Isn’t it weird how sex, one of the most basic human instincts and the reason that any of us are even alive, can sometimes feel like the most toe-curlingly, stomach clenchingly awkward topic to discuss?
If the thought of an upfront discussion about what goes on between the sheets has you breaking out in hives then you’re not alone – despite 80% of people with PsA saying that a healthy sex life was important to them, 40% had never discussed the impact of their condition with their partner, and nearly 60% say they never talked about sexual problems with anyone at all.
But here’s the thing: Sex isn’t just part of a happy, fulfilled relationship; it’s part of being a happy, fulfilled adult. And having PsA shouldn’t detract from that. Yet unsurprisingly over two thirds of people living with PsA said that the pain, fatigue, stiffness and limited movement created by their condition had a negative impact on their sexuality.1 Sound familiar?
But if the secret to navigating PsA AND your sex life is being as upfront with your partner as possible, then how do you talk it out? The most important thing is to be as open and honest as you possibly can; if the conversation feels intimidating at first then there are lots of techniques to make you both feel more comfortable. Ranking your libido (don’t worry – we hate that word too!) on a scale of 1-10 is a helpful barometer to track your mood and build a day-to-day comparison of how you’re feeling (e.g. yesterday I was a 2 and today I’m a 6 because I’m having far less joint pain). If you feel like you have a lot you’d like to say to your partner but can’t quite put it into words, then try writing a them a letter and using this as the basis for a conversation. An old-school love letter!
For lots of people with chronic disease it’s their fatigue rather than pain that seem to be the biggest barrier to regular sex, but the impact can be lessened by just a little forward planning.Sure, it might take the heat of the moment away, but listening to your symptoms and knowing your body’s patterns just could be your new best friend. Scheduling a dose of pain killers an hour before you’re set to lock lips, ensuring pillows and rolled towels to support joints are to hand, or having a midday nap to up your energy levels are all small steps that can make a massive difference. If you know that you’re likely to have stiffer joints or increased pain in the evening, then schedule in some one-on-one time during the day at the weekends, or go crazy and schedule the afternoon off work...!
And lastly, don’t forget to take advantage of those days where you DO feel good. Spontaneity and prioritizing your relationship is key!