Married and Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis?—March 14, 2011

Adena Batterman, LCSW, of Hospital for Special Surgery gives advice on managing your condition and your marriage.

When you’re living with rheumatoid arthritis, your husband is too. The disease’s pain and fatigue can strain even healthy relationships. Here’s how to manage your condition and your marriage…

Just remember, he’s facing challenges too. A healthy marriage takes effort from both sides. Here are practical steps to keep your relationship thriving – even when you're feeling your worst.

1. Keep talking
No matter how bad you feel when living with rheumatoid arthritis, don’t shut your husband out. Keep communicating, says Adena Batterman, LCSW, manager of rheumatoid arthritis support and education programs at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

“You may be able to perform tasks one day, but not the next,” she says. “There needs to be an almost daily renegotiation of how you and your spouse will handle these chores.”

2. Express yourself
Tell your partner your thoughts and feelings, Batterman advises.

“The experience of being heard and empathized with promotes intimacy,” she says. “It can bring you closer and strengthen bonds.”

3. Don’t take frustrations out on your spouse
When expressing feelings about living with rheumatoid arthritis, watch your phrasing. Make it clear you’re unhappy with the situation, not your husband.

“Use phrases that start with ‘I’,” suggests Batterman. “Say, ‘I feel’ or ‘I wish,’ not ‘You didn’t’ or ‘Can’t you just…?’”

4. Ask for help
With rheumatoid arthritis, pain and fatigue can make simple tasks - like bathing children, walking the dog and cooking dinner - too tough to handle.

But, again, phrasing is key, so you don’t offend with your demands. Before asking for help, think about exactly what you need, Batterman says.

“Be specific about the task, day and time,” she says. “Be assertive and clear, but not aggressive.”

Start by saying, “I really need help,” she suggests – phrasing it as a request rather than a demand.

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