The Pressure of Being ‘Skintimate’ in the Bedroom
From manhood to marriage, one man shares his roller coaster experience with urticaria and intimacy.
Ah yes, the birds and the bees. The conversation that some people living with urticaria avoid talking about at any cost. Don’t get me wrong, I can also be one of those people. But in this case, I wanted to share my experiences with you - the good, the bad and the not so pleasant - to let you know that you aren’t alone when it comes to sex and urticaria.
I understand that I am one of the fortunate ones. I have a wife whom I love very much, and she understands that sex and intimacy can be tough when living with this skin condition. I realize that there are others out there who aren’t this fortunate. It can be tough for some to be intimate, or to even find a date. Having said that, take my experiences as you may. You may or may not be able to relate to me, but I hope we can all agree that hopefully my wife isn’t mad at me for writing this!
Everyone remembers their first
I remember trying to be intimate with my first girlfriend, but she wanted to wait. Trust me, I wasn’t in a rush to have sex either. It’s just that with urticaria, you only have a few windows of opportunity. The problem was that either I was nervous and it caused a breakout – or she wasn’t into it, but I was ready to go. We were never in the same place at the same time, and she ended up breaking up with me, mostly due to a lack of intimacy. Not the best start!
It’s not you, it’s me!
Do you know the old saying, “When you look good, you feel good?” Well, it also works the other way around. When you look bad, you feel bad. When dealing with my skin condition as a young man, I often felt bad. I struggled with confidence growing up, and even as an adult, I had an abundance of insecurities with my body. Ironically, I was also a model. Everyone assumed that I did not have any problem with the ladies. When all of my friends were having sex and then sharing those stories with me, I would remain quiet and embarrassed because I had yet to experience any of it.
I was very much ashamed of my skin. What would someone think if we were about to have sex and then saw my hives? Who in their right mind would be attracted to that?! How could anyone be turned on when I was repulsed by my own body? I was not capable of handling these thoughts. I used to tell myself that intimacy was just not for me.
Swing and a miss
There was one situation I will never forget. I was in the middle of a breakout, and although it wasn’t that bad, it was enough for me to not want to take off my clothes. The girl I was with at the time was trying to “get things moving,” while I was content with only kissing. We were both in our mid-20’s and she was becoming frustrated with my reluctance. I remember her asking, “I’m embarrassed to ask, but do I not turn you on?” I didn’t know what to say, so I ignored her question. Long story short, that relationship did not last much longer (as in, it ended that night).
My big secret
As I grew older, and developed stronger relationships, I was finally able to be intimate with someone, although I wasn’t ready to tell her about my condition. The first time I had someone in my bed, she noticed there were blood stains on the bed sheets, to which I made the excuse that they were from scrapes on my legs from playing sports. She noticed scars and cuts on my body, and I explained they were caused by my cat. In reality, the blood was from my excessive scratching throughout the night, but I couldn’t tell her that. I was still living in a world where I thought I had to keep my skin a secret.
In the end, secrecy never did me any good. This would all change when I decided to be honest about my disease with future partners. My wife was one of the first people I told about my condition. She seemed more interested than repulsed. And when it came to being intimate, she did her best to make sure I was always comfortable.
Working with each other
Since then, my wife and I have turned my hives into something we can work with. Whether it’s talking about specific obstacles, or simply making note of my daily symptoms, being honest with each other before we become intimate really helps me – and the both of us – feel more comfortable.
There are still times when my breakout is so grueling that I only want to stay in bed and not be bothered. When this happens, I still talk to my wife about it. Dealing with intimacy is not always easy, especially during the early stages. But being open about it can make the entire process less awkward and painful. If you can take anything from my roller coaster of experience, it should be why it’s important to find the strength and willingness to be open about who you are. It will make that birds and the bees conversation with your partner so much easier, I promise!