Navigating the Dating World When You're Divorced and Chronically Ill


I had left behind the dating world for nearly seven years and I thought I was leaving it behind permanently. However, after my marital separation and divorce, I found myself once again dating. I was suddenly thrust back into situations calling for me to decide when, what and with whom to share the details of my chronic illness.

I previously shared how I’ve chosen to disclose my health and particularly my past with an ostomy. I am much more confident in my disclosures than I once was when I was younger. I’m now comfortable with someone not accepting me because of my health. I’ve learned that if someone can’t accept my health, then I don’t need that person in my life. In fact, events of the last year have lent to my improved ability to let go in general.

Dating with a chronic illness after a divorce has been interesting, to say the least. I’ve become increasingly open about the details of my health and illness with suitors and I’ve been met with overflowing acceptance. I’ve always been accepted by those I’ve shared my health with previously; however, this time around the dating world has been filled with even more acceptance. Perhaps dating in my 30s is part of the difference, as we tend to view the world, ourselves and others in a different light than we did in our younger years. This may also explain the differences in reactions I’ve experienced since re-entering singledom.

Although I’ve been accepted by each partner, there were some very different reactions. My suitors ranged from, “I’m ready to take care of you in whatever fashion required” to “I can’t lose you early on in your life.” While one suitor was eagerly ready to spend whatever amount of time my life holds caring for me and my health needs, another suitor was so concerned about losing me early in life due to the likelihood of cancer that he wasn’t sure he would be able to handle a romantic life with such a very real expiration date.

I was shocked to actually encounter someone who was so concerned about being able to handle the real possibility of my own death at a relatively young age. I am accustomed to death, particularly the threat of my own, that sometimes I forget what others may feel or experience in relation to my own mortality. I also wondered if this person would be the individual those of us with chronic illness all dread: the person who leaves because of their own inability to handle life with chronic illness.

I’m not sure how we guard ourselves against such individuals, as I haven’t truly been in such a situation. Guarding our hearts is a wise move to a certain degree. At some point, we either must trust our partner or we must let go. The degree to which we scrutinize our potential life partners varies from person to person and experience to experience. I can only urge others to be aware of their own comfort levels and move within those boundaries. We aren’t required to move past those boundaries until we are ready, whatever those boundaries may be.

Dating isn’t always the easiest lifestyle and chronic illness can complicate dating life. However, I view loving yourself first and finding your own happiness as a fundamental key to tackling life, including the dating world. We don’t need to seek love and acceptance from others when we find love and acceptance within ourselves. Once we have conquered this feat, any love and additional acceptance from others becomes a shared joy rather than a request for validation and esteem we have yet to afford ourselves.

I found part of accepting my life and, in particular, my divorce was to also accept the possibility of spending the remainder of my life alone. With marriage, I had a lifetime caregiver if needed. With divorce, I gave up that lifetime caregiver for a life of uncertainty on my own terms. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’ve accepted the unknown. I do know that no matter what is in store for me, I create my own happiness and I can survive. The dating world is no different — we hold within ourselves the power for happiness and survival.

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