Top 3 Tips for Dating with Chronic Illness
Dating with chronic illness can be complicated – BUT it doesn’t have to be.
Hi, I'm Markie Keelan, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Dating Coach. I’ve had the honor of working with many people who struggle with chronic illnesses and are looking for love & have found it!
When so much of your energy is taken up by just being able to get through the day – it can seem daunting to try and bring a partner into your life.
Love and relationships are meant to revitalize us and teach us more about ourselves, not to take more away. You are so worthy of a loving and healthy relationship and CAN find it.
Building relationships with Chronic Illness actually has a lot of similarities to dating without one. One major difference when dating with a persistent health issue is how it can speed up the process of working through problems, being transparent with your needs, and setting boundaries with your partner - ALL HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP SKILLS.
There are some practical issues that arise with dating while having an illness that I want to help guide you in navigating.
Here are My Best Tips for Dating with a Chronic Illness:
1. Talking About Your Health When Dating
You might struggle with feeling like you have to disclose your illness ASAP. This feeling of rushing to disclose a vulnerable trait is a tactic to protect ourselves from rejection. It’s an impulse to figure out quickly if this person you are starting to develop feelings for can really accept you or not.
Relationships take time to form. Try not to rush into commitment or assume failure too soon. Each level of vulnerability is earned, not given. It can be important to disclose your limitations early on if certain dates can’t be attended because of your illness. But we’ll get more into that in the next tip.
So when do you disclose?
It depends, of course, on how vulnerable you feel in this subject. It’s safe to say that you can start slowly discussing your health with someone as you become more comfortable with them. Consider the level of commitment you currently have with the person. Trust is a backbone for full disclosures and healthy relationships.
Listen to their responses. You might feel compelled to control the narrative, but I encourage you to allow the other person to have their own process. The less anxious you are, the less anxious they are likely to be as well. Dialogues should always be the main target of conversations, not a lecture.
Lastly, health can and should be an ongoing conversation. Depending on how much your illness is impacting your ability to physically show up on dates, it might be something that is always going to be a part of the conversation in your love life and will evolve with time. Set yourself up for success by communicating clearly and sincerely from the beginning and throughout relationships.
2. What to do when you have a flare-up.
It’s okay to reschedule!
It’s not okay to cancel!
If you are having a flare-up, first check-in with yourself! What do you need to do right now? Is rescheduling necessary? If the answer is “I’m not sure.” Keep moving forward with the date. You might not feel 100%, but we very rarely ever do. This is your opportunity to rebuild trust within yourself that you CAN live life fully even with pain.
If you need to reschedule, go ahead and tell your date that you unexpectedly got sick and are very disappointed that you have to cancel, but really want to reschedule.
Be sincere! You want to convey that you were looking forward to meeting them, but that you need to take care of yourself. Chronic illness creates limits for us, but it doesn’t have to limit how we relate to others. Everyone feels pain. Your pain is something your date could probably relate to and can understand. And if they 100% can’t, even after you’ve tried to explain multiple times, they probably aren’t the right person for you.
If your health issues are persistent and you consistently have to reschedule, this is your sign that your health is your #1 priority and dating may have to wait until your health is in a steady state. And remember, it’s okay to take a break from dating to take care of yourself.
3. Dealing with Guilt & Shame while Dating
One of the major fears of living with chronic illness and dating is being looked upon as less desirable than healthier individuals. Even at times when dates are going well, there may be a feeling of guilt or shame around your diagnosis and your ability to be a partner to someone.
Your illness might be interrupting your life right now - maybe it’s interrupting your physical functioning, your financial security, or your ability to be present, but it’s important to remind yourself that you ARE still worthy of love and YOUR love is valuable.
Let go of assumptions of what your partner can and cannot handle – they will be able to communicate their limits to you, as you can also communicate yours. Trust that you are fully capable of providing love and affection in relationships and that they are capable of giving love!
You are a valuable partner.
If you have persistent health issues – you are still a great date! It’s important to be aware of your limitations without defining yourself by them. There is no need to feel shame or guilt for something that is out of your control. It is also important to recognize when you do have control and make choices that align with your vision of your best self.
Show up in your love life as the person you want to be! If rescheduling makes you feel sad or guilty – remember, taking time to be as healthy as possible is how you need to take care of yourself and will ultimately be the way in which you keep your love life healthy as well.
It’s tempting at times to throw in the towel out of fear of judgment or self-doubt. Before you do that - be radically honest with yourself! Show up as your best self for your goals and for your relationships! You are capable of having a full and joyful love life while living with Chronic Illness!
If you want to more resources on building healthy relationships, check out my collection of resources HERE!
I also love answering readers' questions! Feel free to send me an email with your question and you might see it answered in my next resource post!
Markie Keelan MA LPC