Rev Up the Romance When You Have RA

Rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t have to put a damper on your sex life. Here’s how to keep the spark in your relationship.

Susan Amoruso
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Does your sexual desire, well, leave something to be desired? It’s hard to get into the mood when you’re dealing with the fatigue and pain of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The physical discomfort can influence your emotions as well, making it difficult to feel sexy or connect deeply with your partner.

RA can cause a number of sexual difficulties for men and women, including low libido, limited mobility, inability to orgasm and lack of endurance. One-third of those with RA said the condition considerably affected their sexuality, and 1 out of 10 said sex was off-limits, according to research presented at the 7th Annual European Congress of Rheumatology.

The good news: RA doesn’t have to squelch your sex life. You can learn to recapture your confidence, reconnect with your partner and reignite your passion. Here’s how.

Talk with your healthcare provider
Intimacy may be the last thing on your mind while visiting your rheumatologist—one study showed that 72% of RA participants avoided the topic with their physicians—but it’s important to discuss how rheumatoid arthritis affects your life, including any sexual difficulties you are having. This will help your rheumatologist pinpoint what, specifically, is standing in your way—say, medication-related depression, joint pain or vaginal dryness—and refer you to the right healthcare professional for help. If you aren’t comfortable discussing this with your rheumatologist, consider talking with the nurse or nurse practitioner.

Be honest with your partner
Avoiding the issue won’t make it go away. Share how you’re feeling with your partner. Be honest about how RA affects you. Say something like, “I know our sex life hasn’t been great, but my RA has really been acting up and I’m in a lot of pain.” By admitting there is a problem, you’re offering reassurance while showing that you care about your relationship.

Carve out couple time
When was the last time you and your loved one spent some quality time together—without television, cell phones, the Internet or the kids? You don’t have to plan an elaborate getaway or dine at an expensive restaurant. Take a morning walk, or star gaze on a blanket in the backyard. Just find some time to talk, hold hands and reconnect without the interruptions of daily life. Or some experts suggest going a step further and planning a sex date—during a time when you have more energy and less pain. Try early afternoon, when your joints and muscles have had a chance to limber up.

Pamper yourself
Get a free makeover from a cosmetic expert at your local department store, complete with sultry eyes and kissable lips. If it’s too difficult to make the trip, have a friend come over and experiment with your makeup.

Start flirting
Flirting can have a powerful effect on your marriage, serving as a playful reminder that you still find each other attractive and desirable. Squeeze your spouse’s knee under the table, exchange a meaningful glance or send a sexy text message. These small gestures will go a long way toward keeping your romance alive.

April 2013