When I asked to discuss this topic, I was a bit hesitant because I was not sure how the readers of this blog would respond. Moreover, I generally offer my personal experience when asked to write about a particular topic, and I was not prepared to do so in this instance. I did eventually decide that this was a topic worth discussing because there is so many people who feel like arthritis and chronic pain have no place in the bedroom, in particular those of us who suffer.
I debated the subject and decided to forget the taboo and go ahead to discuss the effect that arthritis and chronic pain have on sexuality. After all, what do I have to lose?
In addition to the requirements of intimacy, we can also look at why intimacy fails and why breakups and divorces occur. In looking at the reasons for failure, we see that there are challenges to successful relationships and that once successful relationships can fail. Moreover, when we consider the reasons for failure, we often forget that, in addition to emotional factors, physical factors can play a part in the success or failure of a relationship. Emotional factors are a given, as are intimate issues. Physical factors can include arthritis and chronic pain conditions.
The problems faced by arthritis sufferers are both emotional and physical. Emotional factors include self-doubt and poor body image. Physical factors include joint pain and other symptoms that are characteristic of a person’s specific arthritis condition. These concerns not only affect the patient, but they also affect that person’s partner as well. Barriers include physical pain, the ability to perform because of joint pain or other symptoms, expectations and personal needs- both sexual and emotional. This complete consensus can result into strong complications in a relationship.
The effects of arthritis pain, stiffness, fatigue, lack of mobility, and swelled joints can make sex difficult, painful, and unappealing. When arthritis affects your back, your knees, your hips, ankles, etc., sex cannot possibly be enjoyable. In addition, side effects of medications can diminish sexual desire and cause other problems such as vaginal dryness, erectile dysfunction, inability to orgasm, and fatigue that also lessen the desire to be intimate. Then, as the sufferer, you feel sexually unattractive and, as a result, you cannot feel relaxed enough to enjoy the actual act. These feelings bring with them anxiety and stress and further worsen our symptoms.
Sexual intimacy is not just about achieving an orgasm or the act itself. If we can change this perception, we can change our expectations. Taking a slower approach to intimacy works best for partners when they share mutual respect, care, trust and love for each other. Moreover, barriers can be approached through communication on what is comfortable and what is not. Arthritis does not necessarily affect sexual organs but the physical effects of the disease can make intercourse painful. Moreover, emotions come into play because of those physical aspects. Therefore, couples must address the emotional aspects, as well as the physical, openly and honestly.
Expressing fears and concerns allows the partner without arthritis to support and reassure. In addition, talking about fears will allow the arthritis sufferer to let go. What the arthritis sufferer must take in mind is that his or her fears can be viewed as rejection and vice versa applies. Rejection turns into distance and emotional breakdown of the relationship.
If these topics are sensitive initially, writing a letter to a partner to express fears and concerns can be another approach, but the next step would be to talk openly about what has been written down.
Sexual Wellbeing and Getting Creative
Psychological wellbeing and social support can contribute to a fulfilling sexual life. By learning to separate the emotional aspects of arthritis and working creatively to deal with the physical aspects, couples can take a more practical approach in dealing with changes brought about by arthritis and in turn, make accommodations for one another when dealing sexual intimacy.
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