With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there really is no better time to talk about how to navigate dating and romantic relationships with a chronic illness.
If you live with a chronic condition, you might feel that your health difficulties and love aren’t exactly compatible. But guess what? When Cupid’s arrow strikes, you have every chance for love.
You can still date successfully – you just might need to do it slightly differently in order to be safe for you and your partner. Here are some tips for a smoother dating experience with your condition:
How to tell your boyfriend or girlfriend about your medical condition
Dating someone new is often exciting but a little bit daunting, and having a chronic illness can add a further layer of anxiety to the matter. If your condition is not immediately visible, you might find yourself wondering on the right time to bring it up: Will I scare the other person off if I share too soon? If I wait longer, will that lead to a lack of trust?
While there’s no rulebook about this, you definitely shouldn’t feel pressured to disclose until you are comfortable. Everyone has private aspects of themselves that they won’t throw on the table in the first couple of dates, like finances, ex crushes or family stuff … your illness is no different, and it’s fine to wait until the relationship starts looking serious if you so wish.
If you have decided to open up but are still unsure on how to handle the conversation, why not prepare some bullet points in advance, or even a letter to read aloud to your date?
You should aim to educate your partner on your condition and the ways it might affect the relationship. If you feel afraid that your illness might be a deal-breaker, try to look on the bright side: you won’t be wasting more time and energy on a relationship that was never going anywhere.
Find out more: Love and Disability: How to Tell Your Date About Your Chronic Illness (healthline.com) | Love in the Time of Chronic Illness - The Atlantic
What to avoid on dates if you have a medical condition
The right person for you won’t be put off by your condition, and you can easily work out ways to adjust dating to your specific needs. For example if you have diabetes, a bit of extra planning will do the trick: discuss with your partner restaurants that fit your dietary requirements, and if the date involves something more active like going to a concert or hiking, just make sure you bring some fast-acting carbs like hard candy or juice in case your blood sugar drops.
If you have epilepsy, ask your date to avoid places with flash lighting, alcohol or late nights, and other things that might trigger a seizure. If you have asthma, let your date know that cologne and flowers are a big no-no. As for food allergies, ask your partner to carefully brush their teeth before you reward them with a kiss. If you suffer from RA, you might worry about heading to the bedroom … a warm shower or a massage will relieve the stiffness in your joints, whilst also acting as sexy foreplay!
The bottom line is, don’t be afraid to express your needs clearly; someone who’s truly interested won’t see them like a burden – they only thing they’ll care about is spending quality time together in a way that is fun, but also safe for you.
Find out more: Dating and Diabetes | Dating With Epilepsy | EpilepsyAdvocate | Stop asthma ruining your love life | Asthma UK | The Benefits of Dating Someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis (creakyjoints.org)
Looking after both people’ needs
It is also important to consider the needs of your partner. If you are romantically involved with someone who is chronically ill, try to remember that you won’t be able to offer them proper support unless you take care of yourself first.
In order to avoid stress or burnout as a caregiver, be kind to yourself and make your own health a priority: eat well, sleep enough, practice relaxation techniques and remain socially connected. Join virtual and in-person support groups, and by all means rely on friends and family. You and your partner could keep a list of things that need to be done, so when they ask how they can help, you are prepared. Also, it is okay at times to still go for a night-out with friends if your partner needs to rest or is too tired to come along. Paying attention to your own physical and emotional needs doesn’t make you a selfish person, and will ultimately benefit your partner and your relationship, too.
Find out more: Chronic Illness in Relationships: Communication, Intimacy, and More (webmd.com) | How to Avoid Caregiver Burnout and Manage Stress (aarp.org)
Whatever your condition is, there’s no real reason why it should prevent you from having a love life that is as exciting, fulfilling, and, yes, as challenging as anybody else’s ;)
Hope you have a happy Valentine’s Day x
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