Sex and intimate relationships after stroke

A stroke can put a strain on relationships and can affect your sex life, but there are things you can do to help you cope and manage.

What can cause problems with sex after stroke?

It’s very common to feel that a stroke has changed your relationship and sex life with a partner. If you’re single it could change how you feel about dating. Sex and relationship problems can happen to anyone of any sexual orientation or gender.

There are several reasons why you may have difficulties with sex after a stroke, including emotional changes, relationship problems and physical disabilities. But remember that help is available. Whether your difficulties are physical or emotional, you may find it helpful to speak to someone about them.

Many of us aren’t used to talking about our intimate relationships, but it can take away some of the worries you may have and can let you get any help and support you need.

What can help sexual problems?

The first step in dealing with any problem is to talk about it. This isn’t always easy, and you may find it difficult or embarrassing to talk about things like a lack of desire or not being able to get an erection.

However, these kinds of problems can affect anyone at any time, not only people who have had a stroke. Talking and being open about your feelings can help your relationships, and might also help in dealing with sexual problems. Many people want guidance about sex and relationships after a stroke, and there is help and information available. It’s also important to look after yourself.

Try to have an active, healthy lifestyle, including eating a healthy diet and being as active as possible for you. This can help improve your overall health, as well as your sexual and emotional wellbeing.

Help with relationship problems

Talk about your feelings

You may feel awkward about bringing up the subject of sex, but having an honest conversation about what you are finding difficult is the first step to making changes. Set aside a time to talk when you won’t be interrupted, and choose a place where you both feel comfortable. Sometimes it’s easier to talk about sex away from the bedroom, so neither of you feels under pressure. Take it in turns to talk and listen carefully to each other.

Professional help with relationships

Talking about your feelings is difficult, even with someone close to you, so it can often help to get professional support. Relationship counselling can give you a safe space to find a way through the difficulties you’re facing.

Single people can also go to relationship counsellors. If you’re in a couple, you can choose to go alone or with your partner. Usually, a counsellor will ask you questions so that you, and your partner if you have one, can talk about what’s going on and how you feel.

Information

Other resources

Stroke Association Helpline
Helpline: 0303 3033 100
Email: helpline@stroke.org.uk
Contact us for information about stroke, emotional support and details of local services and support groups.

College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT)
Tel: 020 8543 2707
The professional body for sexual and relationship therapists. Find qualified private therapists and information about therapy and common problems on their website.

Disability Horizons online magazine
Information and practical tips on all aspects of living with a disability including a section on relationships and sex.

Sexwise
The Sexwise advice and information website is run by the sexual health charity Family Planning Association (FPA). It gives information about sexual wellbeing, sexual problems as well as contraception and pregnancy.

LGBT Foundation
Tel: 0345 330 3030
LGBT Foundation is a national charity delivering a wide range of services to lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It provides counselling for individuals and couples and a helpline offering information and support.

NHS One You Sexual Health
National Sexual Health Helpline: 0300 123 7123
Website and helpline offering support with sexual health and wellbeing.

Outsiders
Helpline: 07770 884 985
A free club for people with disabilities. The Outsiders Trust also offer support on relationships, sexuality and dating.

Relate (England and Wales)
Tel: 0300 0030 0396

Relate Northern Ireland
Tel: 0289 032 3454
Offers relationship and sex counselling (face-to-face, online and via telephone).

Relationships Scotland
Tel: 0345 119 2020
Provides relationship counselling, family mediation, child contact centres and other family support services.

Sexual Advice Association
Information about sexual problems and how to find support.

Spokz
Tel: 015 4389 9317
Makes disability equipment including equipment to help with sex if you have weakness or paralysis.

Books

The ultimate guide to sex and disability: for all of us who live with disabilities, chronic pain, and illness. Miriam Kaufman, Cleis Press, 2020, a book about sex and disability including advice on sexual positions. Available in print and as an e-book.

Disclaimer: The Stroke Association provides the details of other organisations for information only. Inclusion on My Stroke Guide does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement.