My husband and I had only been married for two years before I had knee surgery that set off a barrage of problems for me. During the surgery they found arthritis under the knee cap but decided not to remove it because they felt it would interfere with my recovery from the knee surgery. After the surgery I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, and a few other problems that come up when you have these conditions.

My husband had also had back surgery and was in pain on most days. Our sex life before my knee surgery and after my husbands surgery was great. After my knee surgery, not so. It was difficult at best to get any pleasure out of any intimacy when my pain levels overshadowed the pleasure. Unfortunately, it hasn't improved in the 14 years since my surgery.

The effects of arthritis, the pain, stiffness, fatigue, lack of mobility, and the twisted, enlarged joints, can make sex difficult and at best down right unappealing. When arthritis affects your back, knees,hips, hands, wrist, feet or ankles it can be especially difficult. Not to mention the medications the doctor's prescribe that can diminish any sexual desire. They can have side effects, including vaginal dryness, and fatigue that can lessen your interest in sex. You may even perceive yourself as not very sexually attractive and this doesn't help you to relax and enjoy the experience of sex, it also brings anxiety into the bedroom adding to the issues above.

When you have arthritis the situation can be difficult for your partner and they may not be aware of the changes your body is going through and they may not understand completely just how you fee. This was and still is the case with my husband and I. He couldn't understand how my pain levels could have such an affect on me when his didn't keep him from going to work even on his worst days. After a while we just quit talking all together because the stress of the conversation made my pain worse and it would always end up in an argument.

This article takes a look at five ways for you and your partner to regain the intimacy in your relationships.

Communication, feelings and attitudes toward sex are really complicated. You may find the subject a bit terrifying or even embarrassing and really don't want to talk about it. While others will think the subject to be taboo because of some ingrained social or religious attitudes. However, when your arthritis becomes a factor in your sex life, keeping the channels of communication open is the key to preventing relationship problems. If your sex life isn't fulfilling enough, it is possible to lose the emotional connection between you and your partner. Sex is a sensitive issue and to ensure that the problem is solved to the satisfaction of both partners, you will need to be open and honest. I know it's never easy to admit that your sexual relationship needs help. You might want to examine your own feelings first by asking yourself these questions: Do I react negatively when my partner wants sex? What sexual activities do I prefer and what are my partner's? Will I try new positions that would put less stress on an injured or painful joint? If you can answer these questions honestly those answers can help you to identify the issues you have and then they will help you to come up with possible solutions. You might want to consider taking notes to have during your conversation, especially if talking about sex makes you nervous or anxious. Actually, if you have a difficult time talking to your partner about sex, then writing down your feelings may help to open the door to a conversation. Sometimes it's easier to put to paper what you can't say out load. Leaving little letters for each other may be the answer for some couples who have a difficult time talking about their feelings on the subject of sex.
If you think these ideas won't work for you then you may want to talk to someone else first. You may find the caregivers, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and other health professionals are often busy dealing with the medical condition at hand and so they don't raise the subject of sex or intimacy with their patients. You may have to raise the subject with them instead, this could be difficult, but there are some good ways you can bring it up. You might want to say something like, “My arthritis is affecting me in ways that I hadn't expected and my husband and I are having trouble with intimacy. Can we talk about it.” Nurses seem to be better at helping you with this type of counseling.

When it comes time to sit down and talk to your partner, you should keep these tips in mind to help make your conversation more effective.

Be honest and open. You have to be honest with your partner about your arthritis and how it affects you. Remember, your partner isn't a mind reader, they can't know where or even when it hurts unless you tell them. Hopefully, your partner will be relieved to know how you feel and what, if anything, they can do for you. You will have to let your partner know what feels good and also what doesn't feel good. Always be open and honest about your feelings, sexual needs and your desires. You might want to ask your partner if they would be willing to redefine intimacy through new positions, sexual aids, and different techniques. These things may take some effort to resolve, building a mutual connection requires time and thoughtfulness that can't be accomplished in a day, but you might be surprised at how helpful the results can be. Here are some examples to help you understand what I mean. Let's say that a romantic movie puts you in the mood but puts your partner to sleep. Then on the other hand, candlelight and champagne is what turns your partner on but it's a turn-off for you. Just knowing these things can help the both of you become better at responding to the others' needs and make an atmosphere of intimacy.

