Romance and Arthritis by Ashley Boynes

Have you seen the psoriasis commercial where the girl is self-conscious about going on a date because of her condition?

It isn’t just psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis that can make people feel this way.

In fact, most chronic illnesses can affect relationships, romance, and the social life and self-esteem of the patient.

How do you explain your illness or disability to your potential partner without it being a complete turn-off? How do you tell them about it without sounding like you want attention? How do you let them know that it isn’t contagious? How do you touch upon such a difficult topic — and ensure that it won’t push them away?

This is a very hard subject. The fact of the matter is that many marriages in which one partner has a disability or chronic illness end in divorce. But, the reality of the world is that many marriages in which both partners are healthy often end in divorce, too, and so you shouldn’t let this discourage you from at least trying.

A new study that came out recently showed that RA patients who are in happy marriages have less pain and a better prognosis. This isn’t to say that a person cannot be happy outside of a marriage or committed relationship; it also isn’t to say that those in an unhealthy relationship cannot do well in managing their illness, or that everyone in a GOOD relationship is healthy and pain-free. However, it is an interesting look at how 1.) positive feelings and 2.) a good support system can actually positively affect our conditions. In the same way that owning a pet is good for your health because it cultivates positive feelings of love and happiness, a good marriage or healthy relationship can do the same.

Having love in your lives at least makes you more emotionally healthy, even if it may not help your pain levels.

But, how does one ever get to that step – “love” – when facing chronic illness or disability?

It isn’t easy.

While I am now in a loving, stable, and committed relationship with a very supportive hubby-to-be, past relationships weren’t so great. I had one guy stick with me during a bout with Bell’s Palsy only to throw it in my face during later arguments by making fun of how I looked at the time and basically telling me I was a burden. I had one guy tell me that my health problems were “too much” — not to mention losing a couple of (non-romantic) friends who couldn’t “handle” it all, either.

Here’s what I’ll tell you: someone who will leave you – or who won’t love you in the first place – because of your health (or lack thereof) wasn’t worth it to begin with! People show their true colors when faced with adversity. There’s a reason that the traditonal wedding vows say, “in sickness and in health” – this is because life isn’t perfect. Most of us will know someone who will be diagnosed with cancer. Most of us will know someone who lives with chronic pain or an autoimmune illness. There’s a good chance, sadly, that one of these things will happen to someone we love. Would you leave your partner because of sickness? No? Well, then, you shouldn’t have the attitude that someone you love will do that to you. Don’t have the attitude that you’re a burden on someone else….DO have the attitude that you deserve someone who will stick with you through it ALL.

It isn’t easy. I often feel like a huge burden on my fiance. I feel guilty a lot of the time that he is “stuck with” someone with such poor health and so many problems – but, then I remind myself, he knew what he was getting into from the beginning. I was very clear about my RA, and, in the years to come, I got dealt more crappy cards in the health department, and yet, he stayed with me. He isn’t “stuck” and could have walked at any time, but chose to propose to me, nonetheless, knowing about all the struggles I was and am still facing. As the “sick” party, though, I must admit that it is still hard sometimes to convince myself of that – that I’m worthy of that kind of affection. But, I’d do anything for him, stay with him through it if the roles were reversed, and care for him if he were sick. So, I guess that says it all.

Sometimes, it will be hard. My health has put a financial burden on us, and also has imposed some physical limitations on me. But, it’s better to face these issues with someone you love by your side rather than doing it alone. I encourage you all to  at least TRY – for your health, for your heart, and because you DESERVE it! A lot of it has to do with attitude.

So, you’ve been burned before? We all have. Hope isn’t lost, it just took a breather. Positive feelings of love can actually act as natural painkillers – – it’s a proven fact! So start off by loving yourself, and when you’ve accepted who you are and where you’re at, get out there and find someone else to love, who loves you, too!

Dating can be difficult when faced with a disability. However, new online dating services might work for you if you can’t physically get out there in the dating world. Feel free to disclose as much or as little as you’d like about your conditions. Chances are, you’ll find someone worthy, who will be big enough to look past your health issues! But, the key is that you have to put yourself out there. Don’t assume that they won’t understand, or that they couldn’t possibly love you in your condition. Be honest, be yourself, and try to be positive. The good feelings will rub off on others.

For more on handling relationships while living with arthritis, check out my past blog post, Innocent Bystanders: The Effects of Arthritis on Family, Spouses, and Relationships

As always, thanks for reading, and we’d love to hear your feedback – so please, leave a Comment!

Stay well,

Ashley Boynes

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3 thoughts on “Romance and Arthritis by Ashley Boynes

  1. Thank you for writing this article. I have unfortunately heard the words as well from past relationships that my health was too much or a burden. I have had a rocky road with my RA. Relationships have therefore been very difficult for me. Everyday I lose a little hope that I won’t find someone that will love me for me and want to be with me. I always put myself last and think of everyone before me, but I do have my limitations with my RA. Its a different life style having RA. Because of that, finding a guy that would want to be there for me, support me and care about me, is something that worries me everyday. Lately, I have been really down about this, so reading your article was very inspiring. Thank you!

  2. This article is an inspiration for all, Ashley! Unfortunately, there are people out there who leave when the going gets tough or won’t even give the relationship a chance once they find out that things are going to be difficult. That’s not the type of person you need in your life….it’s better that they left, even if it may have hurt at the time. I have found from my personal experience (the relationships of family, friends and co-workers) that there are more caring and supportive people around than there are the ones that will turn their back on you. They say that there is someone out there for everyone and I don’t think that anyone should ever give up on love. Although it may take some time and there are no guarantees, once you find the right person you will realize that true love is well worth it!

  3. Pingback: Links, Links, Links! — It's Time To Get Over How Fragile You Are

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