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Why You Shouldn't Be Afraid to Date While Chronically Ill

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I was young and single, with a chronic illness that had left me unable to work. I feared no man would want the trouble of a relationship with a sick person, with someone who couldn’t contribute financially or in certain other ways.

I felt defective. Unlovable. Undeserving. I was terrified at the thought of dating and having to explain my illness.

All these questions would run through my mind.

Do I tell him on the first date or wait? Do I make it sound less severe than it is? How will my emotions handle it when a man I like decides my illness is too much for him?

It’s one thing when you enter a relationship as a healthy, financially stable person. It’s an entirely different thing when you enter it broke and sick.


I didn’t date at all for seven years after my health issues contributed to a break-up. My health wasn’t the only reason we failed as a couple, but it played a part. Some people aren’t cut out for life with a chronically ill partner. Especially when they are young and the possibility of being able to have children is rapidly dwindling due to the health issues.

I was really happy single, for a long time, but eventually I started to want a relationship again. I wanted someone to share the joys of life with. But I was so afraid to take the risk. Rejection is an awful feeling.

A friend I met at a chronic pain clinic changed my life. We became friends. I saw she was actively dating and meeting nice men, despite the fact that she was unable to work and going for pain treatments regularly.

I asked her one day if she’s found that men react poorly to her health. Her words changed my life.

She said, “No, not at all!” She then went on to say she has never had a hard time dating and the men have never minded that she can’t work due to her health. She said, what you do is you explain it like this…

“I have a chronic illness that causes severe pain and other issues. Instead of working, my full-time job involves going for treatments, seeing doctors and taking good care of my body.”

It sounded so simple. Too easy. I was doubtful. Hadn’t they ever bailed on her after finding out about her health? I asked if they’ve ever been upset when she’s been unable to do something or go somewhere.

She said, “All people want is to enjoy being with the person they’re with. To share a connection. To have fun together and be real. You have to give people more credit. There will be men who won’t mind at all. Who will love your personality and click with you. When that happens, your health doesn’t interfere with whether they want to date you. There will be men who can’t handle illness, but they will make it obvious right away and that means you weren’t right for each other anyway. Date! Have fun! Be honest but also be you, not just your illness.”

So, I did. I started dating. None of the men I dated had a problem with the fact that my health prevents me from working and causes me certain limitations. Some wound up not being the right guy for me, but that happens to everyone and it was never to do with my health.

Then, I met the man I’m with today. I told him about my health the first day we met, in the way my friend suggested to me, and it was a non-issue with him. I asked him later why it didn’t scare him. He told me I was so confident and upfront about it that he felt like I was confident in who I was and that I didn’t let my illness define me. That I was positive, but honest, and that really made a good impression. He had no reservations about dating me because I was comfortable with myself.

We’ve now been together for quite a few years. I don’t want to imagine how my life would be without him because he has enriched mine to a degree I never knew possible.

He has stood by me through things that could destroy a couple, yet it has only made our bond stronger.

I’m forever grateful I asked that fellow patient about dating. Without her words I may never have had the courage to date again. What a shame that would have been, because my fears of how a man would react never happened. Not even once.

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Thinkstock photo via nd3000.

Originally published: June 6, 2017
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