Relationships are difficult in the best of circumstances. When you add a chronic illness to the mix, it can be downright impossible to keep things happy and healthy between you and your partner. It's not impossible, though. I wanted to share with you how Rheumatoid Arthritis has impacted my relationship with my husband and the methods we use for getting through our bad days and celebrating the good days.
1) Move through the grieving process together.
When you are in a relationship, it's important to realize that BOTH of you will have your own grieving process. When you are first diagnosed, you have to figure out how you are going to adjust to living with your illness. You are grieving for the healthy body that is now lost. Your partner is grieving too. They are grieving for the loss of their partner as they know you. They are just as scared as you are about how this new disease will affect your life together.
Realizing that you are each grieving for the same losses at the same time can help you both find better ways to cope. Get through the difficulties and sadness together by leaning on each other for support and talking about your feelings.
2) Try to see life from your partner’s perspective.
It's important to realize how frustrating it can be for your partner to see you sick and hurting every day. It's not easy for them to take on the lion's share of the workload instead of sharing responsibilities equally. Realize that they may be feeling sad and lonely.
If you live with someone who is chronically ill, understand how frustrating it is to be sick and have so many limitations. It's hard to ask for help and embarrassing to have to rely on someone else for so many things. And beyond their pain and fatigue, they may be feeling sad and lonely, too.
So how do we get through it all? Carefully, softly and with a lot of deep conversations so that we can understand how the illness affects us both. If you can see life from each others point of view, you can adapt your words and actions to make things a little easier when times are difficult.
3) Make a "safe space" where you can each talk about how you're feeling without limitations.
It's hard to share your innermost thoughts, even with the person you care about the most in life. And sometimes it's really hard to hear what you fear others are thinking. If you make a "safe space" where each of you can share your feelings openly and honestly, you can address issues between you before they get out of hand.
A "safe space" is a special time when you both sit down and talk about your feelings. It's a time when you can say whatever you need to openly and out loud without the fear of being criticized or judged. It's not always easy, sometimes it hurts to hear that someone is frustrated with you. But if you keep and open mind and try not to take things too personally, you can get all those suppressed feelings out in the open.