Sex is everywhere in today’s world. It forces its way into every facet of life whether we notice it or not. We are exposed to sex in marketing tactics, on the big screen, in music, and more. Everywhere a person looks there is sex in some way, shape, or form. It’s hard to escape its presence especially when involved in a relationship.
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This article first appeared in The Fibromyalgia Magazine, May 2017. Get the digital copy of the magazine from Pocketmags.
Fibromyalgia and Sex
Every relationship, for the most part, is faced with the topic of sex at one point or another. For some, this may not be an issue, but for others – many others – it is an issue. There are many reasons why sex may be avoided, but for fibromyalgia thrivers, sex is usually avoided because of the physical pain it causes.
In April’s issue, we discussed The Painful Truth about fibromyalgia and sex. Sex is avoided in a relationship affected by fibromyalgia because of the painful touches, the effect of pain on the brain (the most sensitive sex organ in the body), loss of libido, muscle pain and soreness, and difficulties with sexual performance. These reasons can result in the complete avoidance of sex, leading to strained relationships and disgruntled partners.
However, even with these painful reasons to avoid it, sex is good and healthy for your relationship. If you haven’t already, go back and read why in The Painful Truth, and open yourself up to improving the intimacy in your relationship. There are ways to improve your sex life which we will now discuss.
Fibromyalgia and Sex: Part 2: Turning the Pain into Pleasure
How can your sex life be established or improved?
In order to solve any problem that fibromyalgia presents, coming to terms with the issue is the first step. Sex is no different: you need to understand and accept WHY you are not able to have sex. Accept that it’s more about the pain sex causes rather than self-esteem. Accepting this fact is key to starting on the road to a healthy, intimate relationship. Once you have accepted, the other steps will be easier to achieve.
Having open communication is always subsequent to acceptance when it comes to fibro relationship issues. First identifying, then talking through your feelings, experiences, and thoughts will help your partner understand how you feel; not only with fibromyalgia but with sex as well. Communicate with your partner the effects on sex that fibromyalgia has for you. Be clear that you have been avoiding sex because of physically painful effects and not because of your lack of feelings. In fact, feelings for your partner are the reason you are being open about sex and open to improving intimacy.
Be sure to time this conversation appropriately. Don’t wait until it’s “go time;” that is a setup for failure. Instead, start the talk when your partner is neither upset nor distracted, otherwise, he/she will not be fully invested in the discussion.
Recognize this will be an ongoing conversation and not one that will only take place once for a few minutes. Be patient. The conversation will evolve as intimacy evolves. Do not withhold your feelings or truth about the effects sex is having on your body. If you reach the point of sexual intercourse, and your partner is enjoying it but you are not, stop. Let them know how it’s hurting you. Silently suffering through sex for your partner’s sake is dishonest and detrimental to your relationship.
Nurture Your Body
Despite sex being painful to your body, try changing your perspective. View sex as nurturing your body, not harming your body. There are many ways that sex is beneficial to the body, and it’s important you understand those reasons. As discussed in last month’s article, sex can strengthen your body, ease body pains through the release of endorphins, improve sleep with hormones released during orgasm, and reduce overall stress.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you are experiencing a loss of libido due to medications, talk to your doctor about it. Sexual side effects with medications are more common than not, and doctors are aware of this. There are alternatives that can be discussed and considered.
Do NOT stop or change your dosage without your doctor’s consent. Stopping or changing your dosage can have fatal side effects.
There are ways to manage fibromyalgia symptoms of pain, fatigue, anxiety, and muscle stiffness in addition to (or instead of) medications. Some of these options include meditation, yoga, exercise, healthy lifestyle habits, essential oils, and more. A combination of these options may be the most effective in relieving those symptoms.
You can also try doing pelvic floor exercises, along with vaginal dilation therapy using vaginal trainers, It can help increase the body’s tolerance to penetration and eventually eliminate pain during intercourse. However, to guarantee a safe and effective treatment, vaginal dilation therapy should be performed under the supervision of a pelvic floor physical therapist.
Find a Comfortable Position
Just as you find a comfortable position when watching television, you must also find a comfortable position when having sex. Each position affects a part of the body with some positions relieving pressure and others causing pressure. It will take time, but finding the right position for each partner will enhance the pleasure.
For example, if you have low back pain, have your partner get on top or try lying on your side. If you are a woman and experience hip pain, place a pillow under your hips to stabilize your body.
Morning vs Night
Have sex during the time of day that is best for your body, rather than when it’s expected. The “norm” is to have sex around bedtime when it’s time to go to sleep. However, by the end of the day, our fibro bodies are spent and we’ve hit a wall that prevents us from being able to fully enjoy intimate activities. Even if our minds are looking forward to sex, it can be hard to fully engage when our bodies have checked out for the day.
Rather than wait for bedtime, have sex when it’s best for you. This may be right after waking in the mornings or after a midday nap. Find what works best for your body and for your partner.
Take It Slow
Throughout the process of finding what works best for you, take it slow. Rushing through any part of the process can cause both partners to become agitated, upset, and turned off. These are opposite results of what you want in a healthy, intimate relationship. Remember that the best results are the ones that take time and that time is going to take patience.
It has been said time after time throughout this article, but it’s essential to this entire learning process. Patience, patience, patience, and more patience. Improving your sex life is not going to happen overnight and sex will not likely be instantly pleasurable after one time of trying something new. It may take many trials and errors, but you will succeed if you keep your patience and determination focused on the end goal – a pleasure for you and your partner.
Soak Before Showtime
Soaking in a warm bath helps loosen muscles and temporarily alleviates muscle pain. Having temporary relief will help the body tune in to the pleasures of sex rather than be interrupted by the pains of it. Take it up a notch with your partner and have a bath together!
Massage and Foreplay
Foreplay readies the body for sexual engagement and turns your attention to the pleasures of sex. Effective foreplay is a great tactic for the fibro body, which is usually preoccupied with the pains of sex. Turn the foreplay into something that will benefit your body while also prepping you for sexual engagement. A sensual massage will have the similar benefits of soaking in a warm bath – it will help loosen the muscles and alleviate muscle pain.
Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
Just like good sleep, good sex is more about quality and not quantity. Determine what can be improved or adjusted to make sex more pleasurable for both partners. If something is hurting or uncomfortable, communicate to your partner when it happens so quality can be improved.
You could be having sex twice a day, five days a week, but if it hurts each time, it won’t be enjoyable. You would be better off having sex once a week when it’s most pleasurable for the both of you.
Other Ways to Pique Interest
As stated earlier, effective foreplay gets you ready for pleasurable sex. When the brain can focus on the pleasures of sex, pain takes a back seat. There are several ways to engage in foreplay with your partner. Try these suggestions:
- Sharing fantasies: Talk about what you would like to do together and try those fantasies, if possible.
- Talk about sex: This is like sharing fantasies, but with more realistic topics such as positions or locations.
- Watch sexy movies together: Not necessarily pornography, just a good steamy romance will do. If you both like porn though, go for it!
- Read an erotic book together: This takes more time and effort than watching a movie together, but a book will allow for more imagination.
Although sex can be painful for the fibro body, the techniques presented here can make it pleasurable. Take the time to figure out what works best for you and your partner; it’s worth the pleasure you can achieve. Remember, to turn the pain into pleasure, you must be willing to accept your fibro body, communicate with your partner, and be patient. Those three key ingredients will help you achieve a healthy, intimate relationship.