Dating with a chronic illness is the only dating I’ve known. There is the struggle of when to share what personal detail of your illness. There is a fear that you will get attached and they won’t be able to handle your illness. There is the worry that there is no one out there that gets it and you will always be alone. These worries are justified – I have met more terrible people while dating with a chronic illness than lovely supportive ones. However, I can tell you this – wading through the jerks is absolutely worth it once you find someone who supports you. In the meantime, here are 7 people you will meet while dating with a chronic illness:
1. The One Who Ignores Your Illness
A lot of people have no idea how to interact with someone with a disability. While some partners may attack the issues from your chronic illness face head on, these people avoid the topic at all costs. They rarely ask you how you are feeling, avoid topics of doctor’s appointments, and generally clam up when the topic turns to anything health related.
In my experience, these people do actually care if you are okay, but really don’t know how to go about talking about it. Often times they are just too awkward to handle chronic illness well. Unfortunately, not discussing a huge struggle in your life with your partner just doesn’t work. Education leads to understanding. If someone isn’t willing to talk about your illness it will be more difficult for them to understand the problems that pop up. These people lack the knowledge to understand why their sick partner had to cancel at the last minute, why they can’t eat the chocolates they gave them, or why those surprise concert tickets pose a problem.
You may be able to get away with talking about your chronic illness with your partner later in your relationship. However, to have a serious supporting relationship it needs to be talked about early and honestly.
2. The One Who Pities You
I love it when a partner rubs my head when I have a migraine, or is empathetic to my venting. This sympathy can cross over to pity -which gets old fast. Having a chronic illness is definitely a struggle but I don’t want to be constantly reminded “how strong I am” or asked “how I don’t give up.” I want to be an equal in my relationships, and being constantly babied takes away from that. Find someone who is empathetic to your struggles and who still treats you as an equal is essential.
3. The Overly Helpful One
Yes, someone can be overly helpful. These partners go above and beyond when trying to help you manage your illness. They even help you with things you don’t ask for, and for a while everything is much easier. The problem with the overly helpful partner is that they almost always burn out. They put helping you with your illness over their own needs. And when they burn out you are the one who gets burned. Not addressing their personal needs leads to them resenting the person they are trying to help.
These breakups are often very abrupt and sudden. One day they are driving you to the hospital and sitting up with you all night and the next day they leave you alone in the hospital to go to a party saying it is all too hard. All of a sudden all the things they did for you (that you never asked for) are all your fault and you aren’t thankful enough for everything they do. Finding someone who can be honest about their needs and not stretching themselves too thin is extremely important.
4. The Expert
People with chronic illnesses will run into “experts” on their condition all the time. These self- professed experts suggest ridiculous things you have already been checked for. Sometimes they try to teach you about an illness you have had for years and understand very well. I’ve even dated people who get upset with me for not following their suggestions, “have you been checked for gluten sensitivity again yet?” They think the only reason you aren’t cured is because you haven’t had their ideas yet. Sometimes these experts get frustrated and criticize you for not wanting to feel better.
When I come across these experts I find being clear, direct, and honest with them is the best approach. They are convinced you have a gluten intolerance when you have been tested. What to do? Not wanting to hurt their feelings by lying and saying you will cut out gluten is not going to work. Telling them you have been tested, and you trust what a doctor told you over them is the best way to solve the problem. If they are an arrogant “experts” this will lead to them nursing their wounded pride and usually breaking it off. If they listen to you then they probably just want to help and are misled; in this case you may have found a good one!
5. The One Who Can’t Stop Asking If You Are Better Yet
Sometimes you can explain your illness a hundred times, define the word chronic repeatedly, and do your best to educate your partner and they will just never get it. They will say things like “oh, you’re still sick” or “wow you still aren’t feeling better” or “when you are healthy we can go out.” I have a chronic illness! Chronic means long term; I am always sick! Unfortunately, these dates just don’t get it no matter what you do.
6. The One Who Can’t Handle It
This is the most common person I run into while dating and I must say it has left me frustrated. Sometimes my chronic illness comes up naturally in conversation, other times I have to modify plans and I will briefly explain. Then, a lot of dates never speak to me again. Worried I was paranoid, I asked a few people why they broke up with me. A few people outright told me they aren’t okay with dating someone with a chronic illness. For example, on one online date within fifteen minutes I had my date say “But she had Crohn’s disease and I am sure as hell not going to put up with that bullshit.” I stood up, turned around and walked away.
While it can hurt to experience this rejection, do not assume everyone is like this. Sometimes you will be rejected by someone for a reason unrelated to your illness. Sometimes people hear about your illness and are supportive. It is exhausting but don’t give up on people. Never lie about your illness. It will just hurt more later on. Getting rid of a jerk before you get attached is always the easiest option for people who don’t receive the news well.
7. The One Who Supports You
People who support you through your illness can be scarce- even more so in dating. The best partners treat the chronic illness as something you are fighting together, not a negative personality trait that is your fault. You can find a lucky number 7! You have to see yourself as someone who still can contribute a lot to a relationship despite your illness before finding someone who supports you. If you always feel like you aren’t good enough to date you will meet and put up with people who aren’t worth it. Remember that you always deserve someone who supports you!