There are always challenges in any relationship. These tips have helped me foster a loving marriage.
I understand how difficult it is to live with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Sometimes, RA impacts every second of every minute of every single day.
Shampooing my hair, doing laundry, and feeding myself can be pretty tough some days. Getting through an entire day upright and out of bed can be hard.
I also understand how difficult it is to love with RA.
I have had a formal diagnosis of RA for over 8 years, but I have been married for 11. I have seen how my RA has affected the people I love.
It’s hard for me to always be the wife and mother I want to be. Showing love for others can be difficult when loving all parts of yourself is challenging.
It’s also hard for my husband. He wants to show up daily with empathy, kindness, and compassion. But sometimes he worries that he is making things worse. A study from 2018 found that when a spouse overestimated their partner’s pain, the partner was very satisfied, but the spouse experienced more tension!
It’s not always easy to love, or be loved, with RA. But I do love married life. I wouldn’t ask for anyone else to be on this RA journey with me.
Being in a well-adjusted and nondistressing marriage is linked with less RA pain and better functioning. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years to create a genuinely loving and reciprocal relationship that brings everyone joy.
When you know more about anything, you’re more confident in managing it. Knowledge is power.
When you know more about RA, and are educated about the decisions you’re making, you can concentrate on other things in your life.
Empower yourself to become an expert, and you’ll make more room for love in your life.
Once you are an expert on RA, you can share your knowledge with others.
Likely, your partner and family have not read as much as you have. Unless you’re married to a rheumatologist, you will probably always be the most knowledgeable person about RA in any room.
Spend time teaching your partner about RA. But make sure to do this when they are ready.
Be sure to follow their lead, answer their questions, and go at their pace. Knowledge is power, but oversharing can be overwhelming and could minimize an optimal moment to bond.
Find local and online RA support groups where you can both learn more and find support together. You can also find ways for your partner to indirectly support you, like volunteering and donating money.
Several years ago, my husband served on a prestigious local board of directors for the Arthritis Foundation. He helped make decisions that impacted the arthritis community’s access, awareness, and resources across our city and state. This was a big way to support me. This is not for everyone, but it is one way of using your knowledge and showing support.
Show interest in return, too. Take extra steps to learn about your partner’s interests. Go see the latest superhero movie, read an article about advancing electronic technology, or download a free podcast about a professional sport.
As all relationships endure the test of time, things change. It’s beneficial for everyone to find new ways to show their love. Redefine what love and intimacy are between you and your partner.
Talk about what is important and meaningful to each of you, and how you can make this happen together.
Skin-to-skin contact goes a long way when it comes to human connection, and it can be easily taken for granted in a long-term relationship.
Tell your partner when they are doing a good job at supporting you. Be sure to be specific and list the things they do well.
Do not dwell on things that they don’t do well. Let them find things they like helping with and are good at. When they enjoy these activities, they will be more rewarding for them.
I find many people with RA struggle with meals. If your partner does not like cooking but will go to the nearest fast-food restaurant at the drop of a hat to pick up food, be ready and be appreciative. It’s such a treat when my husband picks up dinner for us.
My husband and medical providers are often telling me to prioritize my self-care. But what about my partner’s self-care? Who prioritizes the self-care of the children, siblings, and caregivers?
Allow your partner and family space for themselves whenever possible.
Remember, self-care is not always a special spa treatment. Sometimes, this can simply mean some time alone away from the struggles of everyday life.
If your partner wants to watch a whole movie by themselves or listen to the latest 3-hour podcast, it’s important to find time for this.
Things change — be ready to adapt and try new things. If your current routine in your relationship doesn’t work anymore, don’t be afraid to change it. Make sure to talk about this with your partner and family so you’re all changing in the same direction.
For years, our family would do everything ourselves. From home improvements to dog grooming, we did these things with pride and love. In the last couple of years, as our lives have become busier, we have had to use professionals to accomplish these tasks. We talked about it, agreed, and changed together.
If you have RA, always remember that you are worthy of love. And don’t forget that you have a lot of love to give, too.
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