7 Tips for Dating With a Chronic Illness
I always knew I would find the right person for me. I just didn’t have any clue when it would happen. I think we all feel this way. We keep wishing we would find the love of our lives, only to be disappointed with bad dates and even worse breakups. That all changed when I met the woman of my dreams, Margaret. From the day we met, I knew she was something special. There is a moment in your life you just know. You get a feeling in your gut that there is just something right about being around that person.
Here are some tips I’ve learned about dating with a chronic illness:
1. Don’t hold back.
People struggle with telling others about their chronic illness. What if they don’t want to be with me because I am sick? What if I ruin our relationship because I can’t do all the things he/she wants to do? What if I am a burden on their life? We all need change our mindset and stop being afraid to share our feelings with the ones we love. I do not necessarily advocate for opening up to someone you have just met; however, after you feel comfortable with them, share your thoughts, fears, feelings and emotions. It is only healthy to be honest with your partner. Some of the hardest yet most fulfilling conversations I have ever had came during moments with my fiancé. Tell your partner how your illness affects you. Tell them how you worry you will burden them in the relationship. Ask them if they are OK with knowing the worst that can come from your illness. These are the conversations that will make or break your relationship. If you find the right person, they will accept your illness and love you for who you are. That is what truly makes a relationship last.
2. Tell the truth.
Ever since I was a child, the only rule I had with my mother is that I would tell the truth. It did not matter what I did, as long as I told the truth. The worst thing I could do was lie. Not because I would get scolded – oh no, it was much worse than that. I would be given the biggest guilt trip of my life. Luckily, this rule has become a huge part of who I am today. In my relationships I am no different. The worst thing you can do in a relationship is lie. Honesty is the key to staying happy. With a chronic illness, being honest can be tough, like when you are out shopping and suddenly feel as though you cannot walk any longer, or when you are emotionally distraught because you are having a flare-up and all of your extremities tingle with numbness. I have been there, and being honest in those moments is extremely tough. A good partner wants you to be honest. They want to help you get through your tough times. Once you find the right person, your honesty will only build their trust.
3. Find the right person.
Most people are lucky. They have friends, family, online dating sites and cheap pick-up lines available for selecting the perfect match. Chronic illness fighters have one more layer to get through. Will your partner be OK with your chronic illness? Wow, that is a tough question for them to answer – but maybe they don’t have to answer it. Just maybe, they can show you they care without saying a thing. I believe everyone in this world has a soulmate. Maybe that is why I went through so much trouble proposing to my fiancé. It may take time, but we need to find the right person who will be there in sickness and in health. They have to be OK with how your illness affects you, and they have to be ready for the best as well as the worst. They have to love you for who you are, but nothing says they have to love your illness. They just have to love you enough to be OK with your illness.
4. Check in regularly with your partner.
Just because your partner has come to terms with your illness today does not mean they will feel the same way tomorrow. Your symptoms change, and so do your partner’s feelings. Checking in with them about your illness is not just a suggestion; it should be a priority. Honesty flows both ways in a relationship. You should expect your partner to open up to you about their reactions to your illness. On the days you are feeling healthy, your partner is most likely not thinking about your illness at all. On the days you have a flare-up, worry is a natural reaction that anyone who loves you will have. Accept the emotions that come from bad days, and check in so you know how your partner is taking it. These conversations are tough, but mandatory for a healthy relationship.
5. Treat each day like it’s your first.
I was once told by a mentor that everything is different when you first try something. On your first day at a new job, you work hard to impress your co-workers. On your first day at school, you take tedious notes and wear the newest clothes. On your first date, you try to have great conversation, wear the nicest clothes and make a true connection. What if you treated each day of your relationship just like your first day? How much differently would you treat your partner? Would you do everything you could to make sure they are happy? With or without chronic illness, this simple mindset change can make a difference in your life. With the first date mindset, you will sustain a healthy relationship that will last throughout the years.
6. Understand your own feelings (before you share them).
In the book “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach, she talks about understanding the mind-body relationship and how to feel your emotions before reacting. When you start to feel stressed, overwhelmed, worried or any host of emotions, pause and take a breath. By pausing before you act, you will center yourself around what is really causing your emotion. Are there specific reasons you are feeling the way you do? This is a great approach with relationships as well as with your chronic illness. There is a huge mind-body relationship. Taking time to understand how your body is reacting to your emotions can help you center your thoughts. Sometimes all we need is a moment to think before we talk. Get in touch with your own emotions before sharing them with others.
7. Know it is hard, but never give up.
All too often, my coaching clients are on the verge of giving up, and I don’t blame them. Life is hard enough without having to worry about your chronic illness getting in the way of your dating life. Most people have to worry about what they are wearing on the first date, while chronic illness fighters are worrying about whether or not they will have enough energy to make it through dinner. It is alright to admit how tough it is to date with chronic illness, but there is only one reason why you shouldn’t give up – hope. Hope that you will find the love of your life. Hope that you will have a family of your own. Hope that you will find someone who will love cuddling on the couch just as much as you do. Hope that your story will have a happy ending. Hope is the reason we get up in the morning. It is why we keep fighting, and why we never give up. Whatever you do, – and you are awesome.
How has dating impacted your life with chronic illness?
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