This Is How It Feels To Date With A Long-Term Health Condition

My advice, if you have a long-term condition like me, is to be upfront about it.
HuffPost UK

The dating world can be tricky at times, but even more so when you have a fluctuating chronic health condition like arthritis. I used to avoid telling dates about my condition because I didn’t want the other person to think I was looking for attention, or for them to get scared and assume they’d have to become a carer for me if we were to have a future together.

But it’s such a big part of my life that if it isn’t spoken about at the beginning and something goes wrong like a flare up, it can end before it’s even started.

I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was 19. In May last year I had a severe flare up, which left me housebound and unable to walk up my own stairs.

When I’ve been dating someone it’s not been uncommon for them to react to my condition by saying “you don’t look disabled” or “I wouldn’t want my child to have it”. So many people don’t understand arthritis, yet it affects over 10 million people in the UK – that’s one in six of us.

Not too long ago I got into a relationship with a friend, who knew me when I got the diagnosis. He knew about my condition when we got together and was really understanding about it. Or so I thought. Eventually my condition started to take its toll on us. I’ve since read that two thirds of young people with arthritis have also said their condition put a strain on their relationship.

If I had a flare up, it would cause tension between us. It affected our social life because I couldn’t always go out, it also affected our sex life. When I was in a flare up even moving was too painful, so it put a real strain on us as a couple.

I ended up feeling rejected and started to shut myself away, which ultimately lead to us deciding to end the relationship. That was really hard to deal with, and something which, alarmingly, 53% of young people with arthritis have also gone through in their relationship, according to the charity Versus Arthritis.

Getting back out and dating again I worried about telling people that I have arthritis, because I didn’t want to put them off. I also didn’t want to feel hurt by comments like “you’re too young to have arthritis”. But I’ve come to realise that there is a lack of understanding generally about the condition. They aren’t trying to be rude, it just means that I have to do a bit more explaining.

I’ve since found that once my condition is discussed and out in the open, positive things start to happen inside my head. I’m able to open up and the relationship becomes like any other loving relationship.

Now, I’m dating someone new and she’s incredibly supportive. I was honest from the start about my condition and what that means for me, and it’s made things a lot easier. If we’re out and I’m in pain, it’s not an issue for us to go home early, or change our plans depending on my mood, and it’s ok with her. She’s always asking how I’m doing, and notices if I’m pushing myself too much.

It’s a breath of fresh air being with someone so considerate and understanding.

My advice, if you have a long-term condition like me, is to be upfront about it. Allow people to ask as many questions as they need, so that they can understand what you’re going through. And be open about how it’s affecting you day to day. That way, the other person understands why you can’t do something, and you can make things better together.

For help and information Versus Arthritis offers a free and confidential helpline service, runs local support groups across the country and has practical information and advice on its website. Visit to find out more.

How It Feels is a weekly blogs series which aims to shine a light on people’s stories, covering subjects where voices are rarely heard. If you want to get involved, please email