A new survey by the charity Arthritis Research UK reveals that over half (54%) of people in the UK feel that their relationship is less intimate than it used to be.
Nearly a third of couples (31%) don’t cuddle or hold hands enough anymore, nearly half feel that they aren’t having enough sex (42%) and (46%) have sex less often than once a fortnight. Nearly two thirds (60%) of 55–69 year olds felt that their relationship was less intimate than when they first got together and nearly a quarter (23%) of married couples say they’re unsatisfied with their current love life.
Many blamed the fast pace of modern life for getting in the way of their relationships. Top excuses given for not having sex included tiredness (42%), never being in the mood (20%), and not having the time (14%). Interestingly, painful joints ranked higher (14%) than the traditional excuse of “having a headache” (6%).
When asked what would make people feel closer to their partner, survey responders stuck to their stereotypical gender roles. Men thought that having more money (41%) and more sex (39%) would help their relationship, with woman saying that they would rather just be listened to.
Sex expert Tracey Cox said “As we rush around leading busy lives, it’s easy for relationships to suffer. The survey shows that couples want to be more physically intimate with one another, holding hands, having a cuddle and having sex are all important to keep a healthy relationship”
Arthritis Research UK conducted the survey to reveal the everyday challenges couples face in their relationships, and to raise awareness of the challenges faced by people with arthritis and joint pain to stay intimate in their relationships. Joint pain can affect many parts of the body including hands, hips, knees, fingers, back and neck. This makes movements that many of us take for granted, like having sex, holding hands or cuddling incredibly painful. Previous studies have shown that 13% of people with arthritis found joint pain impacted on their sex life.
Professor Alan Silman, Medical Director of Arthritis Research UK, said: “These results show that physical intimacy is important in relationships and it’s difficult in modern life to keep that alive. For people with arthritis, it’s even tougher. The impact that joint pain has can prevent you from doing a lot of what we take for granted like cuddling and having sex. Imagine how much harder it would be to stay close to your partner if you couldn’t give them a hug, or even lie next to them in bed without being in pain. For many even the simple task of making your partner a cup of tea is too difficult.”
Catherine Manning aged 33 from Essex, who has osteoarthritis, said: “As a result of having severe arthritis, I am now bound to a wheelchair and live in constant pain which makes everyday living challenging – especially maintaining intimacy with my husband. Over the past few years, he has gone from being my lover to my full time carer. He helps me in the morning to take my medication, shower and get dressed.”
For people living with arthritis and joint pain, there is help. Sex expert Tracey Cox says: “For many people living with arthritis and joint pain, basic things like going out on a date can be impossible which can cause relationships to break down. Importantly the dynamic can also significantly change over time. The person you married five years ago can turn in to a full time carer, which puts a lot of pressure on that person too".
There are many ways to manage and overcome these issues though. Open communication and listening to each other will help you to become more creative and share ways of overcoming intimacy problems inside and outside of the bedroom.”
The charity Arthritis Research UK is encouraging people to learn more about the impact that arthritis and joint pain can have on everyday life. If you are living with or caring for someone with arthritis, you can find out more about how to maintain an intimate relationship and the life changing work of Arthritis Research UK by visiting www.arthritisresearchuk.org/relationships.