'Communication is key': Hornchurch mother shares relationship challenges when living with arthritis this Valentine's Day
PUBLISHED: 13:00 14 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:20 14 February 2019
Planning the perfect date for Valentine's Day isn't always easy, especially if your partner has a long term condition that makes scheduling romantic evenings even more tricky.
Catherine Manning from Newmarket Way in Hornchurch was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis when she was 12.
Today she suffers from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.
The 38-year-old shared how her condition has impacted her 13-year marriage to her husband, Paul Manning.
She told the Recorder: “You have to have an open and honest conversation. If you don’t have an open dialogue, one or more parties will feel neglected.
“It’s also going to be hard for the other person who isn’t ill, because they want to make you better.
“Sometimes there’s no spontaneity. I have to take medication and they all come with different side effects.”
The couple often have to cancel plans with their friends last minute because of the pain and fatigue Catherine experiences.
“Sometimes instead of going out we bring the duvet downstairs and watch the TV,” she said.
“The fact that we’ve made the effort is important.”
For Valentine’s Day, Versus Arthritis is working with the charity Relate to look at the challenges that arthritis and long-term conditions can bring to sex, dating and relationships.
They discovered that almost a third - 31per cent - of people with arthritis say their relationship became strained because of the condition.
Speaking about her experiences, Caroline said: “It does put pressure on our relationship. My husband and I have been together for 13 years and at the time I was relatively well.
“He went from being my best friend, my partner and my lover to being my carer.
“It’s a big change for any relationship. First and foremost, we’re friends. We communicate and I try to understand how he feels and and he tries to understand how I’m feeling. Communication is key.
“He’s very special because he loves me for me.”
Catherine first turned to Versus Arthritis (formerly Arthritis Research UK) for advice and support at work.
In 2006 the mother-of-three had to leave her job as a complaints manager because she had to increasingly travel to and from central London for health appointments and take time off work to recover from surgery.
She said: “It could take two hours to get into London and three hours to get home.
“Sometimes my husband would have to carry me out of of the taxi at the end of the day.”
Despite being out of work Catherine likes to keep busy by volunteering with the First Upminster Scout Group.
She also runs The Invisible Challenge on Facebook and is keen to raise awareness about invisible disabilities and conditions.
“I think the more people talk about it, then it will become more common place,” she said.
“Someone once asked me when I was walking around on my crutches if I had been in a really bad skiing accident.
“A lot of people will assume that it’s an old person’s disease. My focus has been making people aware that [arthritis] can affect anyone at any age.”
Unfortunately Catherine and Paul won’t be celebrating Valentine’s Day today while a member of their family is ill, but the mum-of-three explained that they have already set aside some time later in the week to spend with each other.
For more information visit versusarthritis.org.