Lupus and Intimacy
Even under normal circumstances it can be difficult to talk about sexuality and intimacy with a partner or spouse. Having an exhausting and painful chronic illness such as lupus makes it all the more challenging—yet important—to communicate.
From body image to sexual desire, energy, and tolerance to pain, illness can get in the way of many parts of a relationship. If you have lupus, take steps to protect and nurture this important part of your life and well being. Here are some strategies that have worked for others and that you might want to try:
- Talk. Start—and keep—a conversation going between yourself and your partner. Sometimes a simple “Can we talk about this…?” opener can set the stage for honest and open exchange. Be sure to let your partner know that you want a two-way conversation in which each of your hopes and needs is addressed.
- Start with the positive. In your conversation, begin by talking about times together that have felt positive and good—what’s special and feels particularly right about your physical connection. Then discuss what can get in the way of those positive exchanges.
- Send a signal. Feeling tired and sick, fear of worsening pain, being depressed or emotionally drained—all are common with lupus and can get in the way of wanting intimate contact. If you haven’t been interested for a while, at least talking about what would make it feel right may signal your partner that you want to keep this part of your relationship alive.
- Make a date. If you can, plan your intimate times for those parts of the day that you feel stronger and more rested. If you take lupus medicines that ease pain or stiffness, try timing when you take them for peak action at your date hour. Also consider taking a nap before sex, or having a warm bath or applying soothing heat to ease joint stiffness and muscle aches.
- Use props. Lupus hurts. Strategize ways to support your back, your neck, and your legs— all parts of you that might come under pressure or get turned or moved in such a way that might cause pain. If you often feel cold, take the time to make the room feel warm, use an electric blanket, or take a hot bath right beforehand.
- Keep hugging. Intimacy is about so much more than sex, of course. Keep your connections going by being physically close to each other, holding hands and getting in tune with each other’s bodies. Show your affection in a non-stressful, loving way to let your partner know that you’re still interested in being intimate. And an added boost: hugging and other physical contact has also been shown to be good for your health!
Finally, one of the greatest gifts that you can give to someone you care for is to also be good to yourself. Eat well, rest, and exercise when possible to stay strong. And if you think it might help, reach out to a social worker or therapist with your concerns.