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Intimacy and Relationships

Reintegration is more than just coming home; it often includes emotional and behavioral adjustments as well. Many veterans experience difficulty returning to a healthy psychological state after being in a combat/operational environment and may have difficulty readjusting to life at home and within the community. Physical injuries can complicate emotional and behavioral responses. These emotional and behavioral changes may adversely impact family relationships, thus leading to further negative behaviors.

Injuries, to include amputations, traumatic brain injury, and post traumatic stress, can challenge the emotional and sexual relationships of injured service members and their families. Reestablishing intimacy after an injury can be compounded by physical disability, pain, distress, and stress-related disorders. Injuries that may affect a person's ability to be sexually intimate can negatively impact their self-image and result in the member questioning their identity. Overcoming this challenge requires education, effort and understanding.

For those who have been wounded, ill, and/or injured, the resulting limited capacity to resume an established relationship that provides closeness and sexual togetherness may undermine the individual's health, relationship capacity, and even the health of the family. The member may find it hard to share themselves intimately and physically and may worry about the adverse reactions it could have on their partner. Also, medications used to treat various illnesses and injuries may decrease sexual desire or sexual functioning.

Communication and compassion usually help couples reintegrate as they work to restore and enhance intimacy in their relationship. This may help them rebuild the relationship to be as close, if not closer, than they were prior to the injury or illness. It is important for the member to realize that a satisfying sex life is still possible.

The Health Promotion and Wellness Wounded, Ill, and Injured team at the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center is dedicated to helping Sailors and Marines quickly recover and return to their mission. We want our service members to understand that we play a vital role in their recovery process and their restoration of health. Please review the following information for further assistance and resources dedicated to addressing issues impacting intimacy and the health of those who have been wounded, ill, and/or injured.

For valuable information on HIV, sexually transmitted infections, unplanned pregnancies and many additional sexual health topics, please visit our Reproductive and Sexual Health page >>

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