A chronic condition like PsA requires so much time and attention that it can feel like you already have a significant other — and a needy one at that.
This is a conundrum neither Harry nor Sally had to face. Perhaps this is how they made romance look so easy.
If the very idea of dating makes you sigh with exhaustion, we get it. Coupling up is never compulsory, and being single also has its perks. (We’ve heard Béyonce songs. She’s not single herself but sure puts forward a convincing case in her lyrics.)
However, dating can be quite fun. Intimacy can flood our bodies and brains with feel-amazing chemicals that can be good for physical and mental well-being. And who doesn’t love a humble brag to their friends about going for dinner with a special someone?
Yet, dating is not without its hazards. You might worry about rejection, especially with a chronic condition playing the third wheel.
That’s why we put together this dating pep talk for anyone with PsA who’s looking to dip their toe, swollen or otherwise, into the dating pool.
PsA might feel overwhelming at times. Symptoms can include the invisible, like pain and fatigue, and the visible, like swollen joints and inflamed patches of skin.
But while having a chronic illness can seem all-consuming, it’s not who you are.
Sure, having PsA has likely molded you in many ways. Maybe you’ve tapped into a newfound resilience or strength from having to cope. Perhaps PsA has given you a different outlook on life or shaped where and how you seek joy.
Thinking about how chronic illness and your life intersect can make PsA feel less defining. This can boost your confidence in all that you have to offer a potential partner.
It is important to remember that your illness doesn’t define you, whether you’re creating an online dating profile or wondering what you’ll talk about over the chips and guac. You are all the traits that make up your unique personality.
Make a list of your characteristics, hobbies, goals, etc. If you aren’t quite sure what makes you you, ask a trusted friend to share some of your plusses and unique quirks.
Armed with a sense of self, you’ll be able to navigate any first date with aplomb. Plus, you’ll feel fierce the entire time.
Only you can decide when it’s time to tell your date or partner that you have PsA and how much you want to share. The conversation will inevitably present opportunities to clue someone in about your chronic illness in small doses.
If you follow a special diet, for example, your date might ask why you ordered gluten-free pasta. You can simply let them know that doing so helps you manage symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. You can add more context or dive back into your salad.
However, if you continue to see someone, you may want to provide them with more context. Openness is the foundation of a great relationship. So the PsA will come up sooner or later.
The Arthritis Foundation recommends sharing honestly and openly about PsA. And if the person you’re dating doesn’t want to approach the topic, they’re not worth your time.
Doing so can be helpful to ease any stress or anxiety you may have about making additional plans. Mountain biking may be too jarring on your joints, for example, but you might be game for a ride to the farmers market.
If your budding S.O. knows your preferences and needs, they can help plan the best ways to spend time together. Sometimes that may be at home with Hulu, hot tea, and a heating pad.
A reality of having PsA also means that occasionally you may have to change or cancel plans altogether, especially if you’re having a flare-up.
Clarity about PsA’s place in your life opens the lines of communication — a valuable thing for any relationship. When you feel safe sharing about your condition, you’ll also feel supported.
That sense of comfort and trust can be a huge bonus of dating for people with chronic conditions.
Another big yay of dating is pleasure between the sheets. However, if you’ve got PsA, you might feel a little anxious about the anticipation of sex, a hot-and-heavy makeout sesh, or even just a cozy cuddle.
It’s not just PsA that can make the idea of sex stressful. Psoriasis often has effects on the skin before PsA pops up to make your joints feel stiff and swollen.
If inflamed patches of skin make you feel self-conscious about showing your bod, think about what you can wear that makes you feel comfortable and sexy. That might involve dimming the lighting or wearing lingerie or other clothing that makes you feel confident.
However, even a simple, frank conversation with your partner about your condition can help the two of you move the sexual side of your relationship along at a comfortable pace.
As if you weren’t having to process enough, psoriasis can affect any part of the body, including the genitals or other erogenous zones. And the friction of the Nude Horizontal Foxtrot can irritate these areas.
Flare-ups in these areas can make sex a chore — and it should never feel like that. It’s best to talk to your doctor about how to treat psoriatic sores in sensitive areas, increase comfort, and protect tender skin.
Joint pain can also dampen the atmosphere. Certain positions just may not work for you, even if you aren’t attempting the “erotic accordion.” Work together to find comfortable, pleasurable positions. Plus, physical intimacy can take many forms.
Whether you’re playing tonsil hockey or pucking like pros, one of the best ways for couples to have exciting, mutually satisfying sexytime is to keep the lines of communication open at all times.
Although talking to your date, partner, or potential S.O. about your condition is important, seeking support outside your romantic relationship is equally crucial.
No one knows what you’re going through like other people with PsA. So find ways to connect with them.
The Arthritis Foundation provides peer-led local Live Yes! groups, where you can connect with others who are trying to navigate the already complex worlds of dating and intimacy with similar symptoms.
Whether you’re on the hunt for quick flings or a lasting connection, try to avoid feeling guilt or shame about your chronic illness.
We know that’s easier said than done. But remember that PsA is not your fault and does not define who you are. The right partner should love everything that makes you unique and will accept you, overactive immune system included.
Although you can’t just take PsA symptoms out of your dating experience, anyone worth your time will support your needs when it comes to spending time together or becoming physically intimate.
Now go get ’em!