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Dating While Black and Chronically Ill

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I am black, I am single, I am chronically ill… and I am trying to date. Let me tell you, this is far from easy. Actually, this is probably the hardest thing I have done in my life.

When I was younger, dating was way easier. You go out, you meet a guy, exchange numbers, go on dates, hang out, and then maybe start a relationship. It was pure and the intentions were laid out and men were much more sincere. They took you out and actually showed that they cared, they tried. I also didn’t have 16 chronic illnesses.

Fast forward many years and well, I have found that this dating scene is not what I remember. And I know I have not been out of it for that long. The things that I have encountered have been absolutely awful. So much so I have had to take a step and question: what in the world is wrong with me?

I have had men attempt to verbally abuse me, especially black men, been ghosted as soon as I reveal I have multiple chronic illnesses, been told I don’t deserve love, been continuously propositioned for sex and then told I was a terrible person because I declined and told I am not a normal person because my love languages are Acts of Service and Quality time versus Physical Touch (and no not due to physical abuse or sexual trauma, but because I greatly value my personal space and don’t feel a need to be attached to someone 24/7, which apparently is also a problem for many men).

So how does one begin to address these things? I found that some of these things bothered me more than others, and I needed to get to the root of them. First, I learned that many men’s love languages are Physical Touch. They need to be touched and engage in physical intimacy to feel love. I was not raised that way. In my home, we communicated, we spent time together as a family and did things for each other. That was love. So for me, I enjoy Quality Time and Acts of Service. While I don’t mind learning someone else’s love language, I expect them to learn mine as well.

I also learned, through my schooling and experiences that many men, especially black men, have their first sexual encounter at a young age and are told that sex equals love or affection and are not taught other ways to love someone. Aha! I figured it out. It made sense why they were hyper-aggressive towards me, because I was not a super touchy-feely person, it made sense as to why they would become verbally aggressive when I didn’t respond to their sexual cues.  I realized that I needed to meet them where they were, but at the same time does not bow down to their misogynistic ways.

I also realized that many men, especially men of color, have never experienced life with someone like me (a well-educated, well-experienced, well-read woman) and don’t know what it is like to be a giver; they only know taking. The thought of having a partner who has lived a great life and can use her words but also has multiple chronic illnesses scares them. They may have to move out of their comfort zone and that scares people. Instead of men saying they are not OK with this, I have been told I talk too much, I use too many words, I am too smart or I am too sick to date (yes I was really told I am too sick to date). I have made peace with this. I will just wait for that person who understands and isn’t afraid of navigating the unknown and being as much of a giver as I am.

Lastly, I do deserve love. Everyone on this Earth deserves love, regardless of their situation of life. Me being chronically ill does not make me any less deserving of love. About 75 percent of the men I have attempted to date have told me I don’t deserve love because of my conditions. Mostly because I am not a sex fiend or because I am a homebody because of my conditions or because I don’t go out and party and drink. In my eyes, life is not made up of ones ability to party, drink, or do drugs, but your ability to make an impact on the lives of others. And I feel I do that every day through my job and my writing. Just because I have several life-changing and life-shortening conditions, doesn’t make me less of a human. I deserve everything I was put on this earth to receive, and that includes love.

What has dating as a black, chronically ill woman taught me? Well I will tell you. This is hard. Harder than taking my meds every day, harder than going to my appointments, harder than getting infusions. It is harder than knowing one day one of my illnesses will take my life. I have always been able to talk myself up and tell myself everything is OK and you are invincible and an amazing woman. But this dating thing? This dating thing knocked my confidence down to a solid 0. The continuous rejection and ghosting and being told you are damaged goods all because life happened to you made me want to cancel all my profiles and just get a pet rock (yes a rock, not even an animal).

What put me down the most was that black men were the most cold-hearted and disrespectful towards me than any others, and that hurt the most. All I wanted was to find a dope mate, someone to talk to, maybe pass the time at appointments on occasion, go on walks with, have dinner with on occasion… is that too much to ask? I don’t think it is. Instead I get unwanted solicitations for sex, disrespectful tirades because I am different and plain old ghosting. Maybe one day I will find a nice southern gentleman, with good values, who is respectful and wants to build a relationship… is that too much to ask?

Image via contributor

Originally published: October 12, 2022
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