Most couples – whether they have arthritis or not – go through phases in their relationship when their sex life is less exciting or satisfying than it was.
There may be physical reasons for this but emotional factors and stress often play a part. Emotional upsets, work or money worries can all affect the balance of a relationship.
Arthritis can present a number of challenges in a relationship:
- Pain and fatigue may reduce your enjoyment of sex and other activities and interests that you share with your partner.
- Arthritis may mean that you can’t always manage the household jobs you usually do, or you may need help with them.
- If your arthritis affects your work, it may lead to financial worries.
- Having arthritis may affect your mood and self-esteem.
- Your partner will be concerned about how the condition is affecting you.
Although your relationship may change because of arthritis, it doesn’t have to be a negative change. Many couples find that they become closer by discussing things openly and that their relationship is stronger as a result.
Talk about the changing situation and any challenges that you face so you can arrive at a solution that’s right for both of you.
Some couples find it difficult at first to talk openly, so you need to create a comfortable, relaxed time to talk. But once open communication has started it can be a great relief for both partners.
Seventy-one year-old Christine Walker from Cheshire has suffered from severe nodal osteoarthritis for the past 15 years, developing knobbly, painful fingers in her 50s while working at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Christine and her husband John have had to adapt to her condition and make changes in their relationship to remain close and happy.
“Having arthritis changes a relationship because it makes you more aware of what your short comings are, which limits what you can do. It is such a change from how independent I was before.”
Christine’s husband has to help her on a daily basis with many things that she finds difficult to do around the house.
“I struggle with necklaces, zips and small buttons, so he does those for me. However I try to vary what I buy so I don’t have to rely on him so much. “
Christine says that having arthritis can also make her feel less physically attractive towards her partner and sometimes makes her feel like a burden.
“Since I’ve had my hip replaced, wearing high heels is absolutely out of the question. I also don’t particularly like drawing attention to my hands with pretty bracelets or rings because of the lumps on my fingers. The only ones I wear are my engagement and wedding rings. It’s these little things that add up and can make you feel down.”
My husband also knows that my neck and hands will hurt when I drive a lot during the day, which means it’s too painful for me to drive at night.”
Often I’ll feel guilty he has to do all the driving because it means he can’t have a drink socially in the evening.”
Due to Christine’s hand osteoarthritis she has difficulty doing things that many people take for granted such as holding her husband’s hand or going out for a dance.
“When my husband tries to hold my hand, even if he doesn’t squeeze it, it still hurts, but I’ve gotten around it by linking arms with him instead. We also used to love going out dancing, which we can’t do anymore”
Despite these challenges, Christine and her husband have a close relationship and an incredible mutual respect knowing they can rely on each other.
“It’s the little things that he does that I really appreciate such as helping me in the icy weather, carrying the laundry upstairs and helping me to cook.
“Our life has changed but we have adapted and are as strong as ever. When I’m blue he cheers me up. He has this great sense of humour and a positive personality. We truly complement each other, he’s a glass half full, and I’m a glass half empty which is great because we balance each other out.”
For more information visit www.arthritisresearchuk.org/relationships
The latest in the Mature Guide series the Mature Guide to relationships, love and sex, supported by Relate, the relationship people and written with Barbara Bloomfield, who is a Relate couples counsellor has a full chapter to help you with coping when one of you becomes chronically ill.
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