Challenges to your intimate relationships may come from pain, fatigue, side effects of medications you may be taking, the range of movement you have in your joints, how strong your muscles are or how you feel about your body.

This, added to the challenges of work/study, family life and finances can have a big impact on whether you feel you have the ability to have close, intimate relationships with or without sex.

Short term or long term problems with your bones, muscles and joints can have an impact on the relationships you have and your sex life.

Talk about it

Discussing intimacy, sex and sexuality can feel toe-curlingly embarrassing but it is really important.

Being part of a fulfilling relationship (however short-lasting it may be) is reliant on being open and honest with your partner about how you feel, both physically and emotionally. If you shut them out or do not give them feedback on what you are thinking and feeling, it can put a strain on relationships. Your partner might be worried that they might hurt you or if you haven’t been intimate for a while, they may feel that you do not find them attractive or worried about their self-confidence.

Talk to them about what feels best and what you feel you can do in terms of degree of contact and positions to try.  Remember to focus on the positive. Things might have to change for a time but that does not mean that you cannot be intimate with a partner or make each other feel good.

Make a plan

This doesn’t sound very sexy but it’s an important part of your communication with a partner.

If you are not with a partner, it might help you understand what can feel confident about decisions you could make before going out.

If you are with a partner, don’t forget the romance – being intimate and emotional with someone in not all about the sex. People can feel special because of the little things that you can do together.

How far do you want to go? Sex is not all about penetration but can be about lying together sharing thoughts and ideas, stroking, touching, mutual or individual masturbation or oral sex.

Is there a time of day that would be better for you or are there things that could help you prepare like a warm bath or massage?

Do you need to go shopping? Many people find the use of personal lubricants, toys, clothing or support cushions help make them feel special.

Speak to your doctor if your muscle, bone or joint pain or treatment medication is causing difficulties with gaining an erection or with vaginal dryness. Talking to your therapist might help you with understanding what positions may be best to try.

But be prepared for the plan to go wrong!

Keeping a sense of humour about this is essential. Something will go wrong at some point. The dogs will interrupt, your mother-in-law will decide to visit or the position you try may make your leg muscles go into spasm and you break a lamp.

The important thing is not to stop trying and to try to have fun!

Further information:

National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society. Emotions, relationships & sexuality

Versus Arthritis – Sex, relationships and arthritis