Relationships & Sex

Adjusting your sex life to accommodate a newly acquired disability

We want to break the taboo around talking about sex and disability. Everyone, no matter what their disability or health condition, should be able to enjoy sex and pleasure. That’s why we’re starting a series of sex stories from people with different disabilities about their experiences and what they’ve learnt. 

Being disabled is, in so many ways, about mindset. If you think you can do something, you’ll find a way to do it. If you don’t think you can do something, you almost certainly won’t.

That applies just as much to sex as it does to going shopping, driving a car, going on holiday or the many other things disabled people deal with and do. I’m Paul Grainger and my wife Heather and I understand that attitude totally because we’ve lived it.

Heather, now in her late-40s, has been disabled since childhood when a bout of sepsis meant her right leg had to be amputated at the knee. She gets about using a walking stick most of the time, but I do sometimes push her around in a manual wheelchair.

We got married later in life than the average person – we were both 35. Heather had found it difficult to find a man who could cope with her disability. I had been concentrating hard, much too hard, on my career and hadn’t been that bothered about my personal life.

But Heather was a friend of a friend, and when we were both invited to a party one summer evening, we hit it off immediately.

I was relaxed about Heather’s disability. If caring for her meant a bit more work around the house, I was happy to take that on. For the first time in my life, I was in love.

Our sex life

Our love showed in our sex life. Despite (or maybe because of) her disability, Heather had always enjoyed a high sex-drive. This was something she made clear the first time we went to bed together.

We had only just got naked when she asked me to open a cupboard and showed me her ‘sex box’. It included a wide selection of vibrators, dildos, sexy underwear and erotic books and DVDs.

For the next few years, the ‘sex box’ got extensive use and its contents grew. We talked about adding items and read and watched couples-friendly porn together.

And because I am unable to have children as a result of a rugby accident in my teens, we could and did make love regularly and athletically without fear of Heather getting pregnant.

But then, things changed in an instant.

Acquiring a disability

One afternoon while at work, Heather got a phone call to say that I had collapsed in the street. The early prognosis was that I had suffered a stroke. The caller, a doctor, said I was in hospital unconscious and could she get there as soon as possible?

A work colleague drove a terrified Heather on the 10-mile journey to the hospital. When they got there, I had recovered consciousness but, apparently, I looked terrible.

I certainly felt terrible. I had no feeling down my left side. The doctors had done a brain scan just before Heather arrived and confirmed that I had indeed had a stroke. The future prognosis was very uncertain.

Heather slept in a chair beside my bed that night and I know, because I hardly slept myself, that she cried herself to sleep.

I spent a month in the hospital, the paralysis slowly disappearing day by day. The help and care of many of our friends and colleagues meant Heather could visit me every day.

She was never at home on her own during that time. People invited her out for meals and offered her a bed for the night in their homes. She really got to understand what kindness meant in that month – and so did I.

When I came home, I could barely walk five yards. But a team of physiotherapists and occupational therapists paid regular visits over the next few weeks so that, eventually, I could get about using a walking frame.

Friends and colleagues came to the fore again, making calls to the authorities about benefit payments, doing shopping runs, visiting when needed and giving us time on our own when we wanted it.

Adjusting to a new sex life

It was time for us to adjust to a new life together – day-to-day and in the bedroom. Usually, when it all got too much for both of us, we would just go up to bed and lie naked in each other’s arms, hugging and kissing and contemplating our future while watching some couples-friendly porn.

I know there were nights when Heather cried about the situation. But my business experience had given me a ‘can-do’ mentality, which soon began to shine through.

“I’m going to beat this,” I told her as we lay together in bed one morning, just enjoying the feel of each other’s bodies still in our nightwear.

“I’ll never be what I was, the doctors have already made that clear. There will be things that I can’t do, but that just means we’ll have to look at life differently.”

“What does that mean?” said Heather, her infectious laugh filling the room.

“Well, for one thing, it means we are going to have to rethink our sex life,” I said. “I’ve been reading up on this, as you do when you’re stuck in hospital for a month.

Apparently, the brain damage caused by a stroke can make your libido collapse completely, or make it go through the roof. I’m already beginning to think mine’s the latter!”

With that, I slowly and agonisingly pushed myself upwards, my still-stiff legs just about taking in the signals from my damaged brain. I put my arms around Heather, took the bow of the lacy negligee she was wearing between my teeth and watched it fall open so that she was naked.

She giggled, playfully pulled down my pants and began to stroke my cock. “I am a lucky girl,” she said, admiring my rising erection. “And I know I’m lucky to still have you. And however difficult life gets, we have each other.”

Where did my new libido take us? How did we face life with both of us disabled? I’ll let you into a few of our secrets next time….

By Paul Grainger

More on Disability Horizons…

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