Being in and maintaining a long lasting and meaningful relationship can be difficult, even for those who don’t have a chronic illness to deal with. I personally avoided getting into a long term relationship for a long time for a few reasons.
• I feared the reaction that I would get once I told the person that I was dating that I had a medical condition.
• I was afraid of having to cancel pre-planned dates due to sickness or fatigue, resulting in disappointment on both ends
• I was self conscious about my body and its imperfections
• I was afraid that I would have to ‘settle’ for someone who I didn’t see a future with, because I was in no position to be ‘picky’
Having been in a long term relationship for a number of years, there are a number things that I have learned.
1. Never Settle
I won’t lie. When I look back at my dating history, it certainly isn’t the most…”polished”. I really felt like I didn’t have the right to be picky, as I felt as though the person I was dating was making the sacrifice of ‘not dating a healthy girl’ when they chose to date me. What I’ve come to learn is that there is someone out there for everyone, whether with or without a medical condition. Don’t compromise your happiness out of the fear of being lonely; your match is out there.
2. Be Open
I joined a dating website several years ago. Just like the instructions on the website indicated, I posted a few photos of myself and wrote a short paragraph about myself and what I was looking for in a potential partner. The response I received was incredibly…disappointing. I received tons of vulgar messages and tons of messages from men that were way outside of my specified age range.
When this happened, I began adding to my paragraph little by little. I began adding all of the things that I WASN’T looking for:
- DON’T message me if you’re a pig!!!
- DON’T message me if you’re older than _______!!
- DON’T ask me questions that have already been answered in my profile!!!
After a while, I started receiving fewer and fewer messages. I went back and looked at my profile…of COURSE I wasn’t receiving messages anymore. Instead of either politely declining unwanted advances or even simply ignoring them, I turned my profile into a profile belonging to someone who appeared to be fiercely unapproachable and downright miserable. If the tables were turned, it would be highly unlikely for me to reach out to someone with similar things written in their profile.
There are always going to be those kinds of people: the “pigs”. When they come along, the easiest thing to do is simply ignore them. Also, try not to be so strict in your guidelines when it comes to things like age. If I remained as closed as I was, I would have missed out on meeting the wonderful man in my life, who happens to be 5 years younger than I.
3. Be Determined
There were a few guys that I met and dated for short periods of time (under 6 months). All of these experiences where negative. Some of the negativity I experienced included the following:
-One guy that I went out with twice didn’t want to see me anymore. He gave me a number of reasons (he was too busy with school, he was too busy with work, we had a huge age difference of 5 years). In reality, he happened to catch a glimpse of my lower stomach and saw my scars. He texted me the following day to ask me if I had a baby because he thought the scars must have been from a c-section. When I explained to him that I had to have emergency surgery due to a perforated colon, he didn’t respond. When I confronted him about this, he gave me all of the above noted excuses.
-One guy that I went out with for a few months just…disappeared. He disappeared right off the face of the earth. He stopped calling me and he didn’t answer the phone when I called or texted. He reached out to me about a year later and basically told me that he was scared/a coward. We started talking again, and after a few months, he did it again. He came back a THIRD time. It was at that point that I very kindly told him to go and fly a kite.
-One guy I went out with told me he wasn’t ready to be in a relationship…and was subsequently “in a relationship” (as per Facebook) about 3 weeks later.
After the third situation, I basically decided that I had had it with all guys. I was pretty well fed up, both with my poor choice in men and in men in general. I took a few months to myself. I met my boyfriend a month after I had decided to ‘give it another go’.
4. Be Honest
Let’s face it-no matter how good of a person you are, there are going to be some people that will automatically “disqualify” you when you tell them you have a medical condition. A week into dating my boyfriend casually, I began to realize something: I was really starting to like him. I saw him everyday since the day that we met, and I thought he was just wonderful.
Now, I was facing a dilemma. I really liked him and didn’t want to keep my “secret” from him much longer. At the same time, I had no idea how he would react. That being the case, I decided to tell him sooner rather than later. If me having a chronic illness was something he couldn’t/didn’t want to deal with, I wanted to know so that I wouldn’t continue falling deeper and deeper in ‘like’ with him.
We were cuddled up together watching tv when I brought it up…I told him that I had received a kidney transplant. I told him that I had Lupus…and I told him that Lupus wasn’t ‘contagious’.
After telling him, he didn’t say anything. He was silent…and I was scared. “Say something”. I said to him, as I felt the tears forming behind my eyes. I knew that the possibility of this being the last time I see or talk to him was very real. He told me that I was such a good person, and it wasn’t fair that I had to go through everything that I was going through. He told me that he wanted to be there for me. He told me that he wanted to be my rock.
I sat there and balled my eyes out in his chest. No one has ever said anything like that to me. Even if he and I didn’t end up together in the long run, what this conversation did for me was it told me that there are still wonderful and caring men out there. Luckily for me, he kept his promise and has been my rock for the last 3+ years. He’s there for doctor’s appointments when he’s able, he accepts me and my body, even with its flaws, and he loves me just the way that I am.
Telling someone that you’re dating that you have a chronic illness a week into dating isn’t for everyone- I understand that. But for me personally, I had suffered enough heartache to know that I didn’t want to invest/waste ANY time on someone who was going to reject me because of something that I cannot change.
Relationships take work, no matter what. Being understanding, accepting, and compromising are all just a few of many things that are needed to make a relationship work. But, when you find the right person, a person who makes you laugh, who knows your favourite foods and shows, who rubs your shoulders and gives you kisses when he/she knows you’ve had a hard day…who loves you in spite of your own perceived flaws, it’s such an amazing feeling.