Telling a New Partner About Your Arthritis

Dating can be challenging for anyone, especially when telling your new partner that you have arthritis. Use these nine tips when making the big reveal.

1. Telling a New Partner About Your Arthritis
How long should I wait before texting him?” “Did she think my joke was funny?” “How do I know if he really likes me?” Dating can be hard for anyone. Throw having arthritis into the mix, and you’re faced with another challenge: Telling a new partner about your condition. Here are nine tips for making the big reveal. 

Research funded by Alpha Omicron Pi Fraternity and Foundation
2. Time It Right
First dates are for gauging compatibility and attraction. Sharing too soon may be too emotional or serious for the occasion. But waiting too long may bring up trust issues and raise questions about what else you're hiding. When you sense the relationship could turn into something more serious – whether that’s the third date or third month in – let your partner know.
3. Be Honest with Your Intention
If you decide to tell on the first date, that’s OK, too, but be honest with yourself about the intention. Are you looking for emotional support or validation? If so, don’t expect that to happen on a first date with a stranger. But if having arthritis has helped to shape who you are, and you want to share that, it’s probably fine. You may also need to disclose your condition if you have a visible disability or temporary impairment.
4. Be Confident in Your Delivery
When you work up the courage to tell, be confident and optimistic. Using a fearful or depressing tone can make your partner feel the same way about your condition. That might lead to him or her to worry about your future together and think you’re unable to cope with hardship or change. Share your confidence in managing your condition and plans for a healthy, happy future despite challenges that may happen along the way.
5. Make It Casual
Perhaps just as important as how you deliver the news is where. There’s no need to make a big plan. Instead, casually mix it into the conversation. If your partner asks you on a hike and you’re not up for it, tell them why and suggest an alternative. Focusing on what you can do normalizes your condition and makes it seem less daunting. You may have arthritis, but it doesn’t define you!
6. Be Prepared for Questions
Most people don’t know that arthritis can affect younger adults, so expect lots of questions. Be knowledgeable about your limitations, fertility, treatments and future health outcomes. But you don’t have to pretend you have all the answers. Some things about the future will be unknown. Be clear with your partner that arthritis is not a terminal disease and you’ll lead full life while make some adaptations along the way.
7. Focus on the Positives
Disclosing limitations is important, but it shouldn’t be the focus. Share the ways that arthritis has changed your life for the better. Do you appreciate the simpler things in life more? Have you made new friends because of it? Has it brought you closer to your family? Do you volunteer in new ways? Use arthritis to showcase the best version of yourself.
8. Avoid Revealing During Intimacy
Revealing something so personal and heavy during intimacy can kill the mood. There’s also a chance you won’t get an honest response when both of you are caught up in the moment. Disclosing during intimacy can also be unfair to your partner, who might need more time to process the news. Unless your arthritis is going to affect the actual act, it’s best to keep serious conversations outside of the bedroom.
9. Have Realistic Expectations
If you tell someone and don’t get the response you are looking for, all isn’t lost. Just because someone isn’t immediately receptive doesn’t mean they don’t care. It can be difficult to receive difficult or surprising news. Give your partner time to process the information and ask questions. If after a while they aren’t supporting you the way you want, let them know. Otherwise, you may need to decide if this partner is right for you.
10. Don’t Take Rejection Personally
If someone doesn’t stick around because you have arthritis, it’s about them, not you. Life is about weathering the ups and downs. You want a partner who can withstand them with you, arthritis and all. It’s better to know upfront if your condition is a deal-breaker so you can make room for the right person. Everyone experiences rejection, arthritis or not. So, hang in there!

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