RA and Intimacy: Keeping Relationships Strong
How to keep your relationship strong and your sex life exciting.
6 Tips for Better Sex with Rheumatoid Arthritis continued...
Don't keep your partner guessing. This is not the time for
mystery.Let your partner know -- with actions, noises, and words -- what is
exciting, comfortable, and painful during sex.
Once you've had some conversations, Lubbers says, you can develop your own
language to indicate that the time is right. While planning ahead can be
helpful, taking advantage of the moment can be good, too. RA doesn't have to
spell the end to spontaneous sex. "You can have a shorthand signal for 'I feel
good, so let's fool around,' so you don't have to talk about it," she says,
"almost like the signals between the pitcher and catcher, to make it upbeat and
Keeping Your Self-Esteem Strong
Confidence and self-esteem are sexy, and RA can do a number on both. You may
find yourself feeling less attractive or youthful than you used to.
"Depending on where it hits you, you can have issues with putting on makeup,
doing your hair -- things that may make you feel pretty," says Lubbers. Here,
too, talking about it honestly and asking your partner to help can be vital.
For example, when Lubbers couldn't raise her hands high enough to dye her hair,
her husband helped. "You figure out ways to make it part of being a couple."
M.E.A. McNeil, author of The First Year: Rheumatoid Arthritis: An
Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed, says that accepting the disease
and the changes it brings to your life helped her keep self-image and
That doesn't mean it was easy. She sought psychological counseling after she
was diagnosed with RA in 1993. Her first words to her therapist were: "I can't
have this diagnosis." Over time, she discovered that she could fight the
disease with denial and anger, or work with it by learning to accept it.
"You may have always had a certain feeling about flaky people and then you
have to accept that you yourself are going to become flaky -- inconsistent and
undependable sometimes," she says. "Being able to accept those conditions
influences your sex life and how you relate to your mate. It's not very sexy to
be a whiner -- the sexy part of people is that they have a self-assurance
seated within themselves. That's one of the elements of being able to have a
Working through negative feelings to develop a realistic acceptance of how
your body may have changed can help your partner too. "If a woman is being
proactive in dealing with it, that helps her partner deal with it as well,"
Phillips says couples counseling can help. Working with a therapist who is
knowledgeable about rheumatoid arthritis -- or willing to learn about it --
can be extra helpful.
"Don't look at it as one person's problem, but as an opportunity to learn
some strategies to better communicate on issues," Phillips says. "If a couple
can communicate effectively, they can deal with anything and everything."