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Living Now: Building intimacy after transplant

You may still be working through changes in your sexual health at this point in your recovery. Your feelings about these changes may impact your relationship with your partner, your self-image and your emotional health. There are many steps you can take to regain or build intimacy in your relationship.

Share your feelings

Talking about your feelings can help build physical intimacy, even if you and your partner have different levels of interest in sex. Perhaps you are interested in having sex but your partner is not. Your partner might be afraid of hurting you or seeming selfish. If you have less interest in sex, your partner might feel rejected. Or both of you may have less interest in sex because of the physical and emotional stress of transplant, recovery and caregiving. Open communication is important to work through these feelings together. Then you can find ways to share physical intimacy with or without sexual intercourse.

Express your love and affection

To express your love and affection for each other you might try to:

  • Cuddle
  • Give each other a massage
  • Hold hands while going for a walk
  • Have dinner by candlelight
  • Talk about what you love about each other

You may also need to rediscover how your body responds to sexual contact. You and your partner may want to try new positions to see what feels the best. You might find that intimate touch from your partner or self-stimulation gives you pleasure. Experiment with your partner and enjoy getting to know each other intimately again.

Dating after transplant

If you are a single adult, you’ll likely have some worries and uncertainties about starting to date again. It’s not uncommon to be nervous about starting a new relationship. But your concerns shouldn’t keep you from dating if you’re ready to do so.

If someone rejects you because of what you’ve been through, that person is probably not the right partner for you. Someone who truly cares about you will accept you for who you are.

When the time feels right to you, tell your partner about your transplant experience. As your relationship grows and becomes intimate, use the tips in the sections above to help you build intimacy with your new partner.

When you do become intimate remember to practice safe sex. Your immune system is weaker than normal right now so your risk for infection is higher. Ask your doctor if there are any sexual practices that you should avoid.

Ask for help if you need it

It’s common for people to have trouble working through sexual difficulties on their own. Think about seeing a professional sex therapist or counselor.

If you’re not comfortable talking to a sex therapist, consider talking to your doctor or nurse. You may feel embarrassed bringing the topic up, but doctors and nurses are used to talking about sexual problems. They can provide some advice, reassurance or even medical help.

Resources for you provides information on dating and intimacy after cancer treatment. Go to and search Dating and Intimacy.

The LIVESTRONG Foundation provides information on fertility risks, options and financial assistance. Learn more at