Sexuality and Relationships

Notes on a talk by J.P. Palys

Fall 1994

J.P. Palys, husband of Barbara Palys, made a presentation on sexual functioning in CF marriages. He quoted from a study of sexual function in CF marriages done by Drs. Levine and Stern from the Cleveland Cystic Fibrosis Center. The sexual relationships of all married CF persons at the clinic (30 couples in all) were studied and correlated with pulmonary disease and overall health of the CF partner. Doctors rated each patient with a score (based on a series of pulmonary scores, physical exams, etc.) that represented the person's health.

Sexual functioning was more complicated. It was considered to have four components:

  1. desire, the feeling that you want to be physically close to your partner, that you feel sexually attracted to that person and want to share yourself with them;
  2. arousal, the physical manifestations of both partners' desire;
  3. climax; and
  4. emotional satisfaction, or fulfillment. Sexual functioning was assessed in one-on-one interviews with a psychiatrist and with questionnaires completed by both partners.

Based on the above, 30 couples were classified into four groups based on the nature of their sexual relationships:

70% of the couples (21 out of 30) were rated as having aproblematic sexual relationships, good sexual relationships, or only minor sexual problems! Only 30% (nine couples) were suffering from serious sexual problems. And all of these nine couples' problems were manifested as a desire deficit. Even of the nine couples, only five had problems in which CF was implicated as the cause (only 11%).

Palys also pointed out that some of the CF partners in the aproblematic group had pulmonary function or clinical scores of 50 or below. The researchers summed up their findings: "Maximum breathing capacity was not directly correlated with sexual performance." Furthermore, "No objective measure of disease severity could be used to predict the quality of sexual functioning."

J.P. Palys concluded his talk on the importance of the emotional side of marriage and how the couples who took part in the study reportedly worked together to make the experience more manageable and enjoyable for their partners. He shared several tender stories from his own marriage with Barbara and how they work to accommodate each other in all aspects of their married life.

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