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More Than Just on Valentine's Day

Mariah explains why, when battling arthritis, the "small things" really do count.

Sad Bears

If you forget about the flowers, chocolates, and opportunities for card companies to make money, Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about showing your partner how much you love and appreciate them. Personally, I think it’s a little bit silly that we only set aside one day a year to do this. Instead, I try to let my husband know how much I appreciate him as often as possible.

While it may be my joints that get creaky when my rheumatoid arthritis (RA) flares, I’m not the only one who has to deal with the consequences of my arthritis. There are only a few people who truly understand how much RA affects my life -- but there are even fewer who realize how much it affects my husband’s life. Still, despite this lack of recognition, my husband has somehow found the energy to be endlessly supportive as I battle my RA.

For starters, he makes an effort to join me at important doctors appointments, to help me remember all the questions I wanted to ask and to be an extra pair of ears. He fights with our health insurance when I just can’t deal with it anymore. Despite his fear of needles, he is always willing to help me with my shots. He opens jars and carries heavy things and takes out the trash – and I don’t even have to ask him to do these things for me. (Ok, to be fair, sometimes I have to remind him about the trash!)

Valentine’s Day tends to provoke expectations about romance -- where everything is supposed to be perfect. But, here in reality, life is hardly ever perfect. And when you have arthritis, some days are a whole lot harder than others. I really think that it’s on those days that we ought to be showing our love and appreciation for the people who support us the most. At least, that’s what I always try to do.

Even when he has had a rough day himself, he is always willing to listen to my complaints and frustrations. He cooks for us if I am running low on energy and he always gives me the seat with extra legroom, even though he is taller. If I have a particularly painful day, he’ll massage my joints or run me a bath. And if I have to limp to keep moving, he’ll slow down and hold my hand. He makes me laugh when I feel like nothing could possibly be funny. He is patient with me if I accidentally take out my emotions on him.

Because of my RA, his path to fatherhood has also been a unique one. He had to support me through six months of weaning off my medications. Then, when it was finally safe to conceive, he was ridiculously understanding about my aches, pains, and limitations. These days he is gearing up to support me as much as possible during my almost inevitable post-birth flare. The other day we spent three hours at the baby store, folding and unfolding strollers and buckling and unbuckling car seats, to make sure I’d still be able to work everything with creaky joints. I know he’s going to make a truly amazing dad and I am more grateful than I can describe to have him as my partner.

Valentine’s Day tends to provoke expectations about romance -- where everything is supposed to be perfect. But, here in reality, life is hardly ever perfect. And when you have arthritis, some days are a whole lot harder than others. I really think that it’s on those days that we ought to be showing our love and appreciation for the people who support us the most. At least, that’s what I always try to do.

So if you are lucky enough to have a partner who supports you, I hope you will let them know exactly how much they mean to you – no matter what day of the year it is.