Good relationships are central to our emotional wellbeing. All relationships go through happy times and difficult times, and having a long-term condition such as arthritis can present challenges. However, being honest and upfront with the people you are close to, and spending time listening to each other, helps both you and them.
Arthritis means asking for extra help, and it’s not always easy. You may have to rely more on your spouse, partner or family, and you may not be comfortable with this.
You might worry about doing your fair share at work, or keeping the respect and friendship of colleagues. Some people stop going out as much, or give up their hobbies, and see their social life drifting away.
Relationships and emotions
Many of the emotions that come with arthritis are linked to our relationships. Worrying about being a burden and feeling misunderstood are two examples. Anger, frustration and sadness are also hard on the people we care about.
For family and friends
If someone you care about has arthritis, you want to be there for them. But it’s not always easy.
Perhaps you are helping with appointments, transport, or tasks at home. Maybe you provide personal care, like washing and dressing. You might have money worries too, which compound these problems.
If you’re caring for someone with a long-term condition, you can become depressed, isolated, anxious and/or stressed. It’s important to look after your own wellbeing. Try some of the tips in this booklet for yourself. Let your GP know you are a carer, and ask your local council* for a carer’s assessment, which can open the door to benefits and services.
* In Northern Ireland, ask the local social services department.
The key to good relationships is trust, which depends on open communication. If something is bothering you, try to talk about it. To keep the conversation calm:
- Introduce the subject gently – use ‘I’ statements to ‘own’ your feelings
- Be aware of body language
- Focus on the problem, not on blame – talk about how things make you feel and what would help you
- Calmly explain your feelings
- Ask how they feel
- Listen without judging.
Many people with arthritis feel isolated. This can be due to stopping paid employment, not carrying on with the activities you enjoy, and generally being less active.
Research tells us that feeling connected to other people is essential for our emotional health and wellbeing, so it’s a priority. Here are some ideas:
- Look for new ways to stay in touch with family and friends. Can you talk on the phone, or online?
- Plan ahead and manage your arthritis, so you can carry on doing the things that matter to you. An occupational therapist can suggest adjustments, so ask your GP or social worker for a referral.
- Consider volunteering. Everyone has something to offer, and helping others is rewarding.