Love is in the air in February – at least that’s what Hallmark wants you to think. The truth is that love – both feeling love and loving others – is critical to our wellbeing. Loving and being intimate with a partner is something that most people strive for but do not always find. And for someone who has sustained a life-altering injury, such as a spinal cord injury, being intimate with a partner can take on a whole new challenge.
Craig Hospital understands that romance and intimacy are a critical part of a person’s well-being and overall life quality, which is why Craig is one of the only spinal cord injury specialty hospitals to offer a sex education class. Every patient is enrolled in the class but can opt out if they choose. During this hour, patients and their partners learn how they can be intimate again after their injury.
Avery La Fleur, MSW, who teaches the classes at Craig, says most of the patients participate. During the classes, Avery tells participants that if they have dated before, the dating rules are the same. He also emphasizes to his patients that communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship and sex life. Whereas before, patients may have used non-verbal cues to communicate to a partner during intimacy, after an injury verbal communication becomes paramount.
In addition to attending the class, many patients follow up with Avery afterwards and schedule meetings with him, oftentimes bringing their partner or spouse. In those private sessions, partners will discuss physical limitations, fertility issues and emotional concerns. “No question or topic is off limits,” says Avery.
“We want our patients to leave Craig with the right tools and knowledge of how to achieve their most independent, quality life possible,” says Avery. “Effective communication with a partner, intimacy and romance are some of those critical life skills that we all need in order to have successful, long-term relationships and lead fulfilling lives.”
Avery offers 5 tips to return to romance after spinal cord injury:
- Know your body
- Communicate with your partner
- Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone
- Know your partner’s body
- Have fun