January 19

How to Date When You Have a Chronic Illness

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Just because you have a chronic illness, it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve love. I know that dating is complicated – never mind trying to manage a chronic illness too. But it’s not impossible.

Dating with a chronic illness means you need to put your health first, set boundaries early on and communicate with your partner.

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All relationships require work, and nothing is guaranteed. But, after dealing with my own chronic illnesses over the last 12 years, I've developed my own set of dating guidelines. And I'm pretty sure that by following this advice you will have a greater chance of success going forward. (Or at least waste less energy on people that are not worth your time!)

Okay cupid – let’s do this.

1. Be Open About Your Illness 



There’s no perfect time to tell someone that you suffer from a chronic illness. But it’s just not something that can be avoided. And out of respect for the person you’re dating, it’s something you shouldn’t avoid mentioning.

man consoling woman on date

I’m not saying that you need to go in all guns blazing within the first hour of your date. But if the date is going well and you’ve made a plan to see each other again – then you need to think about how it’s best to break the news.

Transparency and communication are key. The truth is that not everyone is going to cope with what you tell them, and that’s okay. But those who can handle your unique set of health demands will respect and trust you a lot more if you open up in the beginning.

Think of it this way: Whether you have a chronic illness or not – some people are not worth your time. This will just help you rule out the ones that are not worth your time a lot faster.

Just remember that this is big news for anyone, and most people won’t know how to react to it. So, it’s really in your best interest to be patient at the start.

If you feel it may be easier to break the news over the phone – do it. Sometimes it can give your partner the time to process the news and respond more constructively.

I also highly suggest setting up dates in environments that can show your partner what you are capable of doing. Show your date that you are your own person. You are more than your chronic illness and they need to see that.   

2. Make Your Boundaries Clear

This point ties in with being transparent and open too.

If you’re dating someone, they need to know what your limits are so that your relationship can build on positive experiences you share.  

woman making her boundaries clear in a relationship

Think about it like this: If you are continuously doing activities that are hurting your body, leaving you tired and make you feel vulnerable. You will slowly begin to resent the person who’s pushing you to do them.  


Another thing to keep in mind is that the time you spend together should be used to find similar interests and help you bond together.

So be honest about what you can and cannot do. You’ll end up having a whole lot more fun doing something you both enjoy doing anyway.

Finally, you need to make it clear when you’re not well enough to go out. This is one of the hardest things to do – but if you’re miserable then what’s the point?

Try to use it to your advantage and make a day of watching movies together. Show that your boundaries can always be worked around.  

3. Highlight Your Best Assets

One of the biggest fears that anyone has while they’re dating a chronic illness sufferer is that they don’t always know what it entails.

highlight your best assets doing yoga

Some may fear that you have no life beyond your chronic illness. Others fear that your disability has you completely immobile, or that you have little independence and can’t hold a job.

But the truth is that every person with a chronic illness will have a completely different experience from the next. So, there’s no point in jumping the gun about what having a chronic illness will mean for your relationship. Be patient and use this time to show that person who YOU are.

You still have things that you like to do, see, experience and learn – be proud of this.

Share this side of yourself with your date. You have amazing qualities. Some may be unrelated to your health and some may be skills you’ve acquired because of it. Either way, they are what make you unique as a person.

You need to learn to love and express your qualities. Because you can’t expect a partner to love you entirely, if you can’t love yourself first.

One of the most attractive things about you is the fact that you can prove just how well you manage your own life while coping with a chronic illness.

4. Be Willing To Adapt 

Adaptation is crucial for human survival. If we can’t adapt, we get left behind. As a chronic illness sufferer – you need to think about what this means for you and your partner when you’re dating.

man and woman having a date at home

I’m not telling you to change everything about yourself for your partner. I’m telling you to take responsibility for your health through your choice of activities.

When it comes to spending time together, you’ll need to know that a few sacrifices and spontaneous last-minute decisions are necessary.

If you can’t go out for dinner – that’s okay. Stay home and make it fun. You can order take out, put on a movie you’ve been dying to see and even build a blanket fort.  

If you made plans that you can’t make anymore – that’s also okay. This is normal and something your partner should never make you feel guilty about. Try to postpone your commitment instead of cancelling it so you avoid feeling disappointed

When it comes to being intimate – this is a good time to be adventurous and try new things that can work when your body is acting up. But open communication will guide your success. And if you’re too tired and too sore, then that’s another thing you should never feel guilty for turning own.

And finally, when a good day comes, you need to take advantage of it. Whatever your plans are, change them and make them more fun. This happy time together is so important for you both.

5. See Who Is Not Worth Your Time

Having a chronic illness is like having the weirdest superpower in the world: Your health can deter people that are not worth your time before you even get to know them.

learning how to date when you have a chronic illness

This is particularly true for people who are quite selfish with their time, care and consideration. Which is fantastic because these are qualities you really don’t want in a partner!

He’s not worth your time if he:

  • Always gets upset when you have to cancel plans and makes you feel bad about it.
  • Makes you feel guilty for not having enough intimate time together.
  • Tells you that you’re “lazy”.
  • Is never considerate about helping you when you’re not well.
  • Doesn’t take any time to understand you better.

There’s more – but you get the gist. What you actually need is a partner who can: Accept, learn without judgement, boost you up, adapt, respect you, and inspire you.  

6. Check In With Each Other Often 



It goes without saying that you deal with insane day-to-day challenges because of your chronic illness. What you go through is unfathomable to most people. But if you want any relationship to work, you need to be cognisant of what your partner is going through too.

couple therapy concept with man and woman talking about emotions

No matter what challenges either of you come across, being open about what they are and dealing with them together is the best thing to do.

If you have to cancel dinner plans – again. It sucks! You feel guilty. You feel like you’re letting your partner down. You feel like your life has been robbed from you.  Trust me, I know.

But remember that your partner probably feels helpless and frustrated in these moments. They want to help you. They want to be there for you. They have no idea what you’re going through and no way of solving the problem – it’s daunting.

Your chronic illness has an impact on your family and friends. And no, it’s not nearly as bad as what you’re going through. But that’s not the point.

You need to be able to speak openly with each other. Voice your concerns. Share your thought process. Think about what makes each of you upset.

If either of you needs help.

If either of you needs emotional support. 


If either of you needs advice. 



Just ask.

In the end this is a very unusual issue to have to face in a relationship – so the more you communicate the better.

Remember that you guys are on a team here. It’s not you against your partner, it you and your partner against the problem. 


7. Put Yourself First 



If you are always exhausted, mentally drained, physically depleted and just feel unfulfilled ­– what can you offer in a relationship? What can you possibly get back in return?

woman showing self love

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t consider your partner. I’m saying that you’ll have nothing to give this person if you can’t take care of yourself first. And this applies to both people in a relationship.

You can’t pour from an empty kettle. 




So, don’t stop doing the things that make you feel fulfilled in life.

If you love art – paint!
If you love food culture – find new restaurants to try.

If you love to exercise – get yourself to the gym.

Your relationships depend on your happiness and mental wellbeing.

And remember that you are worthy of love.

You’re a human being before anything else. You have a chronic illness. You are not the chronic illness itself. Your condition does not define you. And it shouldn’t define your relationships either.

Marina

Marina Wildt is an experienced health and wellness writer, chronic illness warrior and founder of The Discerning You. In the last 12 years, she has gone from being paralysed in a wheelchair to living a full life alongside her conditions and now she wants to share all the practical advice that she has learnt with you.


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