Redefining Intimacy On Valentine's Day!
Intimacy + physical touch = discomfort and shame.
This equation of words used to sum up my relationship with intimacy and romantic partners. Getting that close to my partner had a huge yellow sign that read “CAUTION” or “BEWARE”.
But over time, I learned how to communicate my needs, become comfortable in my own skin, love and be loved by my partner despite my eczema.
Eczema and intimacy
Google defines intimacy as a “close familiarity or friendship.” Movies normally define intimacy as a sexy, heated moment between two characters who are usually about to make some sweet lovin’. But how do those with atopic dermatitis define intimacy?
"What is it and don't you know I have eczema?" Or at least that's how I used to view it.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I can’t help but reflect on past years when I used to feel ashamed and uncomfortable in my own skin. In fact, I used to tell my partners, “I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day” just to avoid another day of intimacy.
Eczema got in the way
But I loved the idea of Valentine’s day and being loved by my partner. Not just that one day but every day or as often as possible.
I secretly envied those who would receive a bouquet of flowers without sneezing. Those who went on their fancy dinners without having to worry about cross-contamination. Those who received couples massages without an ounce of worry about whether their skin would hurt or become irritated. And I was especially envious of those who were able to come back home to cuddle and be touched by their partner without feeling any shame or discomfort.
I remember a time in my life during topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) days where it was just too painful to have my partner touch me.
Every hug made me cringe. Every pat on my leg made me anxious. And every indication of anything more than that, made me run in the opposite direction at full speed. Unfortunately at that time, affection was not an option for me. But it was only because I thought physical touch was the only form of showing your partner love.
The 5 love languages
But that was further from the truth. Intimacy, closeness, and showing love to your partner doesn't only have to look like kissing, hugging, or touching. It could also look like doing things together, spending quality time, having deep conversations, buying thoughtful gifts for your partner, or saying words of affirmation that make them feel good.
That’s when I started reading up on The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Gary expressed that there are different ways our partners feel loved. And sometimes our way of showing them love is not the ‘right’ and only way.
Types of intimacy
I also read about the different types of intimacy that existed. Instagram influencer, Alyssa Marie (@alyssamariewellness) notes that there are four types of intimacy: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual - all that foster closeness and connection.
Knowing this has supported me in still being intimate with my partner even when I didn’t physically feel like it due to my eczema. Here are some tips that have helped improve intimacy with my partner.
Communicate your needs
A romantic evening with your partner does not mean you have to sacrifice your eczema or feel ashamed that you can’t be physically intimate with your partner. Let him or her know how you’re feeling.
As uncomfortable as it may be, speaking vulnerably with your partner about how you feel will not only bring clarity to your partner on how he or she can best support you, but it will also fulfill a form of intimacy and bring you closer together.
My partner and I have these types of conversations all of the time. This helps him understand that I’m not rejecting his love or form of intimacy when I'm flaring up. It just means that at this moment, I just would prefer a different type of intimacy.
Learn more about each other's love language
Learn about kinds of actions that fill you and your partner’s love tank. Is it quality time? Gifts? Words of affirmations? Acts of services? Touch?
What about your preferred forms of intimacy?
- Physical intimacy - Holding hands, touching
- Mental intimacy - Having deep conversations, learning something new together
- Spiritual intimacy - Going to church together, going on a walk
- Emotional intimacy - Performing one of the love languages from Gary Chapman's book aka how you fill your partner's cup up!
Take action and repeat
If you or your partner have eczema, here a few romantic things you can do on Valentine’s Day to keep the spark alive and make it eczema-free:
- Go to an allergy-friendly restaurant or cook something delicious up at home!
- Write him or her a love letter.
- Enjoy chocolate? No worries! Stick to the dairy-free and less processed dark chocolates!
- Prepare an oatmeal bath for your partner or for both of you.
- Set up a picnic with a non-itchy blanket.
QUESTION: Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? How do you make intimacy eczema-friendly with your partner?
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