Maintaining Intimacy Through Grief | Lioness

Maintaining Intimacy Through Grief

memorial day flags

A Military Spouse’s Tips for Making the Hard Days Count

By Stephanie Delgado

Outside of the military community, Memorial Day is generally pretty sexy. Bikinis, beer and barbecues; steaks, sunscreen, and swimming pools. It’s a day many civilians look forward to.

Inside the military community, however, things can look and feel a bit different. For a military spouse, it’s often a day where we anticipate our service member needing more love than they give. It’s a day when we know they’re going to be thinking of all the people they’ve loved and lost - people they’ve endured everything with, from boot camp to wars.

This begs the question; how do you maintain intimacy with something like death and loss hanging heavy in the air? The answer is so simple, it may surprise you:

Everyone Grieves Differently

Grief is not a one size fits all emotion. We don’t all go through it at the same pace and it doesn’t look the same for all of us. This is no different for service members.

Military spouses know to expect the unexpected, and that goes for how their spouse will feel on Memorial Day. For that reason alone, it’s important that you respond to your partner’s grief for their benefit, not yours.

Here are some ways military spouses take care of their service members on hard days like Memorial Day:

  • Talk About Those They’ve Lost
    One of the easiest ways to keep someone’s spirit alive is to simply talk about them. Ask your partner to share stories about who they’re grieving for. Ask for and use their names. Engage in the stories they share and really try to learn about your loved one’s loved ones. 

  • Comfort Them In Every Way Possible
    Sometimes this looks like embracing your partner while they cry. Other times, it looks like feeding them a meal with meaning. The important thing here is to make sure what you’re doing is a comfort to your partner, not you.

    While a military spouse may do this by making their service member dinner or offering a shoulder to cry on, they don’t always have the luxury of having them home. Sometimes this means anticipating the holiday weeks in advance, just to send a special care-package that arrives with a heartfelt letter, or staying available all day just in case their service member can call.

  • Make a Meaningful Gesture
    If your loved one is hurting, there’s a good chance someone they know is also hurting. Support your partner in their grief by reaching out to those who are grieving with them.

    Military spouses do this on Memorial Day in a variety of ways, such as donating to various foundations in the name of fallen service members or sending flowers and food to families who have lost their service member. 

  • Hold Space for Your Partner's Grief
    This is, quite possibly, the most important thing you can do for a spouse who is grieving loss. This is especially true if your partner grieves differently than you.

    If you have expectations of how your partner “should” handle their feelings, you’re already doing them a disservice. In order to support them through their grief, you need to accept how they grieve.

    For some military spouses, this means taking extra care not to bring up conversations that pull their internal grief into an external conversation. Many service members keep how they’re feeling internalized and do not appreciate being expected to verbalize it.

    Hold space for your partner and their grief; don’t expect them to do something that makes them hurt more than ready to.

couple hugging at sunset

Grief, Intimacy and Sex

You may be wondering what all this talk of grief has to do with intimacy and sex. The two often feel like they’re worlds apart and, in some regards, they are.

Military spouses, however, are very familiar with how the two can be inextricably linked. For military couples, intimacy is non-negotiable. We need to be connected on every level possible - physically, emotionally, and mentally. If we’re not, the distance of deployments and the hardships of the losses, changes, and uncertainty of military life become insurmountable.

When you’re able to be there for your partner while they’re grieving, you’re doing wonders for the intimacy between the two of you. As a result, your sex life improves - though not always immediately.

Be cautious with your expectations of sex while your partner grieves. While some people are comforted by touch and physically connecting with their partner while they’re grieving, others experience a loss of libido.

Use our pointers above to make sure you’re holding space for your partner and thinking of them first in times of grief, and the rest will work itself out.

 

Memorial Day Resources

If you’re interested in more ways you can honor the fallen heroes of our military, please check out a few of the resources below:*

* Lioness is not affiliated with any of the resources listed above, nor do we receive any compensation. These resources have been provided to us through our connections with Squared Away, a military spouse created and owned business.

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