Dating and living with arthritis – Porscha and Donna share their experiences
The thought of dating and meeting new people may seem like a daunting prospect when living with the physical and emotional strains of arthritis.
We know that taking the first step in telling a new person about your condition can be the hardest part, and often thinking about the reaction you might get is scary, but having that conversation early on will help you to relax and be yourself, and give you the best chance of finding somebody who is willing to take the time to understand and support you.
Here Donna and Porscha, who both live with arthritis, share some of their experiences of dating, as well as their tips and advice for making this a positive experience.
“Once my condition is discussed and, on the table, positive things start to happen inside my head. I’m able to open up and the relationship becomes like any normal relationship.”
Porscha Siouville, 24, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 19. In May last year she was affected by a severe flare up, which left her housebound and unable to walk up her own stairs.
She explains that dating in the past has been a struggle, and she’s worried about people running away, getting scared or assuming that they’d have to become her carer for them to have a future together.
Years ago, she avoided telling anyone new about her condition because she thought it came across as seeking attention, or ‘bragging’ in a way. But she’s come to realise that opening up with people right at the start is the best way for a smooth sailing.
She says, “It’s such a big part of my life that if it isn’t spoken of at the beginning and something goes wrong like a flare up, it can end before it’s even started.”
Porscha says dates often react by saying ‘you don’t look disabled’ or ‘I wouldn’t want my children having it’, and this used to upset her, but she’s come to realise that there is a lack of understanding generally about arthritis, especially in younger people. People aren’t necessarily trying to be rude, it can just take a bit more explaining.
Porscha is dating someone new now, and the past few months have been great. She’s been honest from the start and has met somebody who is extremely understanding of her condition and she finds opening up when she doesn’t feel good a lot easier – she says it’s “a breath of fresh air”.
“Positivity for me is knowing myself well enough to go out with a guy who gets me and my sense of humour.”
Donna Roberts, 49, was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in 2002, after months of feeling run down and having severe pain in her joints.
At the beginning, the pain and fatigue were so great that she couldn’t face dating, but now she knows what works for her, and plans and paces herself so that she can enjoy the good times and relax when she’s feeling tired.
Donna always tries to stay true to herself and date people who ‘get her’, which she says has made dating in the past fun and enjoyable. She knows there can be hard times when she’s feeling low but if that’s the case, she will make sure not to plan something on that day or will rearrange for another time.
“I can usually tell quite early on if I’m comfortable telling somebody that I have arthritis. I don't introduce myself with it first time round, but if a date suggested going hiking as a first date, I'd have to pass and ask if we can go for a coffee instead!”
Donna has found that with further explanation, generally her dates have been understanding. “I encourage questions, so they fully understand the treatment, side effects, fatigue and flares,” she says.
Donna has had two serious relationships since her diagnosis and says, “Being in a fulfilling, loving relationship can have a wonderful healing and calming affect on auto immune illness, that's my experience anyway.
“If a relationship hasn’t progressed it’s not my condition, it's me saying, no this isn't for me.”
Donna and Porscha’s top tips for dating and meeting new people
- Be upfront, open and honest. Allow people to ask as many questions as they need, most of the time they just want to understand what you’re going through and what they can do to help.
- Know yourself and your restrictions. Everyone is different but don’t push yourself to do more than you know your body is capable of, maybe a coffee date, it’s simple and not a strain.
- Keep an open-mind. Be open to friendship if a date doesn’t progress romantically.
- Practice self-care. You are the most important person, and if you feel happy and good about yourself, other people will too.
- Don’t be afraid to get out there and experience different things, everyone struggles to meet new people whether you have arthritis or not, but the more you do it, the easier it gets and the more you learn about yourself.
- Challenge yourself. Donna writes down three realistic things she’d like to achieve every month, either things she’s not done for a while or would like to do, like going along to new events – she says this helps to build confidence and you never know who you’ll meet!
- It may be hard but try not to push people away when you’re feeling low. And never push yourself more than you know you should. The right person will love you, for you.
Talk to us too
If you’re in a relationship or dating someone with arthritis, you may find this article useful - Relationships and arthritis - how to strike a better balance.
Our helpline can also help you find information about local support and services which may help. You can contact them on 0800 5200 520.