faults.

And give the children plenty of praise when they help out, which will encourage them to do more.

It might also be worth considering having some therapy, giving you an opportunity to open up and deal with some of the issues you are facing. I know that mothers of self-harming children are often advised to get therapy as well as send the child to therapy, in order to deal with life. Another friend of mine, who like you has ME, has had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy on the National Health to help her cope better. She said it was brilliant and very useful.

I hope all this helps and thanks for writing in.

By Tuppy Owens

If you’ve got a question for Tuppy and would like her help, please email her:
Outsiders is a FREE social, peer support and dating club, run by and for socially and physically disabled people. Its members have a wide range of impairments, including visual and hearing impairment. 

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