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What I Have to Think About Before Going on a Date With Crohn's Disease

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Dating and chronic illness — that’s an oxymoron isn’t it? It’s dating someone who prefers sweats, albeit very chic sweats but sweats nonetheless, hot tea to wine and checks out exactly where the bathroom is located in every situation especially at the date’s house and one who immediately thinks of how she can swing it so she has a reason to use the bathroom the furthest away from him… like in the basement as opposed to the lovely warm one right off the living room. Whenever I do get a date, I don’t eat the whole day — well, maybe toast… then there’s the “what to wear” question. Jeans? Dress with no waistband? Next that dreaded fear of, what if I get sick. By then I’m so exhausted and it’s only 3 in the afternoon.

First dates are typically pretty superficial so it’s easy to skate the big talk. On date number two, he suspects something is going on as you ordered the exact same thing as you did on date number one… chicken soup. By date number three, he detects a certain pattern — you order soup again. By now he’s wondering if maybe your palate is not developed, you have allergies or maybe no teeth. But she smiles so that can’t be it, he thinks to himself. He’s too polite to ask and I’m silently squirming in my seat… do I tell him or not? So many schools of thought of this very subject. Some say tell him the first date, others say wait. I get so confused! So if I tell him on date number one, of course he’ll be so sad for me and show compassion. If he is a stand-up guy, and things go well energy-wise, he’ll call again. If he doesn’t call again, you’re never sure if it’s the Crohn’s disease or he’s just not that into you. But if I wait and we really hit it off, it’s going to hurt like hell if I tell him about having Crohn’s and he ghosts me.

I was in a long-term relationship  and we were pretty much engaged. I had a high-paying career, which I loved, but ended up getting so sick, I was forced to retire early. I was in and out of the hospital and at home, in bed much of the time. We got into an argument and he said something to me that still haunts me today. He said, “I don’t want to be your nurse!” Whoa… silence filled my insides and I felt like curling up and disappearing. After all those years, did he always think that way? We were best friends. I was devastated and hurt beyond repair.

I ended the relationship and moved back to my hometown to be closer to my family. That was in 2003 and today I still hear his voice. So this subject of dating is hard for me, as it is for many of us warriors. By all accounts, at 59 years old, I’ve heard I’m attractive, but I have always been petite. The last date I had, he said I was a “bag of bones” and kept asking if I gained weight. I wanted to punch him in his head! So as they say, another one bites the dust.

Here’s my thinking: next date I have, I’m telling him right off the bat. Not as in, “Hi, I’m Pamela, I have Crohn’s” but as it naturally might come up when all I order is soup. If it makes him want to cut and run, go for it and I’ll know for sure it’s his loss. But if he stays, is compassionate, wants to know about how it is for me, if his actions match his words, and especially if he gives good foot rubs, I’m in. Because what I know for sure is that because we have suffered so much ourselves, many people with chronic illness are compassion, empathic people. We know how much it hurts from the inside, so we’ll always have your back. If you could just cut us some slack when we’re hurting, we’ll make great partners.

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Thinkstock photo by kieferpix

Originally published: February 17, 2017
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