What Makes an Ideal Partner for Someone With Arthritis?

Happy senior couple at park
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Arthritis brings chronic pain and physical limitations into your life. If you have a significant other or spouse, it affects their life, too. Sometimes, people with arthritis forget that their disease affects those closest to them.

Consider these two examples.

Your friend has rheumatoid arthritis and she makes the point that rheumatoid arthritis isn't going to get in the way of finding a loving, committed relationship. While you may agree conceptually that everyone can find someone, you're surprised at how she seems to minimize that rheumatoid arthritis is a factor. Not everyone can deal with the consequences of having a partner with chronic pain and physical limitations. Not everyone wants to.

In the second example, a family member shares a story about someone he met and was very interested in until he found out that she had cancer. The woman had been through treatment and was cancer-free, but he was afraid that there would be a recurrence of the cancer at some point and then they would be dealing with illness. He even projected that she likely would die before him and he didn't want to be alone.

These two examples to show that we all don't think about illness the same way.

The Ideal Partner for Someone With Chronic Disease

We together a list of 10 traits or factors that would enhance compatibility between someone with arthritis and their partner. The ideal spouse or partner would be someone who:

  1. Has taken time to learn about arthritis. It's important for your partner to understand arthritis, including the initial symptoms, how the disease is managed, and how it typically progresses. They need to have a basic understanding of how arthritis affects your body and what you are dealing with on a daily basis and possibly into the future.
  2. Doesn't mind helping. There may be times when you need assistance, as difficult as it may be to ask. It might be temporary assistance or help that you need on a regular basis. Ideally, your partner or spouse should not mind helping you—better yet, willingly helps and feels good about being able to help. 
  3. Is flexible and adaptable. Arthritis is a variable disease, meaning, some days are worse than others and it's not always predictable. There will be times when you have to cancel plans or change how you do things. Someone who can take it in stride and adapt when necessary, without complaining, is your best match.
  4. Is able to see beyond physical flaws or imperfection. Some types of arthritis can have visible consequences. Arthritic joints may cause you to limp. You may need a cane other mobility aid. The disease can cause joint deformity. It is important that your partner not be bothered by physical imperfection and can see beyond it. 
  5. Is drawn to your inner strength and courage. Your partner or spouse should be drawn to your inner beauty. People who live with chronic pain conditions develop considerable inner strength and rely on their courage to get through the toughest of times. Strength, courage, perseverance, and positivity are essential qualities in a relationship.
  6. Makes you laugh. The benefit of having a partner who makes you laugh is obvious. Being able to find the joy in life, smile, and laugh, despite the burden of pain, is better than any medicine. 
  7. Is honest and a good communicator. There will be difficult times. That goes without saying when dealing with chronic disease. The difficulties impact both people in a relationship. It is important to recognize the effect on your partner and for them to have a voice regarding how they are being affected. Open, honest communication is essential.
  8. Shares one or more common interests with you. When dealing with chronic illness, there is a tendency for it to become the focus of your life together. If you can enjoy an activity or hobby together, especially on a regular basis, it can be a healthy diversion or distraction. Sharing common interests help maintain your bond.
  9. Is spiritually compatible. Spiritually is not on this list to promote any specific religion or religion at all. It is included to point out that if you both are in agreement on the issue of faith and prayer, it likely will bring you closer. If you aren't completely in sync on spirituality, your partner should at least be respectful.
  10. Is simply devoted and sees the two of you as one. Devotion is developed by both the mind and heart. If someone is devoted to you, they view your problems as theirs. If you hurt, they hurt. If you have to deal with it, they have to deal with it. It's all managed as a team, always in tandem. A partnership or marriage without devotion is just an arrangement.
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