I know I'm known on my blog for being open, honest, and a straight shooter. But I've never quite talked so openly about the subject I am about to discuss. And I felt like I should, because all the "cool kids" with RA are doing it.
Let's talk about sex.
It's a part of life.
If we're being realistic, there are functional limitations that come with arthritis. Hands can only stay in certain positions before fingers become twisted and useless, hips lock, jaws hurt, pop, and crack. There are also the lovely medication side effects. Seems to me that I don't produce nearly the amount of saliva that is required for certain tasks.
For me, as a twenty-something, this is difficult. I find that most guys in their twenties pretend to know nothing about performance anxiety. They can't begin to fathom not always being on. And those I've dated in the thirty and forty year old set are looking for some "hot young thang." And having the hips of an 80 year old doesn't really bode well for the "hot young thang" image. It's kind of the antithesis.
So this is a struggle, and one that I've largely tried to ignore.
Because it's one of those things. It's the thing you don't talk to your rheumatologist about. If medication is working, you don't complain that the inside of your mouth and other places are as dry as the Sahara Desert after a 50 year drought. You don't share the way it makes you feel to have to awkwardly explain yourself to your partner. Because these are the Quality of Life things that aren't supposed to matter. Because we're too old or too stiff or too something for sex, right?
We're chronically ill, we're disabled, so who would want us anyway?
Is that what the thought process is?
These are the conversations that make us vulnerable...and human. We aren't perfect, for a lot of reasons, not just because we have physical limits. Do you really want to be with someone who looks at you and sees someone who is damaged and in need of fixing? I've been there. And it sucks. It destroys any shred of self-worth and it makes one unbelievably insecure.
And we shouldn't have to feel that way. We should feel wanted. Desired.
It has taken me a long time to get to the point where I could admit to myself that even though I am not missing limbs or other parts, that my physical limitations do have an impact on my sex life. In some ways, given the primacy that illness plays in our lives, how could we ever expect it to be out of the picture?
I like to say that illness is a third party, in bed, always waiting to get in on the action. That makes it sound sexy.
I think we all hope, in the immortal words of Julius Caesar, to be able to say "Veni, vidi, vici." "I came, I saw, I conquered." Although that's probably not quite how he meant it.
If you don't mind the disability label, The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability by Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette, offers some tips and tricks.
Throughout February, writers from many of HealthCentral's communities are writing about sex, romance and the other relationships in your lives and how they interact with your condition. Check out our special Valentine's Day area - new posts will be added every week!
Published On: February 14, 2012