Sex and Chronic Illness

Dear Ms. Meniscus,

My fiancé and I seem to end up in the same fight every week. We get along wonderfully other than this, and he encourages me to find happiness in various opportunities considering I unable to work right now due to my arthritis.

Every week, I am too tired and he wants more sex.  He casually asks me “how I’m feeling”, which he has a certain way of asking which means he has an agenda.  When I am not up to it I tell him I’m in too much pain, or it’s a bad time, or I’m too exhausted.  Sometimes my answers frustrate him or he doesn’t see how it could be a bad time – i.e. If I use my energy on sex, nothing in my day will get accomplished.  We get around to the deed 1-2 times a week.

My question is, am I being too stingy? And how can I stop this argument? Signed, Frustrated and tired

Dear Frustrated and tired,

These are some tough questions, and I applaud you for tackling this problem head-on. In any relationship, it can be difficult to address an appropriate frequency of intimacy and sex. These challenges are only compounded by fatigue and pain that are associated with illnesses like Rheumatoid Arthritis. Additionally, it can be difficult to feel sexy when your body hurts and you’re dealing with medication.

My advice is to try and set aside a time to talk about this in a neutral place – not the bedroom! You might try initiating the conversation when you’re out for coffee or dinner, and see what kind of agreement you can make together about how often and when to be intimate.

From your personal perspective, you will have to explore ways of how to minimize pain and discomfort when initiating sex. Dr. Laurie Ferguson, a fellow blogger on CreakyJoints posted a great article about this called, “The Step After Dating…” Make sure to check it out!

A partnership is a two way street – you sound like you want to make this work for both of you. You may start by initiating sex, so that it stays on your own terms and within your limitations. Talking honestly about these limitations of the disease and finding other ways to be intimate that also meet your partner’s needs will be a good step as you create a life that is satisfying and fun for both of you!

–M

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