3. Practice an honest, but lighthearted, explanation of your disease. People should be talking more about their arthritis, says James McKoy, MD, a rheumatologist at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, because talking normalizes it and puts any issues on the table. But, of course, you may not want to dump your diagnosis on somebody on the first date. Instead, set a date to tell your potential mate about your arthritis, and plan your approach.  

“Doom and gloom is not the way to go,” says Silverberg. “You want to be realistic about any issues you have, but focus on how you’re living with it. You are living with it. You’re not dead – and you’re not contagious!”

Counter has learned to describe her symptoms in terms people can relate to – like saying she often feels that soreness people have after a hard workout at the gym. “It may be uncomfortable and painful sometimes, but I want people to know that doesn’t mean I can’t still have a normal – and sexual – life!”  

4. Discover what makes you amazing and flaunt it. We’re all very complex people, full of a variety of strengths and skills, says Silverberg. He suggests that developing a passion will help your love life: If you show someone you’re a fantastic cook, a killer card player or a super cyclist, it will keep both of you from focusing on whatever weakness your disease causes.

5. Be open to developing a relationship you already have. Whether you have arthritis or not, love can work in mysterious ways – so don’t ignore romantic signals from or feelings for people you already know. Counter fell in love with a friend – someone who had seen her at her best and worst long before they started dating.

“Sometimes the best person is right there in front of you. He was a great friend, and he knew about my condition but treated me like I was normal. So it was easier to become intimate,” she says. Now she tells people: “Don’t give up on love.”