A man and a woman hold hands inside a heart.

Relationships: Sharing the Psoriatic Arthritis Burden

Most people go into relationships with the expectation that the “relationship scales” would be pretty evenly balanced. One person’s strengths will complement the weaknesses of the other person. We want to believe that it is a partnership. With each person contributing at least 50% to simply making the duties of daily life work. You know, all those little, nitty-gritty details that make life run smoothly. Things like paying the bills, keeping the house relatively clean, neat, and organized all take a great deal of time and effort.

Sharing the psoriatic arthritis burden

Psoriatic arthritis often makes us unable to shoulder our share of the burdens of daily life. Pain and fatigue make it nearly impossible to hold a steady job. The laundry gets backed up and the dishes sit in the sink when a flare keeps us in bed. Brain fog makes it easy to forget to pay bills or keep up with appointments and plans made with friends. The pressure that can place on a relationship is often too much for both people to handle. When you are in a relationship, the expectation is that each person can give at least 50%. But what happens when the scales get tipped, forcing one person to take more responsibility and shoulder more of the load?

It can cause stress

Daily world stress is the worst kind. Keeping a roof over your head and food on the table is difficult to do, even with two salaries. If one person misses work, has to quit, or can’t work then that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the other person. Fighting for these basic needs is extremely stressful compounded by the fact that one person feels overworked and the other is in pain. This stress causes it to feel like there is a noose around the relationship, slowly choking the life out of it.

It can cause resentment and shame

The person in the relationship now responsible for the bulk of the work can easily feel resentment and anger as time goes on. Why should I always have to do so much more to meet the daily demands of life? One individual only has so much to give. While on the other hand, feeling like you are unable to carry your share of the burden can cause deep feelings of shame and even self-loathing. Why would anyone love me when I clearly have nothing to give?

Maybe it is about more than keeping the scales balanced

However, that shouldn't be the end of our story. We should not be doomed to spend the rest of our days with those we love filled with feelings of inadequacy and blame, resentment and shame. Nor should we be made to feel as if a relationship needs to be exactly 50/50 all of the time. No one should have to feel that they are less “worthy” because they live with the pain, fatigue, and brain fog of psoriatic arthritis that keeps them from keeping up with life’s daily demands.

Relationships are about mutual support and acceptance

When it comes down to it, even if it sometimes feels that way, life isn’t about keeping the scales nicely balanced within a relationship. Rather, it is a process of give and take, mutual support and acceptance, and yes, the grace to accept that life doesn’t always have to be perfectly balanced. Being in a relationship when one person has psoriatic arthritis is certainly very challenging at times. After all, there is a reason that the percentage of divorces is significantly higher among couples when one person has a chronic illness.

However, it is my firm belief that it doesn’t have to be a relationship death sentence. Where there is an opportunity for resentment, there is also an opportunity for gratitude. And where there is an opportunity for shame, there also is an opportunity for compassion and support. It all comes down to how we choose to look at each other.

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