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What It's Like Dating With a Liver Disease

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Imagine me saying on a first date: “Hi, nice to meet you. I have a chronic liver disease…What’s your name again?” (Hmmm, I think that went well.)

How do I even approach the subject of my illness?

Awkward. The one thing I assume is that it’s going to be awkward.

The story in my head, based on zero facts, is that I’m going to tell this person about my illness and they’re going to:

1. Scream and run away.
2. Start crying because they feel bad.
3. Spontaneously combust.

Of course, all of these options are not dramatic at all, and seem totally possible. Particularly number three. Regardless, the conclusion of the story is that I’ll be left to pick up the pieces, and the check.

What if I wait to tell them? Yeah, that could be a good idea. But that brings up the question: when do I wait until? I look fine on the outside, maybe they’ll never know.

Maybe I won’t have to tell them because it’ll just be a short term thing. Maybe I can just pretend that I’m “normal.” You know, go on a few dates, have great sex, and everything ends before I have to say anything.

Oh wait. Back to the present moment where we’re out having our first date dinner.

I can’t drink because of my liver. I know how this goes, I’m not going to have a drink (no matter how amazing this one date is, it’s not worth a one-way trip to the hospital so I can live out a fantasy.)

I imagine their response being, “You don’t want a drink? Come on, it’s on me. Have a glass of wine.” And I’d reply, “I can’t, really.”  Then I’d watch wheels spinning in their head, coming to one of two conclusions, “Huh. She’s an alcoholic. She’s either in recovery, or pregnant. I’m on a date with a pregnant woman.”

Yeah. I’m thinking, here it comes — brace for impact. Are they going to ask why I don’t drink? Awkward. Awkward, awkward, so f-ing awkward.

With all this swirling in my head I am definitely not present in the moment. I forget the fact, and perspective, that lots of people have parts of themselves that they feel like they’re hiding. That they’re wondering whether or not, or when, to share with someone new in their lives. In fact I have lots of other things that I have like that too.

We want to be authentic, but it’s so vulnerable.

Based off my experiences are, I tell people as soon as I can.

I notice what a challenge that is for me. At the same time, I pay attention to the person’s reaction. It’s true, they may not be able to handle it, and then I’m so relieved to know that. I need to be seen for all of who I am, and this a big part of me. They need to be able to tolerate the discomfort in their own system, still want to get to know me, and hopefully grow with me. And that’s information I need to know at the beginning so that I can fully show up, and not minimize myself or my experience. Nothing is worth me dimming who I am and living with knowing that I’m only being a fraction of myself.

Also, in reality, most people I’ve told have surprised me by their reaction. They’ve understood in the best way they know how, and they’ve usually related with a story of an ex, a family member, or maybe even their own experience with their own illness. My being vulnerable lets someone else be vulnerable too, and we realize how similar and human we actually are. It’s been OK  big sigh of relief.

So, here’s the point: be brave. This is part of who we are, and part of how we get to do relationships. We get to be 100 percent real, true, and us in our relationships. Claim it no matter how uncomfortable and awkward it may seem, and then gather some information about whether this is a genuine connection or not. Scary, but hopefully doable. Trust me, it gets easier over time.

We’re not broken, we’re human. And we deserve to be in relationship. 

Thinkstock Image by encrier

Originally published: March 10, 2017
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