5 Tips for Online Dating When You Have an Illness or Disability


Valentine’s Day is fast approaching – when the feeling of loneliness, of not being with a special someone, can become much more pronounced. With all of the romantic relationships being expressed around us, it is hard to not have someone to celebrate with (even if it is only to go and buy chocolate on the next day when it goes on sale). As such, many of us may turn to dating applications and websites in the hopes of finding a Valentine’s date.

But that is when things become difficult for a person with a disability or chronic illness. The fear of rejection for the simple reason of needing a mobility aid or some kind of medical equipment is ever-present. So here are some tips about how to feel comfortable in the online dating world with a disability.

1. Setting up the profile

This is the most basic step, but also the most complicated. A million questions will come up – should I show my mobility aid, should I hide my medical equipment? How much of my face do I show? What do I do?

The answer is perhaps more simple in writing than in practice – do what makes you comfortable. I myself do have a picture up of myself with my cane, but is it my main photo? No, the person looking would need to find the photo. Nonetheless, it is there. If you choose to not have it visible, that is totally fine. If you have something obvious, like a feeding tube, side shots of your face or you snuggling a cute animal or leaning on a friend’s shoulder (with their permission of course!) can provide a way of showing your face without drawing attention to the obvious thing. Get your friends to help you come up with some photos that you feel comfortable and happy with, and make it a fun and relaxing hang out!

But is that not deceptive you ask? I would say no, because you are not obligated to tell anyone what you have to deal with in terms of your disability or illness.

2. Should I write down that I have a condition of some kind?

Again, you are not obligated to tell anyone anything, and it is completely up to your discretion as to what you do or do not do. Personally, I do not say anything about my condition itself in my profile, except acknowledge that I need the cane to “keep my awesomeness upright.” If I am asked in a private message, I will usually respond to them with “I have a chronic condition.” If I do end up going on a date with them, at that point I may or may not tell them I have MS.

3. When do I need to tell them what I have?

I have seen this question debated on so many support forums, and I have come to the conclusion that, again, it is up to you. You are the best person to judge whether or not the person is “ready” to hear about your condition or not. However, I do feel it is important to have an open discussion early on into the relationship, because the longer it is put off, the less it will be an explanation of the illness so much as “why did you not tell me sooner?” My best tip is to provide an explanation of how you deal with it (not too medical or too gory since not everyone can handle those gritty details) and encourage the other person to do some of their own research and ask you questions. That way, you are creating a dialogue and also making it an approachable subject to your partner.

4. How do I deal with the trolls?

Block them and report them. If they cannot respect you as the person who you are, then they are not worth your time. This is true of those people who you tell about your illness and they disappear.

5. The good people are few and far between and it is discouraging.

Instead of seeing it as a negative, see it as a positive. As individuals with disabilities and chronic illnesses, we have no time to waste and limited energy to spend – so instead of using our stores up on people who are worth little, we should only spend it on people who are worth a lot. Besides, as the quote goes, “if you cannot handle me at my most ill, you definitely are not worth my spoons!” (or at least, that is how I believe the quote should go).

Finally, remember, online dating is definitely not for everyone. If you are not finding it is for you, then you are definitely not alone and you are definitely not a “failure.” Delete the app or take a break, and maybe visit some locally accessible places – who knows, maybe you will run into your date there!

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