Growing up with Systemic JA and in an abusive household, I learned that my opinion was not wanted, that my existence was only valued based on what I could do for others. My mother needed me as an emotional extension of herself. Other abusers needed me as a means to an end.

As a result, I know that my communication skills aren’t the best. As one can imagine, that complicates many aspects of my life – nowhere is this more obvious than in my interpersonal relationships.

Intimate relationships are predicated on the notion that we share our lives with one person (or more) in an open manner. Everyday interactions require sharing of things from how your day was to food ideas to fun things to do. Even sex depends on this basic idea of communicating.

Our first kiss

Our first kiss

When I met my husband in college, it took a while to find a balance between our introvert styles. We both had to grow in order to really share and build a life together. By the time we got married, we were completing each other’s sentences and the like. We still do – even before we say them sometimes!

After spending eight years together and going through more than some couples face in a lifetime, I still find myself holding things back.

These things mostly relate to my wants, desires, or needs. When we have plans that need to alter due to my physical state, I’ve gotten better at speaking up but that’s a newer development. When we’re being intimate, I still have a hard time saying that I’d like to try a new position or a new toy. Hell, I even have a hard time speaking up when I have a cramp and we should take a break!

And I’m not alone.

There are a lot of factors that can play into this self-depreciation, including our childhoods, infantilization and ableism, and traditional gender roles.

Women especially are taught not to expect orgasms, and definitely not to demand them as Nicki Minaj famously does. Any conversations females have about sex are expected to be with other female friends in hushed tones behind closed doors. This leaves little room for actual interactions and conversations.

I know that much of what I struggle with comes from my own views of myself, from my childhood. My therapist and I are working together to tackle these ideas. Still, it strikes me as odd that, after the work I’ve done with others on learning how to value ourselves or see ourselves as worthy of love, I still have a hard time seeing it myself in this light.

Perhaps that’s why I help others with similar issues on self-worth.

It took a really long time for me to be able to open up to my husband in person about what I physically or mentally go through and vice versa. We worked on it. He bent over backwards to show me that he was willing to help carry the emotional (and physical) burden of my illnesses.


Our lives are completely different than I imagined they would ever be, but we’re incredibly strong in our relationship because of it.

I hope that working to find my voice even more helps strengthen that bond.

A young adult thriving while living with chronic illness, you can read about Kirsten’s struggles and enjoy her musings and wit at Make sure to join her for #chronicsex chats Thursday nights at 7 pm EST on Twitter.