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Top 6 Relationship Tips After Surgery

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20 Jun 2022
Top relationship tips after surgery: image of a brown man kissing a brown woman on her cheek while she smiles.

Healing from a surgery is intimidating enough, but what about how this will affect your relationship? Will the new stressors cause tension or arguments? Or, could a healing period even bring you both closer together?

An estimated 48 million inpatient surgeries are performed each year in the United States. It is also possible that one person might experience surgery a few times in life; one study estimates that the average American will have about 3 inpatient operations during their lifetime.

If you are preparing for an upcoming surgery, it helps to plan ahead and think through how day-to-day life will look afterward. This includes communicating proactively about your relationship, to ensure you and your partner can both care for each other during times of increased stress.

The good news is that caring for your relationship after a surgery is linked to better health outcomes. For example, research suggests that heart surgery patients in a long-term couple are three times more likely than single patients to avoid complications during the first three months following surgery. This might be due to having someone there to remind you to take your medicine or having a companion to take your mind off the pain. Patients in long-term relationships also said they were more confident in their abilities to manage post-surgery discomfort and were less concerned about the procedure in general.

A little emotional support may go a long way toward assisting someone in recovering from surgery or sickness. More than that, the increase in happiness may even help you live longer! Studies find that people in relationships may add additional years to their life due to an increased sense of purpose and stronger social ties.  

Even if your relationship takes on extra stress after a surgery, remembering to clearly communicate about your needs will go a long way, and this tougher period may even make your relationship closer and stronger afterward.

1) Find low-movement hobbies you can do together

post surgical bra front closure: paint by numbers picture in pink

It's easy to become gloomy after surgery when you're in bed most of the day or restricted in your activities. Instead of focusing on what you can't accomplish yet, consider what you can do. Finding happy hobbies, no matter how tiny, can help you relax and give you and your partner opportunities to laugh, cooperate, communicate, and make new memories even while mobility is limited.

Depending on your interests, you could work together on a jigsaw puzzle, a brick building set, learn a new instrument, work on a book of mind puzzles (crosswords, sudoku, etc.), work through a docuseries or multi-part movie franchise (Lord of the Rings, James Bond, etc.), try bird watching, do a paint-by-numbers painting, research cooking recipes to make together later, or any other low-impact hobby.

2) Honest communication about intimacy

Whether you’re starting a new relationship or have been with a partner for a long time, it can be hard to push past the awkwardness of a conversation about sensuality, sex, and intimacy. In fact, a 2020 survey commissioned by the condom brand Durex found that about one-third of adults feel uncomfortable talking about sex with their partners, and one-fifth would not bring up the subject at all in a relationship.

While it can be tough to have a new conversation with your partner, everyone has the right to feel loved and show love in return. In fact, some couples may find that sensuality raises oxytocin and endorphin levels such that it also reduces pain post-surgery.

Consider your expectations before you have the conversation. Decide what intimacy means to you, what you want and don't want, and how ready you are for it. Resources like this intimacy inventory list might provide some food for thought as you determine what you would and would not like to try, and online blogs can share others’ stories and experiences navigating this conversation. You can use this list of 20 conversation starters for ideas to kick off the discussion about intimacy.

Be sure to follow guidelines from your doctor and ask questions in advance if there is any hesitancy about being intimate post-surgery, or if you experience pain as a result. Remember that nonsexual touching—such as holding hands, cuddling, stroking their hair—can also build comfort and intimacy.

3) Consider couple’s therapy temporarily

rotator cuff injury bra: a couple in therapy

It's not always simple to get back to your “normal” life following surgery, and many couples may underestimate the impact a surgery will have on their dynamic. Talking to a therapist can sometimes be beneficial, even if you notice only mild issues with your partner.

Having an impartial third-party address your issues and help you acquire coping skills may make a major impact in your life, whether you normally attend counseling with your partner or not. You may even find couple’s therapy gives you great communication tools and exercises that strengthen your relationship even after the post-surgery period!

4) Feel comfortable and confident

Looking your best might help you recuperate from major surgery by giving you a psychological boost. Clothing options may be limited, particularly after abdominal or limb surgery since these are the areas that move around most when we get dressed. Ask your doctor about the expected level of movement you will have after surgery, and plan ahead for wardrobe requirements while you are still independent and mobile.

We all want to look and feel our best in front of others, and luckily these days many lingerie and intimates shops make bras and underwear for all body types and ranges of motion. For example, Springrose’s post surgical front closure bra is designed specifically for those with limited mobility to be comfortable, supported, and beautiful.

Adaptive lingerie like this has soft fabrics, adjustable straps, and can be put on while laying down, sitting, or standing—making it ideal for wheelchair users or anyone with limited movement. Lingerie and undergarments are not simply clothes like any other, but are intimately tied to the wearer’s self-confidence, sensuality, womanhood, and feeling powerful.

Springrose is proud to set new examples for how adaptive lingerie can fit every woman without compromising on beauty and style.

5) Eat nutritious meals together

post surgical bra front fastening: image of salads on plates

While it may be tempting after surgery to eat anything you want or seek “comfort foods,” this might lead to weight gain and increased inflammation. Remember, the body is still healing, and needs nutritious foods and plenty of fluids to do it.

You and your partner can keep each other accountable and motivated to eat healthy by concentrating on nutritious and wholesome meals. If you can prepare and freeze meals in advance, this will be a welcome convenience later! And don’t forget to drink a lot of water and avoid dehydrating fluids such as coffee, caffeinated soda, alcohol, and energy drinks.

6) Have alone time from each other

This may be counter-intuitive, but alone time can do wonders during a tough period. Being together all the time while one partner is uncomfortable can make both people feel exhausted and unnecessarily anxious. This means your partner will not be able to support you as much, and vice-versa.

Whichever partner is not recovering from surgery should continue to take time away (such as going for a walk or visiting another friend) to reflect, gain space, and even begin to miss their partner again. It can be just as draining to be the caretaker as to be the patient, so the relationship will benefit overall if each person can have personal space for their own hobbies, friends, and routines.

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