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Arthritis can affect different aspects of a patient's life, including relationships with a boyfriend, girlfriend, or a spouse. This article outlines how arthritis can affect relationships.

Arthritis, a chronic and often debilitating disease, is characterized by inflammation, stiffness and pain of joints. Arthritis can have several negative consequences on a patient’s quality of life. It can affect various domains of a person’s life — including intimate relationships with a boyfriend, girlfriend, or a spouse. It can also affect a person’s ability to date.

These are the two major issues that patients with arthritis believe impedes their ability to have a healthy and fulfilling relationship:

  1. Many patients worry about their ability to participate in activities that their partner enjoys and that they'd enjoy if they didn't have arthritis. For example, many patients believe that because they have pain and fatigue, that it will impede their ability to go out on dates, especially ones that require some sort of physical activity. This can cause many patients with arthritis to have a negative attitude towards dating. However, while the disease will affect some parts of your physical life, you will need to deal with these periods and take advantage of the times that you are able to get out and do activities. When your disease is well-controlled and you feel good, seize the day and get out with your partner. Choose activities that you would not be able to do otherwise.
  2. Many people with arthritis believe that they may not be worthy of having a relationship because they are not able to participate in things that people without the disease are able to do. This causes patients to often doubt their self-worth and question why anyone would want to date them or go out with them. However, this is a negative mindset that you need to get rid of. Your partner will not care if you are unable to participate in activities every day, but they will care if you convey a negative attitude. Approach your dating situation positively and others will respond. Remember, nobody is perfect and everybody has some sort of baggage. The right person will not care if you need to stay in and relax some days as long as you have a positive attitude and take advantage of the days you are able to get out.
Your disease may cause you be apprehensive about dating, especially if you are single and are wanting to step out and find someone. However, with the right attitude and the right approach, you will be able to find a long-lasting healthy relationship. So how should you go about finding and cultivating a healthy relationship? These are some tips that can help you.

Don’t be negative

One of the biggest turn offs for anyone is a negative attitude. Nobody wants to be around a Debbie Downer. Therefore, when you meet someone, you should talk about things that you love to do and are good at and don’t emphasize your arthritis or negative attributes. People are attracted to positive attitudes. Reinforcing your positive attributes will not only make you more attractive but also help you feel more confident.

Don’t hide your disease

Arthritis is a chronic disease that will be hard to disguise from someone you are spending a lot of time with. While you may feel the need to hide feeling pain if you are going for a walk or a hike with someone new, it is important that you don’t hide this because you need to stay true to who you are. Furthermore, your partner should understand what your limits are so they don’t push you outside of those limits as that can be detrimental to your disease in the long run. The right person will understand your limitations and accept you for who you are.

Communication is key

This is true for any relationship, whether or not one person has a chronic disease. You need to be able to openly communicate with your partner about your concerns and fears surrounding your disease as well as your limitations. While it may be uncomfortable to broach the topic, your partner will feel relieved because they likely also wanted to initiate the conversation but were unsure how to.

Educate your partner about the disease

Many people who have not had someone in their life develop arthritis may not understand what the disease is about and what your limitations may be. Educate your partner about the disease and encourage them to research on their own and find out more about the disease. Likely, your partner will want to help you and care for you. The best way to do so is to learn more about the disease, which can allow them to learn more about the best way to help you.

Find out what you can do and focus on that

There will certainly be things that you will be unable to do. For example, if you partner is a marathon runner, that is something you will not be able to do with them. However, arthritis patients can still do many, many things. You can still walk your dog, go for a bike ride and experience other activities. Therefore, find the things you enjoy doing and are able to do without feeling pain or discomfort and encourage your partner to join you in those activities.

Be flexible

You can plan ahead for things with your partner, but sometimes you will have to cancel those plans due to a flare-up. You may feel awful about doing so but you have to remember that this is part of your arthritis and you have to accept it. Therefore, you have to learn to remain flexible and not get too upset if you have to miss out on things you planned for.

  • Manne, Sharon L., and Alex J. Zautra. "Spouse criticism and support: their association with coping and psychological adjustment among women with rheumatoid arthritis." Journal of personality and social psychology 56.4 (1989): 608.
  • Williamson, David, Michael E. Robinson, and Barbara Melamed. "Pain behavior, spouse responsiveness, and marital satisfaction in patients with rheumatoid arthritis." Behavior Modification 21.1 (1997): 97-118.
  • Martire, Lynn M., et al. "Older spouses' perceptions of partners' chronic arthritis pain: Implications for spousal responses, support provision, and caregiving experiences." Psychology and Aging 21.2 (2006): 222.
  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

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