The Arthritis NewsletterSpring 2017
Dating and ArthritisBy Alexandria Klemm and Karen Tsui
Dating can be slightly intimidating. When you add arthritis into the mix it can be scary to undertake. Here we offer a collection of our experiences from our combined years of dating and what worked and didn’t work for us. Ultimately, this led us to successful, long-term relationships with supportive and understanding partners.
A number one mistake – bringing up your arthritis on the first date or before you even meet, if you’re online dating. The only time this might work is if the other person happens to have the same condition. Identifying yourself with arthritis to someone who doesn’t know you can unfortunately refocus who you are as a person in someone else’s eyes. You are so much more than your arthritis! It is important for someone to get to know you first and vice versa before you bring in a serious topic. You may not even like the person once you meet, so why share something incredibly personal too soon. For both of us, we initially brought up the topic of having some health issues/back problems between the 2nd and 4th dates. Over time, this topic evolved into a more in-depth conversation about the inflammatory arthritis we have. Keep it simple when initially explaining your arthritis. You can always go more in-depth later on. Remember how overwhelming it was for you and your family members when you first were diagnosed.
If these early conversations result in the person not wanting to go further down the yellow-brick road of dating, don’t sweat it! If someone is not sympathetic or empathetic at this point they’re not likely to support you in harder times. If you feel like the person may ‘bolt’ or ‘ghost’ on you, then you can use the discussion of your arthritis as a screening tool to see if they will stick around later on.
One of the best dating strategies we have found was to prioritize a list of ‘no-compromise’ qualities in a partner and to stick to your standards. When you have arthritis, your time and energy are precious and you don’t want to waste it on a relationship that isn’t going to work. When considering shared activities for dating, if being outdoors and very active is not within your capabilities currently or is unknown in the future, you need to be honest and upfront about that. It isn’t fair for you or the other person to be misleading on this topic. Encouraging each other to be active to the point where you can tolerate it is a good strategy, since staying active is very important for those with inflammatory arthritis.
In a relationship
As a couple, you want to help your partner understand what inflammatory arthritis is and how it may need to be accommodated within the relationship. Do not hide your arthritis flares or the fatigue and pain that goes along with them. Share information about your condition with your partner, or direct them to reputable sources that are grounded in scientific evidence or attend education talks or sessions together. Invite your partner to come to appointments with your rheumatologist or doctor, especially if you are feeling apprehensive. They will then have a better understanding of your condition and be supportive when you need it most. Keep them informed of your treatment progression, if there are any changes, and the expected results.
It is a learning process for both of you. Sometimes you will have to teach your partner to be more sympathetic or even remind them that the “no pain, no gain” philosophy doesn’t work with arthritis. You need to communicate with them about what is comfortable for you physically. For example, if you’re having a flare, let them know that things like resting their arm over your shoulders might be uncomfortable or squeezing your hand too hard while holding hands. You can still have fun dates even in a flare but sometimes you may need to plan ahead for these times. A list of alternate activities that you can do on flare days is very handy if you need to change plans suddenly.
As with any relationship, mutual respect, honesty and good communication is the key. We wish you luck on your dating adventures!