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RA and Intimacy: Keeping Relationships Strong

How to keep your relationship strong and your sex life exciting.

Talk With Your Partner continued...

Though it may be difficult to start the conversation, you'll probably both feel relieved once you do. And talking about it honestly is the only way you'll find ways to keep your romantic life vibrant for both of you. It's important that you both have a basic understanding of the disease and the role that pain plays so you can overcome it together.

Kathy Lubbers, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 20 years ago, says good communication with her husband has been critical. Though taking a biologic medication has reduced her symptoms so much that she is able to walk marathons, she says that sexual pain can still be "problematic."

"You need to be open and have conversations about it so you know where you both stand," says Lubbers, 46, president and CEO of Gingrich Communications and a board member of the Arthritis Foundation. "Your partner needs to be aware and considerate of the fact that certain times of day may be more painful for you or you're exhausted. And you have to understand that your partner may be nervous or anxious about causing pain, and standoffish because [of not wanting] to pressure you."

It may be awkward to talk about and try new sexual practices at first. But think about it like this: At its best, rheumatoid arthritis can get you to experiment and expand your sexuality and ways to be intimate together. And that's good for any relationship. 

6 Tips for Better Sex with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Building a better sex life with rheumatoid arthritis means experimenting with your partner. Try some of these strategies suggested by women with RA and experts:

Plan ahead. Plan sex for a time of day when you generally feel good and time your medications so they will be at the peak of their effectiveness then. Arrange your day so that you won't be tired from other activity.

Get warmed up. Do gentle exercise to improve your range of motion and relax. Take a warm bath or shower to soothe your joints -- or better yet, take one with your partner and make it part of your lovemaking. Take turns giving each other a gentle massage. 

Try new positions. If one position is uncomfortable, get creative -- experiment with new ones. For example, having your partner on top may be painful for some women with RA. Trying lying side by side instead.

Expand your sexual repertoire. Slow down and rediscover foreplay -- leading up to sex or on its own. Stroking and kissing can provide an alternative path to orgasms. Vibrators and oral sex are other options. Remember, too, that both partners don't have to participate equally on any given day. On some days, a warm hug and a gentle joint rub may be all it takes to put you in a state of bliss. 

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