Dating can be an intense experience under the best of circumstances. If you have physical limitations from a medical condition, such as arthritis, you may be apprehensive about the dating process, but relationships and dating are part of life. With the right perspective and approach, dating can enhance your life.
There are two primary issues related to dating that haunt people with arthritis. First, many people worry about their ability to keep up with their partner. They believe pain and fatigue will intrude on how often they can go out and what activities they can enjoy together. Essentially, arthritis turns them into Debbie Downer (or the male version of that). If we're being honest, the disease will intrude sometimes. But, you need to learn how to deal with those "down" times and how to take advantage of the days when you are feeling better. Secondly, because people with arthritis worry about being able to keep up with others, they tend to believe they are not worthy of a relationship. Negative thoughts take over. Who would want to go out with me? I'm no fun. I'm too much trouble.
You are hurting yourself by thinking that way, causing your already-fragile self-esteem to further erode. If you maintain a negative mindset, you will carry it into every relationship you ever have -- and it's the worst kind of baggage to bring along. It's self-sabotage. Hit your internal "refresh" button and try a positive approach to dating with arthritis.
Shed the negativity. While it's understandable that living with chronic pain can cause negative feelings to sprout, negativity won't help you cultivate a healthy dating life. Instead, enhance your best attributes, minimize your worst characteristics, and view dating for what it really is -- an opportunity to socialize and to look for a special person who could share your life with you. Those are the ultimate goals, but along the way, create the most impressive "you" that there is and don't forget to enjoy yourself.
Don't conceal your limitations. It's important to stay true to who you are, while dating or in any situation, for that matter. You will never be comfortable trying to be anyone but who you really are. While it's tempting to try to hide pain, disguise your limp, or put your deformed hands in your coat pockets, by concealing, you actually are revealing that you can't accept your own reality.
Communicate honestly. If you are open and honest about your concerns, fears, disappointments, and needs, people will match your level of sincerity. You may encounter people who are interested in you, but they are uneasy because they lack experience with chronic pain. Inspire them to learn more about the disease, through you and other resources. Honesty and good communication will help you and your date to feel more at ease.
Focus on what you can do. Your dating experience will be much more enjoyable if you focus on the things you can do, rather than the things you no longer can do. Arthritis may prevent you from hiking in a canyon, but you may still be able to walk the dog or ride your bike. Discover mutually enjoyable activities to share. If you have to miss a specific event, schedule something in its place which allows you to participate.
Pace your activities without stifling yourself. People with arthritis are often advised against overdoing activities. Pain and fatigue can get out of control if you overdo. Consider what will be required of you during a planned outing or date. For example, if a trip to the zoo is planned and you know that will entail more walking than you are capable of, think of alternatives. Perhaps you could visit the zoo and only walk as much as your health permits. Perhaps using a wheelchair or electric scooter would make it do-able, as well as enjoyable.
Remain flexible. Unfortunately, best laid plans will not always work out. There will be times when you will be forced to cancel a date, miss a concert (yes, even after expensive tickets have been purchased), forgo a big party -- even once in a lifetime events such as graduations and weddings. That's because arthritis is unpredictable and sometimes unrelenting. You can only survive this aspect of living with arthritis by remaining flexible.
Include your partner as the relationship grows more serious. As your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend begins to feel like it has a solid foundation and a promising future, include your partner in every aspect of living with arthritis. Have them accompany you to doctor appointments. Allow them to ask your doctor questions. Have them pick up your prescriptions, bring you your heating pad, push your wheelchair, sit with you while you pay medical bills and more. Don't shield them from reality, engage them.
For more general dating advice check out About.com Dating.