Schedule time for your lovemaking. Or maybe you could just schedule time alone in an intimate setting. The both of you will want to be relaxed and comfortable and you should make the time when you will not be interrupted. To help restore lost intimacy you could try kissing, caressing and petting, even if it doesn't lead to intercourse and it could help to relax the both of you. My husband and I talked about scheduling our lovemaking but it didn't work because my husband prefers that lovemaking be spontaneous. He said it just didn't feel like sex when we had to plan it. This made it difficult to get what we both needed and led to a break down in our sex life.

You will want to advantage of your good days. But if you are really feeling bad be sure to be honest to yourself and your partner. The two of you could postpone the sex until you are feeling better and are able to enjoy it. You are showing that you are still interested in sex, just not right now, when you share and communicate your feelings with your partner. A loving partner will understand this and appreciate your honesty. When the both of you can share the goal of regaining your sexual desires again you will be more likely to achieve success. However, if your partner isn't completely understanding of the effects your arthritis has on your ability to preform sexually you may want to talk to your physician together to get an objective viewpoint. If this doesn't work you may want to consider seeking the help of a sexuality therapist or counselor.

There are also environmental factors that play an important role in your sex life. After you have set a schedule of when you are going to have your lovemaking, the next step will be to set the stage. The first thing you will want to do is to make sure you are well rested. You may want to take a little nap after dinner, you can wait and do the dishes tomorrow. Or you may want to take a warm bath or shower before you have sex; this will warm up your joints and help you to relax. Avoiding cold temperatures is a good idea. Next, warm up the bed by replacing cotton sheets with flannel, or turn on an electric blanket for a few minutes before getting into bed. We have a heated waterbed.

The power of touch can be a great way to start to regain intimacy. Besides kissing and caressing, you may want to try massaging each other. There are many women who are very aroused by just being held and stroked. On my worst days my husband will rub in a massage oil I make using rosemary essential oil and almond oil. The aroma of the rosemary eo relaxes me but more than any thing I find it to be a turn on to just feel his hands on my body. Try spending more time on foreplay, kissing the neck or caressing the breast, are just a few examples. Try to find creative ways. If you are experiencing pain in your hands you can try using the back of your hands to touch your partner. Rubbing and touching your partners genitals with your hands or engaging in manual sex are other ways to enjoy sex without having sexual intercourse.

Although it may be obvious, the medicines you take, and when you take them can affect your sex life. It helps to learn how to manage your pain medication or medications as well as other medicines to your advantage. It can be difficult to get the timing just right when you are taking your pain medication so that your pain is in control when you are ready to have sex. You will want to remember that your pain is usually at it's lowest about 2 – 4 hours after taking your pain medication. I take Tramadole and in 2 to 4 hours after taking it I was usually knocked out but that is the only thing that cuts my pain with the minimum amount of side effects. Not only that but it also deadens my sexual desires.

If a medication you take causes vaginal dryness, you may want to try a water-based lubricant such as Astroglide, K-Y jelly, Replens, or Wet Original. Never use petroleum-based lubricants; They an irritate vaginal tissues, and they can also damage condoms, cervical caps and diaphragms. The water-based lubricants mentioned here can also help in vaginal dryness caused from Sjogren's (Show grins) syndrome, which is often attributed to rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, and other autoimmune conditions.

Remember that the sex positions you used before you were diagnosed with arthritis may no longer be possible because of the stress they may place on stiff and swollen and painful joints. You can modify these positions to make it more comfortable for you or you may want to try some new ones. If the movement of sex triggers arthritis pain in one partner than the other partner who doesn't have arthritis should provide the movement during sex. A vibrator may help if you are having difficulty with sexual arousal because of your arthritis.