Keeping the Romance Alive

KEEPING THE ROMANCE ALIVE

Adapted from an article by Martha Glisky, PhD and Megan Swan from the "Parkinson's Post," Northwest Parkinson's Foundation (www.nwpf.org).

There are challenges to keeping the love and romance alive in every relationship. When one partner is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, there are many new concerns and issues to deal with. Often the loving and romantic aspects of the relationship can get put on the back burner. There are added responsibilities, possible physical, cognitive and emotional changes, as well as some role adjustments. With the addition of these stressors, a loving and romantic relationship can be even more important to maintaining a happy and balanced life. Romance is the opportunity to show a loved one how special he or she is to you. There are many ways you can show romance throughout the day. According to the book, Love Is a Decision, by Gary Smalley and John Trent, "Romance is an intimate friendship, celebrated with expressions of love reserved only for each other." Keeping this in mind, you might try to come up with creative ways for expressing those feelings to each other. Many of the ways to express loving feelings will not have changed because of Parkinson's disease. They may have become a little rusty or need adaptations, but it is possible to revive or recreate ways of letting your partner know you love and appreciate him or her. Here are a few ideas:

Communicate. Partners should try to talk openly with each other about worries or feelings. This can reduce tension, may resolve some concerns, and can also help to maintain closeness between a couple. In addition, people with PD should not be shy in asking for advice about relationship/sexual problems from medical professionals, PD organizations or counseling services. APDA Information & Referral Centers offer help-lines that can provide confidential advice on all matters relating to people with PD and their partners. It is important to recognize partners may be experiencing feelings and emotions that are different from each other and that all feelings are okay.

Show affection. There are many ways to show affection— a hug, a pat on the hand, a kiss, a wink, a caress or just a smile across the room are all ways to let your partner know that you care. Be creative—there is no "right" or "wrong" way to show affection to each other if it is mutually pleasurable and acceptable to both of you.

Create quality time. Many people spend much time and energy together dealing with various aspects of the disease— things like daily living activities and driving back and forth to doctor and therapy appointments. These things are obviously important; however, you also need time completely separate and apart from Parkinson's disease. During your time reserved for each other, do not discuss symptoms, medications or doctor's appointments. Focus on each other and who you are outside of the disease. Don't emphasize your roles as carepartner or patient—focus on your romantic relationship. Play romantic music at meal time or bed time. Eat by candle light, go through photo albums together, hold hands whenever you can, sing memorable songs together, give massages to each other (foot or hand massages are yummy!).

Remember some favorite times together. Take turns remembering and telling stories about special moments you shared. It could be a vacation, an evening out, the day you met or the birth of a child.

Do something special for your partner. It does not have to take a lot of time, energy, or money. Just knowing that you thought about the other person, and cared enough to do something extra, will make it special: Make a favorite food dish, bring flowers, give a card expressing your thoughts and feelings, initiate hugs, say thank you.

Have a date at least once a week. It doesn't have to be fancy, or even involve leaving your home. Come up with an idea together, or alternate who plans the date. You can order dinner in and eat by candlelight. You can make the dinner together—that may mean that one person is doing most of the preparation while the other is providing company and conversation. Rent a movie, make popcorn and snuggle together. Have a picnic in the yard or at a park. Light candles and listen to some favorite music. If there are limitations to where you can go and what you can do, come up with new date ideas. Recognize that this may require more energy than in the past. Don't plan your date after a long day of appointments. Pick a time and a day that will allow both of you to relax and focus on each other.

Celebrate how well you have dealt with Parkinson's disease together. Remember the challenges you have overcome together as an inspiration.

Express your love in words. Tell your partner you love him or her. You can never say "I love you" too many times.

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