Single, childless and suffering with RA
Last updated: May 2023
In various support groups for rheumatoid arthritis, I see so many posts from people whose husband, wife or significant other is unsupportive, has no desire to understand RA and many who ultimately end up with destroyed relationships.
The partners don’t understand the debilitating fatigue. They don’t understand the pain levels. They don’t think the condition or severity is real. They don’t like the limitations it places on their own lives. And so they leave.
But this is not my reality. My reality is I’m 24 and single. I’ve never been in a relationship. And when I think about potential relationships though, I worry at what point I will have to tell them that this disease is destroying me. I worry at what point I’ll have to tell them that I may not be able to work full time or at all by the time I’m 40.
I wonder what man would bother to walk into a relationship with so many limitations, why they would stay with someone likely to be a cripple, when they could find someone active and sporty and as energetic as they are. Why would they choose someone who spends most of their free time in bed?
If I find someone that could accept all these things, could I let them be burdened by my ill health, my limitations, the stress and emotions that come with it all? I struggle to consider that I would enter into a committed relationship, always concerned they might end up resenting me for all I couldn’t do.
Will they hate eating the same meal for the fourth day in a row, because I don’t have energy to cook more than necessary?
Will they despise the fact they have to do housework even though they work more than me?
And would we just end up another marriage or relationship destroyed by this damn disease that seems to rob us of everything else?
If I am to find this crazy man, who can look past all of this, while I am still young enough to childbear, is being a mother something I could actually do?
I held a 9 week old baby recently, and I marvelled at her gorgeous tiny features and how sweet she was when she fell asleep in my arms. And then the pain kicked in. My arms became heavy and weak. My back went into spasms. All for 20 minutes of holding a 9 week old.
How could I rock my screaming child to calm them? How could I hold my baby to breastfeed? How could I play with my toddler on the floor?
Is it really fair for me, if I ever actually get to the point of it being a possibility, to have a child, knowing that I would be half the mother anyone else would be?
Before I even get to actually being pregnant, will it be manageable for me to go off all of the medications that would harm a baby?
I don’t really have any resolutions for these questions. But I do hope I’m not alone in all these questions, in the frustrations of the uncertainty of this disease destroying us.
With all these questions I’ve raised, all these doubts and uncertainties, how do I live with this?
I try to remember that although society seems to say that you are only half a person and need to be completed by a significant other, by an other half, that I am a complete person, on my own.
And although society says that I have value in a relationship and I need a man to look after me, I have value just in who I am, on my own, and I don’t need to be dependent on a man for that, or for anything else.
Although there always seems to be some sort of pressure, sometimes verbalised and sometimes just a silent expectation, that I should be in a relationship and seeking a husband, I am better off in no relationship than the wrong one.
So for my fellow singles, take heart, you are not alone. You have value and are a complete person. Enjoy your friendships and all they have to offer. You are loved with or without a significant other!
Did you know rheumatologist Dr. Donica Baker is answering community questions?
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