Chronic illness and dating…I hardly know where to begin.
First, I’m going to follow some advice that I know my mother would give me if I allowed her to sign off on all posts prior to publishing. That is, I’m going to try to avoid putting my foot in my mouth and spoil the possibility of a future relationship with a man who happens upon this blog before I’m able to explain myself.*
I really wish I could frame this post with my secrets to dating when you have chronic health issues. I simply don’t know the answers myself, however, and even though my dating life has had quite an upswing this year, all I’ve really learned is what you shouldn’t do. Maybe I should start there? I don’t know, that seems really negative. Whatever, I’m just going to go for it. (Sorry, Mom!)
Don’t have a hard rule about when you’re going to “disclose.”
I used to try to wait until at least the third date to let a guy know I have some medical frustrations. In my experience, however, conversations that put me in a tough spot usually come up before then. He’ll ask completely standard questions that make me feel like I have to lie, evade, or attempt to answer honestly in a way that doesn’t scare him off. Not one of those things is a talent of mine, by the way.
My favorite example of me stumbling my way through this happened when I made the last-minute decision to go on a first date the night before I had an out-of-town medical procedure. When the evening ran later than I expected, I lied and told him that I needed to head home because I had an early meeting. He was genuinely interested in learning more about my job and inquired further. For the first couple of questions I kept the lie going. When he continued, however, I realized I needed to change course and tell him the truth. Thankfully, he was cool about it, but I still don’t recommend rolling the dice on this one.
Don’t make a big deal about it.
If you don’t put a lot of emphasis on your health, the people around you will probably follow your lead. I try to keep this in mind whenever I decide to tell a date a bit about what’s going on medically, and I’ll drop it into the conversation like it’s no big deal. Once, I downplayed it way too much. That became evident after a few dates passed and he started to realize the truth, and that was the end of that.
Don’t send mixed signals.
I once (okay, many times, but that’s beside the point) agreed to a date that I knew would involve hours of walking. I had this idea that I was going to speak up for myself when I got tired, and I absolutely did not do that. Instead, I followed my usual pattern of gritting my teeth and paying for it on the back end. When he asked me on a second physically-demanding date I had to come clean, and he became rightly confused and felt deceived. Chronic illness symptoms go up and down and can be difficult for those who know me most to understand. It’s on my shoulders to be as clear as possible about how I’m feeling.
Don’t be transparent about your chronic illness on social media and think that a date isn’t going to find it.
In a time where Googling and other forms of online stalking are socially acceptable, I don’t know why I’m surprised when people do their research. I awkward-laughed for a solid three minutes after a date told me very early on that he found my blog and had a few questions. Once I calmed down I was finally able to have a conversation, but it was a good reminder that what I put online is out there for everyone to see.
Don’t miss out on an opportunity.
Sure, chronic illness is “baggage,” but it can be a very useful tool when getting to know a person. While I don’t like to scatter landmines about and wait for a guy to trip up, the truth is that they’re there anyway. I might as well use them to my advantage and learn a little something about him, right? One guy I met recently berated me for choosing to manage my chronic illnesses with methods that are a bit outside of standard Western medicine. It was a really bad date, and even if he hadn’t raised his voice, his getting blackout drunk would have done him in.
Sometimes even the most well-intentioned men respond in ways that I don’t particularly care for because this is unchartered territory for them. I like to give those guys a few extra chances. Other people, though, are simply rude or brash or even a little inappropriate, and my first glimpse of an unwelcome trait happens when the topic of my medical history comes up.
I’m told that when the right guy comes along my health won’t be an issue. I roll my eyes at this when I’m feeling particularly cynical because I have a feeling it limits my pool of eligible men. They’re kind of right, though.
Best of luck out there, everyone!
* To those men, I’m a lovely person with a heart of gold. I’m also very humble. No need to read further.
Image courtesy of Ana Luiza Ornelas.