A phone cycling through the dating profile of a person living with RA

RA, COVID, Dating & the Firehose of Misery

I suppose it’s time again to revisit that most contentious of topics – relationships. I know, I know - for many of us, we’d rather get our teeth removed with a rusty pair of pliers from the 1800s than talk about dating and significant others.

But, we need to revisit it from time to time to make sure it never strays too far from the consciousness of those who have RA, are chronically ill, and/or disabled because it’s a hot mess.

Where does RA fit in a dating profile?

As many of you know, I was married at one time and it didn’t work out for a multitude of reasons, but mainly because the existence my illness produced wasn’t one she was willing to spend a lifetime participating in. Apparently. I mean the vow literally says, “in sickness and in health,” right? Whatever I’m not bitter.

The point is, being in a relationship when you have RA or another chronic illness isn’t something that you get over. It’s present at all stages and is always waiting there to throw a wrench in and gum up the works. Sorry for the mixed metaphor.

Dating in this Tinder/Facebook/COVID-19 world

So now I’m back on the dating scene, the place where it all starts, and guess what? It’s exactly as awful as you think it is in this Tinder/Facebook/COVID world. You ARE your profile, and it has sections like “interests,” “employment,” and “goals.”

Unfortunately, there isn’t an area for “lifelong illnesses,” so where does RA fit in? Goals? To stay upright? Interests? Refilling my scripts and keeping the excruciating pain at bay? Employment? Well, rheumatoid arthritis is a full-time job, but I don’t think that’s what they mean. The point is that it isn’t something that you can just advertise on the front page of your dating profile because you want people to know you for YOU, not your illness.

The current landscape of dating apps

On the other hand, you certainly don’t want to lie either because starting a relationship under false pretenses always goes super awesome. The problem is that 99 percent of the people on “the apps” are apparently mountain climbing, bungee-jumping, goat-yoga-ing fitness gods. Where are all the regular people who exercise a normal, human amount, I ask you? What happened to a leisurely bike ride? No, no, no, not anymore.

Now we have super-people who go to a place called CrossFit where they lift dump truck tires and chains from river barges while they down straight shots of organic-free-trade wheatgrass infused with gorilla protein. It’s a brave new world where everyone is an athletic demi-god and, guess what? RA doesn’t really fit into that paradigm.

When and how much do I talk about my RA or chronic illness?

So, when and how much? It’s a question anyone with chronic illness who dates has to ask. When do I break the news about my RA or chronic illness and how much do I tell them? Do I play it down and say I have a “bad ankle,” or do I spray them down with the firehose of misery that is my autoimmune disease life?

It doesn't seem to matter much

I’ve tried both in my life and here’s what I’ve found – it doesn’t really matter much. Honestly. I adopted a policy where, after a few weeks, I would sit down whoever I was with and be like, “here’s the real deal...” They always said the same thing, no matter what. “OK, thanks, for telling me, I can handle it.” Well, as of now I am 0-4 of people handling it.

I'm not trying to be negative about dating

I know it comes off as if I’m down on dating, but really, I’m not. I know, I know - it’s hard to tell based on the horrorshow picture I’ve painted above, but that’s not why I did it. I have come to a realization that all of that stuff is inconsequential. Seriously.

I planned everything in my life and spent five years making sure I had found THE ONE before I got married. I exposed her to all of the full insanity that is living with RA, I never hid a thing, and I did my best to prepare her for what was to come.

When I was finally satisfied that she could handle it and I was 100 percent sure, I popped the question and took the plunge and, as you well know, it didn’t end up working out. This is why I’m of the mind now that if you meet someone who can handle it, then they can, and if they can’t, then they can’t.

If your partner can handle it, they will

I know that sounds like I’m telling you that it will rain tomorrow or it won’t, but it’s more than that. I am saying that you have to be you and live your best RA life and if your partner can handle it, they will. There is nothing you can do to prepare, soften the blow, or make them more likely to stay if they feel overwhelmed.

I mean, would you even want someone to stay if they felt that way? I can’t imagine that would produce a healthy relationship. In general, when someone feels trapped by pity, you don’t go on a lot of Sunday Funday sexy picnics... which is a thing I heard of. From a friend.

Be you in all your RA glory

If you’ve skipped all the wordy BS in the middle of this post, then let me sum it up here in one sentence. Be you in all your RA glory and don’t worry about mitigating it for your potential partner because, if they are built to handle it, they will; and if not, well, then you’ll have to endure a few awkward non-dairy no-foam half-caf grande cortados. Virtually, of course, because COVID and masks and everything, which makes all that we talked about even more complicated, but that’s for another post. Talk soon.

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