Monday, June 24, 2013

That Thing No One Talks About

It really isn't rare to hear the parents of young children talking or joking about the toll parenthood takes on their sex lives. It's a well known fact that while making babies may be intimate, having babies makes intimacy difficult. Parents of young children have no time. They have no energy. They didn't get enough sleep last night. There's spitup on the sheets. They can't remember the last time they shaved. So their sex life inevitably suffers. 

It seems to me that everyone is pretty understanding and supportive about this issue. A group of parents who are friends might even talk and joke about the issue, even if there are both moms and dads in the group. And get a group of moms alone together (preferably with drinks and without children) and they will discuss the issue in detail.

But while arthritis can have a huge impact on a person's sex life, it is actually relatively rare among the arthritis community to hear people talking about it. You don't see it much on blogs or on message boards. There really aren't that many useful or uplifting resources dedicated to the subject. And even in this blog's 456 posts of over-sharing during the last five years, where I've talked about everything from my own emotional breakdowns to infections in my boob, I've only written four posts that even mentioned the issue of sex. And those were all in relation to trying to get pregnant. But, of course, those were obviously not the only times that RA has played a role our sex life.

I wonder why nobody talks about it? I wonder why haven't I felt comfortable talking about it?

Maybe it's because the toll arthritis takes on your sex life is so much more depressing than the toll having a baby takes. Arthritis (and even treatments for arthritis) can mess with your body image and make you feel not so great about yourself. Yes, you gain weight when you get pregnant and there can be body image issues, but after the baby is born you can try to fix those issues. When you gain weight from being pregnant and being on prednisone but you can't lose the weight because you can't exercise because of nasty RA flares, and your legs are covered in bruises and your hair is falling out and all your joints hurt, it can be really, really hard to feel sexy. Or even be remotely interested in trying to feel that way.

Or maybe it's because the hurdles arthritis puts on your sex life are more difficult to overcome. You can put the kids to bed early. You can hire a babysitter. You can have a quickie during a nap. But if your hip feels like there's a knife in it, or your fatigue makes it difficult even to walk, there's not a whole lot you can do to make sex seem more appealing.

Or maybe no one talks or jokes about arthritis and sex because the toll is permanent. Kids will eventually grow up, but the strain of arthritis on your sex life is forever. And it will probably only get worse.

I now have a young child and arthritis. And this combination has made our current sex life basically non-existent. And I feel like it is all my fault. I feel inadequate. Guilty. Miserable about my body. Less sexy than ever. And I don't really have any solutions or words of wisdom at this point. I just decided that I wanted to share. I'm not trying to wallow or garner sympathy. I fully intend to find a way to move forward, feel better about myself, and improve my relationship and revive our sex life.

But in the meantime I just wanted to put it out there: if arthritis has ever made you feel the way I am feeling right now, you are not alone.


KCFitch said...

Just ((hugs)), cuz. Big, big ((hugs))

Nicole said...

Thinking of you and thanks for being so brave on tackling this. My RA totally has acted like a silent wall at times...sitting between my husband and I in bed. Sending love and support.

Heather said...

I can completely empathize with you on this - although I don't have a child (yet), my pregnancy has completely wiped me of any sexual desire at all. And when I am in the mood, my untreated RA tends to get in the way. And, like you, it does make me feel guilty. My husband and I had a healthy, fun sex life and now he's wary to touch me because he's afraid I'll go off the handle (to be fair - I have a couple of times. Stupid hormones). It's good to know that I'm not alone, but it still sucks :-P