RA and Intimacy: Communicating with Your Partner

I recently wrote an article about rheumatoid arthritis and intimacy, and I received so much feedback from community members on the importance of this conversation.

I know that it may feel difficult or awkward to talk about sex and intimacy, but I also know that without talking to other RA patients, my relationship with my husband could be entirely different.

Intimacy and communication

Intimacy is more than action; it's founded in communication.

Have you ever had one of those amazing chats with someone where you forget where you are and what you're doing or the phone next to you and everything else in the world because you're so focused on the conversation?

That is a form of intimacy, friends. Now, that principle is incredibly important to apply when it comes to dating, sex, and romantic relationships.

If you can't talk to your partner about what you do and don't like - such as what feels good and what definitely doesn't - how are they supposed to learn? How are they supposed to bring you joy and pleasure? How are you supposed to relax enough to feel good?

I know these are all really hard questions. That's why I want to talk through some of them.

How I approached the conversation

In my personal opinion, intimacy is not as strong and sex isn't as pleasurable or even comfortable when you don't talk about it with your partner - before, during, and/or after you engage in it. So, let's break down what that conversation may look like!

To start, I want to share with you the way I approached the conversation before sex with my now-husband.

We were dating and had explored other types of intimacy, but had not yet approached having sex. In other contexts, he knew about my joint pains, and the ways they affected me during daily activities. But, I don't think he realized that they might impact me in the bedroom as well.

RA symptoms, physical comfort, and enjoyment

I started really simple, just bringing up my RA symptoms and then sharing the things I'd enjoyed or found physically comfortable and enjoyment in which we'd already experienced.

I talked about how when sitting or laying a certain way, I could reduce the pressure on the joints that cause me most pain (ie: my hips and knees), and that could not only prevent additional discomfort but could increase the pleasure I'd receive during the act.

He was so receptive and grateful for my broaching a subject he hadn't really thought about before.

Communication while being intimate

After starting the conversation, I learned that sometimes, it was important for me to communicate with him during the time that we were being intimate.

If a position or a motion or a sense of touch was uncomfortable for my body due to RA, it was critical to let him know, and not to prolong any discomfort I was experiencing, or to allow sex to become an unpleasant experience.

I didn't to kill the mood

To be honest, this took a bit more nerve, as I found when we're in the heat of a moment - I didn't want to interrupt or kill the mood or change the vibe.

But after a few instances of not speaking up, I found that the discomfort tainted my entire experience, and it also made me less likely to want to be intimate as frequently.

Talking after is important, too

Communication after intimacy is important, too. I find that starting with the things I enjoyed or felt most physically pleasurable to me made the conversation feel lighter and closer together.

And then, it was almost easier for me to add in any instances in which a change in position or location or motion might have increased my comfort and my joy as well.

Make sex and intimacy a positive experience

What I learned is that, at the end of the day, my partner wants me to feel satisfied and pleased with our intimacy. The more I can communicate with him on what does and doesn't work for my body, the more chance of success we both have with making sex and intimacy a positive experience all around.

If you've navigated this communication with your partner, what would you add to my notes above? If you haven't, what else would be helpful to hear from someone who has this type of chat regularly?

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