Dear Ms. Meniscus:

I recently broke up with my girlfriend. She was healthy; I have RA. She was not happy about the breakup and made me feel guilty about splitting. She said she has supported me for the past five years and put up with a lot of my emotional as well as physical issues. She said she gave up a lot of physical activity with me because she knew I couldn’t do it. Now, I feel badly, and I’m thinking about getting back together.

What do you think?

Sincerely,

Alone and Guilty

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Dear Alone:

You didn’t tell me why you broke up, but the fact that you did break up says a lot about your desire to be independent. What your girlfriend is doing is not fair, but then, breakups rarely are, right?

We’re not supposed to whine about pain and physical impairment. But, on the flip side, we should talk about what happens when both people in a relationship don’t talk enough about pain, as well as what’s not happening such as physical activity.

If your partner felt more comfortable talking about what she was giving up, and if you were able to let her have a life of her own that didn’t include this sacrifice, this relationship might have worked.

So, if you’re thinking of getting back together, remember this: You broke this off in order to be independent. So, don’t give that up. The ground rules have to be clear. She has to tell you when she’s sacrificing for you, and you have to give her the freedom to have a life outside of you.

I know a person with pretty severe but controlled arthritis who also swims competitively. She regularly leaves her spouse home while she attends practices and competitive events. They both say it brings them closer together. Sometimes her spouse goes to events and cheers her on, but usually, this is an activity she does alone.

Think about whether you can do something like this, if you get back together. It’s not easy to find someone you can be happy with for the rest of your life. If there is potential here, grow into the responsibility of exploring it.

Sincerely,

MM