Keeping Intimacy Alive

As I reflect on my journey, one challenge that has unexpectedly surfaced is maintaining intimacy in the wake of a spinal cord injury. This is a topic I was hesitant to talk about but believe is something a lot of us can relate to.

Zack Collie & Wife

When I was first injured in 2010, wondering if I was still able to have kids and be sexually active was a big worry of mine. One of my first thoughts after my injury was: Could I still have sex? I knew a spinal injury cord injury impacts sensation and mobility down there. Over the past thirteen years, through trying different things, I have figured out what works for me and what doesn’t. I know that you can still have a healthy sex life despite dealing with a spinal cord injury, but things are not the same as pre-injury.

There are many ways to be intimate and physical with your partner. Everyone’s injury is different and what works for one person may not work the same for another. Navigating this topic can be uncomfortable and awkward especially when you are a teen like I was when I was newly injured.

Masturbation is something that a lot of us engage in, but don’t talk about openly. Dealing with a spinal cord injury, a lot of your privacy is taken away and you have to rely on others for help. You are no longer able to independently do things in private like you did before and it honestly sucks. I don’t think a lot of people realize the impacts a spinal cord injury has on your life. So much more of your life is affected other than just the physical paralysis.

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I got married last year and recently my wife and I were talking about our satisfaction with our sex life. We both agreed it could be better and a lot of it is due to my injury. Being a quadriplegic, I’m limited a lot on what I can and can’t do. We have a sexually active life together, but things have started to feel repetitive and get boring. It wasn’t until I got into a serious relationship that I have noticed how much this injury has negatively impacted my sex drive.

It’s weird because when I was single my sex drive felt stronger and I wanted it more, but once I got married, it’s like it went away. It feels like there is a complete physical and mental disconnect when it comes to sex and intimacy. I don’t crave it like I did before. I know at times, my wife has felt like I am not attracted to her because of my lack of initiating being intimate with her. I also know I would be a lot more engaging and active if I wasn’t paralyzed. What’s helped with this issue is our communication with each other about our honest feelings. Sex and intimacy are not the most important part of a relationship but they are a part of it.

Unfortunately, I can’t change that fact that I am paralyzed, but my wife and I can communicate with each other and come up with other ways to be intimate and feel loved.

For more information on sex, check out this blog: Improving Your Sex Life

About the Author - Zack Collie

Hi, my name is Zack and I am 29 years old. In 2010, at the age of 15, I suffered a spinal cord injury and was diagnosed as a C4 quadriplegic. Thirteen years later, I have a master’s degree in counseling, I’m married and working as a mental health therapist.

Zack Collie

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.