Chronic illness introduced itself to me during my prime dating years, when I was only 29 — and a single mother of a toddler, to boot. To say that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has affected my dating and love life is an understatement.
It’s true that finding love when living with a chronic illness like RA can be a challenge — both for others to accept *and* for me to show others who I am, my shades of blue and purple, the colors of my disease awareness ribbon. I’d like some red roses and blue violets in my life, too.
Pain and fatigue get in the way of who I am when it comes to my mood or energy. It’s difficult to show others the best version of myself when symptoms override my personality or my abilities. But I can’t just turn off my illness, no matter how hard I try or who else wants me to.
Too often others shy away from my diagnosis or can’t cope with the ways it impacts my life. I’m sure people think that I am being dramatic because my illness is invisible and I am so young. There are still a lot of misconceptions about arthritis. Each sting of rejection can weigh on my mind, adding another brick to the isolating wall I’ve created around myself.
I admit that sometimes I find myself hiding behind rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as a reason to shut people out. My illness prevents me from creating connections I crave. It causes me to worry too much about being accepted.
When someone new comes along, how do I know they will be OK with all this? Chronic illness is lonely enough. I know what I want in a partner and a long-term relationship. I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I need. But who wants to date the sick girl?
Over time, I’ve come to see that my chronic illness does bring some benefits to dating me. For the few who can see me past my illness, I am still just like anyone else — with some unexpected bonus traits too.
I am mentally strong
I see things differently than someone who doesn’t have health issues. Maybe because there is a lot that is physically wrong with me, I’ve become good at admitting when I am wrong. Maybe because I’ve lived through a number of rough times and needed to find the light within them, I’ve learned to always finding the positives in a bad situation.
Being diagnosed with arthritis at a young age felt like a rapid aging process for me, giving me life lessons only those who experience chronic illness can understand. I am incredibly in tune with my physical and emotional well-being. Many of my friends describe me as strong, mature, understanding, supportive, and compassionate. These are traits that arthritis brought out of me.
I’ll help you eat healthy and stay active
I know how to cook well with healthy ingredients on a budget, though you just might have to help with chopping and cleaning because these arthritic hands aren’t the best at it. My home is always filled with nutritious foods just in case my fatigue runs high and I can’t make it to the store to go grocery shopping. I know all the best restaurants with healthy yet tasty fare. Just be prepared to pick up or get delivery when I am too tired to cook. (Especially on infusion day, that’s takeout day, and I don’t care about eating healthy that day. We all need some treats in our life.)
With rheumatoid arthritis, it is really important to exercise and stay active to keep my joints happy. You’ll stay active too, and not just between the sheets. You might learn a stretch or two from me or try hot yoga. I keep my schedule busy with different activities to stay moving, as long as my joints can handle it.
I’ll form an instant bond with your family
If someone in your family is dealing with chronic illness, I’ll probably forge an immediate connection with them. Did you know that arthritis affects one in four women in North America? Your grandmother, mom, or aunt and I would probably connect over medications, side effects, and joint issues. We also might have the same early bedtime.
I have VIP parking
Another benefit is that I come with great parking access with my disability pass — just be prepared for people questioning why neither of us looks disabled.
I have a comfy, cozy home
I have a comfortable mattress, pillows, blankets, comfy-yet-sexy pajamas that are easy to remove, and all sorts of pain relievers, from topical to edible forms. I’ve spent a lot of time making my home a cozy environment. It is, after all, where I spend a lot of time sick and on disability. I give a whole new meaning to Netflix and chill.
I’m not clingy
I’ve got plenty of time to give someone, though I do need to be careful with how we spend it. I need to plan so I spend my time wisely while juggling chronic illness. Plus, I like my alone time, so you can have your space too. Especially with my chronic pain at night; I have my side of the bed for a reason.
I won’t cheat
Living with arthritis has taught me a lot about dedication and loyalty. I know what I want and I’m not interested in playing games. I don’t have the energy for passive aggressiveness. I am too tired for arguments and often forget what I was angry about in the first place.
You won’t have to worry about cheating or a wandering eye with me. Let’s be honest: I am too tired and busy to carry out an affair. With my memory issues and brain fog, I wouldn’t be able to remember the lies it would require to keep up with a scandal, nor do I have the immune system to be around a lot of different dating partners. You’ll need your annual flu shot to date me, by the way.
In All Seriousness, Though…
In the end I am looking for someone who can see me for me, not just my RA diagnosis. I am just a little spoon looking for her big spoon. What happened to me could happen to anyone. Chronic illness is only part of my life. I need a partner who can see who I am, who I’ve become, how I am growing.
A little adversity hasn’t held me back from living a productive life. Why should it hold you back from being part of mine?