What It's Like Being Single With a Chronic Illness
Navigating the world of dating and relationships is tough enough — add the physical and emotional demands of a chronic health condition, and keeping a relationship going can be difficult, to say the least. If you have a chronic illness and are single, you are not alone — there are many in your position who, whether by choice or necessity, are also living the single life.
To shed some light on the experiences of these single spoonies, we asked our single Mighty community members what life is like for them. They revealed that while there are challenges of going through life without a partner, there are also some advantages to being able to devote all your attention on your own self-care. It is possible to have a successful relationship while one or both of you is sick. The most important thing is to do what’s best for you.
Here’s what the community told us:
1. “I worry no one will want to be with me because I am ‘broken.’ I also feel like it would be cruel to ask someone else to go through this with me. I currently live with my mom. She helps me some, but I think a husband would be more helpful. I’m glad I don’t have kids right now with everything out of control. I don’t want to keep having to cancel dates because I don’t feel well. It’s a hard position to be in.”
2. “Benefits = less stress, you have more time to focus on yourself, no commitments, you’re able to prioritize yourself first without feeling ashamed, less guilt for canceled plans.”
3. “It’s hard to let someone in on who the real ‘you’ truly is. It’s difficult when you look completely healthy but have chronic pain to explain to someone that you actually don’t feel well. The limitations of where to go, where you can go ‘comfortably,’ will there be standing? too much sitting? Are all thoughts that go through my mind when I have a date.”
4. “On one hand it’s good because you don’t have to constantly be put together or wonder how that surgery or hospital stay is going to affect others. But on the other hand it’s… isolating? It’s hard to be constantly surrounded by couples and have no one beside you. Especially when you’re already in pain or feeling sick. Sometimes it makes you feel like you’re too broken to be loved.”
5. “Being single with a chronic illness is kind of a relief, at least compared to being in a relationship or dating. It’s terrifying and overwhelming to put yourself out there…. When do you tell them your health issues? Should you be upfront? Should you wait? It’s all tricky.”
6. “I do not have the mental energy to include someone else in my life right now, and I am perfectly OK with that. I need to take care of me until I’m doing better.”
7. “The challenge of being single and having a chronic illness and anxiety is living in a constant state of fear that I won’t ever be good enough for anyone. I know I don’t need to be in a relationship, but the pressure placed on women in our society doesn’t make life easy.”
8. “I can focus a lot more on myself and not have to worry about letting someone down or worrying about how they’re going to deal with things. It’s the freedom to actually feel sad or happy and not have it directly affect the other person.”
9. “It’s hard being single and sick, especially young. I’m really romantic and definitely want to settle down (the sooner the better!) but it’s truly hard in this generation. You feel embarrassed by the question, ‘What do you work as?’ Because your job is taking care of yourself. You’re embarrassed by the ‘Where do you study?’ question because you had to leave education for your health. It’s a game of comparison.”
10. “I don’t know how many LGBT people with chronic illness and/or chronic pain are out there… or if it is truly any different for heterosexual people, but being single with a chronic illness is lonely, frustrating, depressing, and completely discouraging! Though, I have to admit… it at times is a relief.”
11. “Honestly I mostly find it has benefits… I need to put so much energy in getting through the day that I don’t have any left for anyone else. The only challenge is on the worst days, where you think you’re a strong independent woman but can’t seem to get out of bed. On those days it would be easier to have someone around.”
12. “I don’t honestly have the time or energy to accommodate a boyfriend at the moment. I have a 3-year-old who takes up all my time even when I’m really suffering. So a benefit I can think of would be just to have someone there to help with looking after him if I’m really bad. But if I’m actually having an all right time I’m happier just me and my son because he can have all the attention.”
13. “I think the hardest thing is not having someone there to come home to and have a good vent or cry to. Someone who can grab you a drink or help you around when you’re too unwell to move. Someone to hold you and help you feel loved, protected and supported. Sometimes it’s easy to feel all alone when you’re home alone in pain and scared and there’s nobody there to share the load.”
14. “I find it difficult to trust.”
15. “I often think having a best friend that is willing to be there for me and help me out when I need it is better than a boyfriend or husband who cannot understand how debilitating reflex sympathetic dystrophy is (both mentally and physically)… For me, I would rather be alone and have the support of friends.”
16. “I worry no guy will want to live this life with me. I worry it makes me seem different. I worry that because of my illnesses, people don’t look at me romantically.”
17. “For the moment, I am happy being single because I’m going through a flare-up of my ulcerative colitis and as many people have said, I just do not have the energy to worry about another person. Plus I have great support from my family and friends, which means the world. I’m 24, diagnosed at 14, and have been single my whole life. Honestly, I feel like I am stronger because of it. I know I can deal with my illness by myself. Of course it would be nice to have someone to do all the little things and hold your hand when the pain gets too much, but until then, I am fine by myself.”
What is it like being single while living with chronic illness? What are the challenges and benefits? Share in the comments below.