So you’re ready to put yourself out there and start dating with a chronic illness, but have no clue where to start.
Dating in the 21st century is hard. I mean you have to go outside, meet new people, get to know someone new on an intimate level, and TALK!
Did I mention that you have to go outside? The introvert in me cringes at the thought.
Then there is this little thing called COVID-19 hanging around making everything much more complicated. Throw a chronic illness into the mix and things get a bit more difficult.
It had not even been 12 months after being diagnosed with idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) before my husband and I separated. Now a 36-year-old two-time divorcee, I find the dating world to be… challenging.
Being a single mother with a chronic illness, I’d be lying if I said the thought that I may come with too much “baggage” didn’t cross my mind. It took some time to come to the realization that that’s simply not the case.
My chronic illness doesn’t make me any less valuable as a partner. I have many positive things to contribute to a relationship and that’s what I choose to focus on. So should you. Here are my tips for dating with a chronic illness.
Chronic Illness Dating Tip #1: Love Yourself First
This is an important one guys, so if you’ve zoned out already, I’m going to need you to zone back in.
Whether it’s due to past trauma, the fact that we were never taught, or something else entirely, most of us have had to learn to love ourselves in one way or another.
Self-reflection is key. Learn about who you are as a person and reflect on who you were. Figure out what you want in a relationship and what you need out of one. If you need to seek out a therapist, support group, or confide in a close friend or family member to help you through the process then do so.
Eat healthy, exercise, read, write, treat yourself to a movie or a spa day. Self-love is a lifestyle that should be practiced daily.
You can’t expect to love someone else properly if you can not love yourself.
That is the question…
When and/or if you decide to share your diagnosis is strictly up to you.
Whether you want to wait it out to see where things go first or you want to come out with it straight out the gate, whatever your choice is, it’s valid.
You are not obligated to share your illness on the first date, but if you eventually see yourself being with this person for the long haul, the sooner you tell them the better. You don’t want to wait too long and make them feel as though you were hiding something from them when you were simply protecting your privacy.
Me? I’m the type of person who doesn’t wait around to share my diagnosis. I want potential partners to know exactly what they are getting into so that they can make an informed decision as soon as possible, but that’s just me.
You do what’s best for you.
Chronic Illness Dating Tip #3: Educate Educate Educate
This is one of my favorite things to do. I get excited when someone asks me about my illness because it gives me a chance to educate them.
If you don’t live with a chronic illness then you won’t know how it feels to live with one, but I commend individuals who at least attempt to understand what the person with the illness is going through. It shows, if even in some small way, that you care, and I am happy to oblige!
When they genuinely want to know, educate them!
Having an understanding of what happens when flare-ups occur and what to expect makes for healthy communication and bonds between you and your partner.
If it seems as though they are overwhelmed by the information, give them time to process.
I’m sure you remember how you needed time after getting your diagnosis. So be kind and let them process in their own time.
If they stay… great! If they leave… eeeeeeeven better! I’d rather a person tell me that they can’t deal and part ways than have them stick around and be miserable.
Chronic Illness Dating Tip #4: Exercise Patience
What is something that everybody wants but nobody wants to give? You give up?
This is my number one requirement in life in general. You need to exercise patience in your everyday life. Patience with people and patience with yourself. It is OK to feel whatever way you are feeling at any given time. I can’t express enough the importance of caring for yourself.
Practice patience in your search for love.
If your potential partner doesn’t command the art of being patient then he/she is not for you.
As individuals who live with chronic illness(es) there are times when we need a moment. We have to slow down. We may not be able to do the things today that we were able to do the day before. It’s not our fault, so be patient with us as we are trying to be patient with ourselves.
Please and thank you.
Chronic Illness Dating Tip #5: Sorry Not Sorry
Let me briefly mention how worthy you are of love.
You are worthy in so many ways. Your strength makes you worthy. Your bravery makes you worthy. Your transparency makes you worthy. Shoot, the fact that you got out of bed today and walked around in your PJ’s makes you worthy. *Double snaps*
You are worthy of everything that love has to offer dear one and having a chronic illness doesn’t change that. Your illness is a part of who you are. It’s a part of your identity. Do NOT apologize for being YOU.
Dear Potential Partner
Peter has been dating his girlfriend, who has had a chronic illness for over two years. I asked him what were some things he felt partners of people who have a chronic illness(es) should know. This was his response:
“Do your research and ask questions. Find out as much about your partner’s illness as possible. Knowing what your partner can and can’t participate in can make or break a date.” “Also be patient and communicate. It’s important to be aware of what your partner is going through and to be knowledgeable on the subject.”
Dating someone with a chronic illness shouldn’t be seen as a burden. We are capable of being involved in a “normal” relationship.
You don’t have to tiptoe around us. We are ordinary people. Take the time to get to know us.
Go Put Yourself Out There
I don’t have to tell you that dating apps are kind of a thing.
Go try one… or three.
And remember to have fun!