Dating in your 20s is difficult. Now let’s try adding the stresses of dealing with dating during the “cyber age” of Tinder, OkCupid, Grindr and every other badly named dating app out there. It’s fair to say that we haven’t really perfected the process of finding the “One” or even the “One for right now.” I’m going through the process of trying to find my soulmate in an endless mobile view of shirtless pics and guys only looking for “friends with benefits.” I remember thinking in my younger years about what my dating life would be like when I moved to the big city. I kept seeing visions of me coming down the stairs of my newly renovated brownstone in my funky-unique date night outfit, greeted by my Anderson Cooper lookalike. Yes, I’m a Carrie.
Lately my “Sex and the City” dating life has more accurately resembled an episode of “The Walking Dead:” Me, in a crowded bar with guys endlessly staring open mouthed at their cell phones like zombies instead of actually engaging with the people around them. Let’s be honest, it blows. But let’s say for instance, you have found the “One.” Everything is going great and you’re ready to make a commitment and change that Facebook status. There’s only one problem: you haven’t told them you have lupus.
I’ve struggled with this a lot. I’ve gotten close to potential partners and everything is going swimmingly until I tell them about my chronic illness. It’s usually greeted with the phrases:
“Wow, you don’t look sick.”
“I know someone who has that.”
“Oh, um, can I catch it?”
Here’s the thing — as much as I wanted to be angry at them for saying these things, I can’t. They might actually have no clue how to address someone with my condition, and don’t know how to react. I’ve had years upon years of getting used to the idea of having lupus and it’s not something I always think about. That poor adorable guy across from me who just received this information, he’s trying to process everything I just told him.
The first thing I usually tell the guy is to not look anything up on the internet. I made the mistake of doing this when I was diagnosed and was bombarded with awful images and stories of death, despair and butterfly rashes. The internet is a scary place.
The only thing I can do is to simply answer their questions and try to make them understand my illness. Yes, I am not my diagnosis, but lupus is a huge part of my life and is something I will deal with forever, so if my guy can’t handle the thought of that, then I don’t blame him for leaving. I might be sad or angry at them at first, but then I think about the physical, emotional and mental strength I had to acquire over the years as I dealt with the ups and downs of lupus. Also, people are generally afraid of things they don’t understand. Simply put: Some people just aren’t strong enough to deal. And that’s OK. I wouldn’t want to be with someone who can’t deal with my inability to walk sometimes or my constantly being tired due to fatigue. As difficult as it is to want to shut down when my partner asks me about my illness, I have to remember: They are asking because they care and they want to know more. And that’s a great thing.
I’m very quick to be defensive about my illness. If I want to find my soulmate, I have to be willing to take down those walls I put up when I was diagnosed. It’s a learning process, but the goal for all of us out there swiping is to find someone who accepts us (and our illness) for who we are.
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