There are a few things likely going through the head of anyone about to go on a date: What outfit will I wear? What should I talk about? Who’s going to pay? But for someone with a chronic illness, other less conventional thoughts might include: How will my date react to my illness? Does he or she understand what kind of support I need? Will I be able to order off the menu? Does he or she see the real me, besides my illness?
The unique challenges and rewards of dating someone with a chronic illness often aren’t well understood by those who have never experienced a condition, which can unfortunately lead to disappointment on both sides. So we asked our Mighty community to share what anyone about to go on a date with someone with a chronic illness needs to know. By keeping these tips in mind, people dating those with health challenges can hopefully learn to be more supportive and educated partners.
Here’s what they told us:
1. “Be open minded. Just because someone has a chronic illness doesn’t mean they don’t want the same life you do. They just might take a different route to get there!”
2. “Be prepared for some nights of more Netflix than ‘chill.’ And know it’s not personal. Know we appreciate the little gestures because we can’t always handle the grand ones… And know just because our bodies don’t always cooperate, our hearts are loyal and we recognize the sacrifices you may make. We love accordingly.”
3. “Sometimes we can’t eat out, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make an at-home date night. Don’t skip on the romance because I’m sick. Just get creative.”
4. “Be patient… Sometimes we’re still learning the limits of our illness, so we may or may not be able to answer all of your questions… but ask anyway.”
5. “You don’t have to and may never understand exactly what I’m going through, but being willing to try to understand makes all the difference in the world.”
6. “If we happen to cancel or [give] rain checks more than usual, don’t take it personally. It takes a lot just to step outside our home sometimes.”
7. “There’s more to someone’s value as a human being and partner than their job (and even if they cannot work). There’s a big difference between being unable to do things (work, go out a lot, exercise a lot, etc.) and being lazy. I’m still an overachiever inside, I just can’t act on it much. Lastly, we are strong — out of necessity — so we are formidable and we don’t want or need ‘pity dates’ or ‘pity partners.’”
8. “My illness does not define me. See me for who I am, not what I have.”
9. “[Don’t] be awkward, we’re normal people, too. Be honest with how it makes you feel because it’s scary for us to get close to people. If you decide you can’t handle our life then we get heartbroken on a deeper level than most — it’s not just a breakup, but one over something we have no control over (our disability).”
10. “We are tough! We have and will go through a lot of things that ‘normal’ people can never grasp. Be there for us, be our rock.”
11. “If you’re going into this thinking I’d be a ‘sacrifice’ for you if we started seriously dating, then don’t even bother asking me out, because I’m still a person and my disease doesn’t define me. If you think my illness is a sacrifice for you, then think about someone other than yourself for a minute and realize what it is for me. I may be different, but nobody pays much attention to the moth that blends in with the crowd. It’s the butterfly that catches the attention of the person who is in tune with the magnificent.”
12. “Please don’t assume I’m one of those girls who ‘eats salad’ on a first date. Trust me, I love a burger with a side of chips and gravy — but I’m not eating much because I have uncontrollable nausea and would rather not make it worse… or you know, vomit in front of you. I may go to the toilet a few times to minimize pain and be less uncomfortable so I can enjoy our time together — please don’t judge me.”
13. “We’re complicated, and that can make even the most simple molehills into huge mountains. Please, have patience while we sort through everything happening in our bodies before we return a romantic gesture.”
14. “If you love me then understand that it isn’t easy for either side of the battle and I may need more support and understanding than the average person. Do that and you would be the greatest person to ever willingly enter that person’s life.”
What do you think anyone about to go on a date with someone with chronic illness should know? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Erin Migdol is The Mighty’s senior editor. Previously she was the chronic illness editor. She joined The Mighty in 2015 and previously worked at Inside Weddings magazine, Mic, and The Huffington Post. She was also the features editor at The California Aggie, UC Davis’ student newspaper. She is honored to be a part of the Mighty community!