Honesty and Patience are Key When Dating with Psoriatic Arthritis
"I'm going to be like this for the rest of my life. I might even get worse. Are you sure you're up for it?"
He just smiled, "Of course."
When we first got together in college, I wasn't shy about talking to my boyfriend about the realities of living with psoriatic arthritis. I would tell him about my struggles and ask him if he can handle it. He always insisted he could. And while I always felt his sincerity, I couldn't help but be afraid that my health would be too much for him to handle.
Dating with a chronic illness can be hard. Aside from the extra time and energy it takes, it can be very emotionally taxing and test your patience. Being open and honest with a new partner about your health can be grueling. But in my experience, it's the best way to know if they're worth it.
Having developed psoriatic arthritis as a young child, dealing with a chronic illness is normal for me. But when my boyfriend and I started dating, I began to feel guilty. In a lot of ways, I was worried I was dragging him down. Here he was, a healthy, young man, dating a girl who limps and tires quickly. We should've been going to clubs and parties. Instead, I tried to plan leisurely, gentle dates like movies.
Guilt and fear made me try to hide. Even though I had been honest with him in conversation, I did my best to physically shield him from my pain. For the first few months, I did my best not to complain or need breaks. But looking back, I realize that was the worst thing I could've done.
It's one thing to hear about pain, swelling, and awful side effects, but it's another thing to witness it. Until you open up to your partner and let them see your struggles, they won't truly understand what they're getting into. And while I don't recommend opening up all the way on the first date, I do advocate for opening up sooner rather than later. If there are things they can't handle, it's better to find our a few months into dating than after moving in together.
I was able to let go of the fear and guilt when I finally let him experience my reality. Even though I was mortified at first when he caught me on bad days, it was the best thing that could've happened; it was so reassuring to see him act so compassionately. It was the only way I really knew if he could handle my reality.
Bumps in the road
That's not to say things are always sunshine and rainbows. Psoriatic arthritis takes its toll on its victims and their loved ones. I have my days where I'm a total mess and get upset with him, and there are days where he is frustrated with me. Why does he want to go out for burgers when my jaw is flaring? Why won't I just ice my foot if I said it hurt? Why don't they "get it?"
It's those days we need to take a step back and remember to be patient with each other. It's hard to walk a mile in another person's shoes - he doesn't know what it's like to live with chronic pain, and I don't know what it's like to date someone with chronic pain. On days we don't have much patience for each other, we have a cool down period and then talk out what's bothering us. Sometimes there are cooldowns in the middle of the talk too. It helps to have time to rest and reflect, and it helps us learn to talk things over calmly. Over time, its really helped us become more patient with each other and communicate in a healthy way.
Over time, I stopped feeling guilty and fearful. They aren't easy feelings to get over, and there are times I relapse. There have been Friday nights when I'm covered in Bengay and heat packs, and I look at him with tears in my eyes and ask, "Are you sure you want to deal with this for the rest of your life?". And he just smiles and says, "As long as I'm with you, I couldn't be happier."
Dating someone with a chronic illness is not for the faint of heart. Scratch that - it's not for someone who doesn't have a compassionate, caring, and strong heart. But being patient and opening up early in the relationship can help you know if they're really "the one."
Have you ever gotten a second opinion from a different doctor about your PsA?