Have a Normal Dating Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Sara Nash Health Guide
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    Well, I’ve finally done it. After two and half years of thinking about it, worrying about it and writing about it, I have finally dropped the RA bomb on a date.


    As many of you know, I have always been very anti-disclosure when it comes to dating, preferring to keep this tidbit of info to myself until I felt like someone had gained my trust. But as I wrote a few months ago, I started to feel like this strategy was backfiring on me. Not only did it mean I had to edit out a lot of what I could share about myself, but I also worried that when I did finally share the news with someone, it would go over about as smoothly as a tidal wave.

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    Telling someone you have rheumatoid arthritis, or any serious health condition, is obviously big news, but I didn’t want the delivery of it to be some huge, overly dramatic MOMENT OF CONFESSION. I felt like a better strategy might be to slip it into conversation casually and matter-of-factly. After all, everyone has something , even if it isn’t RA. I made up my mind that the next time I started seeing someone, I would try out my new strategy and see how it went.


    Fast forward to a few months later. There was a guy who lived in my neighborhood that I had seen around here and there. He was kind of cute, and we had noticed one another enough times that we always waved when we saw each other. Finally, after several months of this, we ran into each other and finally introduced ourselves. We ended up grabbing a casual drink that evening, and had a good time talking. I didn’t bring up the RA, but decided that if I saw him again, I would need to start looking for a window of opportunity in which to bring it up.


    The opportunity quickly presented itself. On our third date, he came over to my apartment to bake cookies and watch a movie together.While we were in the middle of mixing up the cookie dough, we started talking about yoga, and he asked me why I didn’t teach anymore. DING DING DING. Here it was: the perfectly natural moment I had been waiting for to casually slip in the ‘Oh, by the way I have RA ’ bit.


    So I answered his question by telling him that I had rheumatoid arthritis (I made sure to say the full word because I knew there was no chance in hell he’d know what RA stood for), and that when it had started a few years ago, I had gotten really sick and wasn’t able to even practice yoga, let alone teach it. I looked for any signs of panic, anxiety or confusion to register on his face, but none came, so I went on to explain that, although I had started practicing yoga again, it was nice to simply focus on my own practice rather than having it become a second job.The conversation continued, and that was that.He didn’t ask me any questions or bring it up again, and I decided to let it be. I figured if we continued to see each other, it would inevitably come up, and as we got to know one another better, I could share more and more about what having RA meant for me.


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    Sounds like a good plan, right? Well, unfortunately, I haven’t gotten the chance to find out how part two of the plan will go. I went out with him one more time, but the chemistry fizzled, so that was the end of that. And, although we only saw each other one time after my moment of truth, I really didn’t get the feeling that my RA had anything to do with it.


    I did feel like I had cleared a big hurdle, though, and that felt great. Being able to include the fact that RA is a part of my life within the context of a perfectly natural conversation made it less scary and made me feel less vulnerable.It also let me avoid the looks of doom and gloom or complete blankness that I have gotten in the past when I’ve shared this news with friends in a more deliberate, conversation-stopping way.


    Figuring how to talk about RA with someone for the first time will probably always be daunting, but after this experience, I think the key is to do it in a manner that makes you feel confident and in control - and to remember that it isn’t the only thing about you worth talking about.


    Sara is the author of the blog, The Single Gal's Guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis .

Published On: March 24, 2010