There are 10 million people of all ages living with arthritis in the UK and its fluctuating, painful symptoms can bring emotional or physical challenges to a relationship. Here are seven suggestions from the charity Versus Arthritis (www.versusarthritis.org) to keep your relationship pepped-up and healthy when one of you is living with arthritis.
1. Open up
Whether it’s a new diagnosis or you’ve lived with arthritis for a while, it can be hard to explain how you’re feeling. But many relationships can become closer and stronger when things are discussed honestly. Talk about how you feel, the changing situation and any challenges that you face so you can arrive at a solution that’s right for both of you.
2. Be open to questions (and don’t be scared to ask)
Encourage your partner to ask questions, as the better they understand what you’re going through the easier it’ll be for them to help. Keeping people at arm’s length to protect them from the details won’t help in the long term.
If your partner has arthritis, ask them questions so you can understand how they’re affected and what support they might need.
3. Prepare for good and bad days
People with arthritis can have good and bad symptom days so it helps if your relationship can adjust to what each day brings. Let each other know what’s needed best on the bad days and any extra support you may need.
It can be hard to be spontaneous or keep to date nights if one of you is in pain, so figure out ‘bad day’ activities you can do together. You could go all-out hygge and get into your pyjamas, light some candles and have a relaxing movie night.
4. Sex and arthritis – how to make it work
Arthritis pain can make simple movements such as standing, holding hands or even hugging difficult. Sore joints can make sex less enjoyable, while body changes or post-surgery scars might knock self-esteem.
Be frank about what is uncomfortable and what feels good. Planning ahead, for example having a warm shower or taking painkillers about an hour before having sex, to make your joints more comfortable, can help too. Versus Arthritis has more information about sex and arthritis here-https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/living-with-arthritis/sex-relationships-and-arthritis/
5. Carer vs partner
The relationship dynamic can change when one partner takes on caring responsibilities for the other. If you’re taking on the role of carer you’ll need to find the right balance between providing help and support without being over protective, and recognise your help isn't always wanted. Talk to each other about how to get the balance right.
6. Money matters
Arthritis can have a financial impact too. Some people need to reduce their working hours or even have to leave their job altogether, and if there are extra costs incurred because of care or equipment you need, a reduction in income can mean added stress in your relationship. Make sure you look into the financial support available to you.
7. Seek support if you need it, you’re not alone.
You can speak to your healthcare professional, or get tailored support from charities like Versus Arthritis, which has a free helpline and support and information on its website. You can meet other people facing the same challenges on the Versus Arthritis social channels, and read great blogs, for example, Arthur's Place for young adults.