When you decide to take the leap and jump into the online dating game, it takes bravery and commitment. It can be daunting and overwhelming as you have to put yourself out there. It can become even more confronting if you’re single and living with a chronic illness (e.g. Chrohn’s disease, MS, Arthritis, IBS, Epilepsy, Diabetes, Bipolar, Asthma).
In this situation, there’s so many more things to think about when meeting someone for the first time. So how do you cope when dating with a chronic illness?
1) Establish a resilient mindset
Everyone on the dating scene comes with a package. Some singles are divorced, have kids, are bankrupt, are unemployed, have a terminally ill parent, work 120 hours/ week, have been widowed, have a chronic illness etc. It’s a part of who you are and what makes you unique. Some potential love interests will be more than happy to embrace your package, and others won’t. The key is to accept that you’re on a mission to find the person who is a good fit for you. Be patient and stay resilient.
2) Tell your new partner in your own time
Having a chronic illness is a topic that will absolutely need to be disclosed to your new partner. But it’s something that requires careful judgement and appropriate timing. Every partner will be different, but you need to feel safe, supported and trusting before leaping into this conversation. Always be responsible, and remind yourself that you can cope with whatever outcome occurs.
3) Know your strengths
It can be easy to overlook your strengths when you focus on the challenges of your chronic illness. But you’re an amazing individual with a huge upside that you need to constantly focus on. You’re greater than your medical condition, so get to know all your strengths by answering the questions “what makes me so good at relationships?”, “what makes me such a good friend?”, and “what do I admire about my personality?”. If you find this difficult, lean on a trusted friend to help you form a list that you can go back to time and time again whenever you’re feeling vulnerable.
4) Educate your partner
Information is power, so once you’ve had the conversation about your chronic illness it’s time to educate your new partner. They might be scared, fearful, uncertain or anxious about how to move forward with you. The more they know about your illness and the management strategies, the more they can feel comfortable about taking the next step with you.
5) Be honest about your needs
There are going to be some times when your illness will drain you and get on top of you. It’s really important that you talk to you partner and let them into your world. They need to know about your physical and emotional state, so they can respond appropriately. It might be that you want to go to bed for a day, need quiet time on your own, change your diet or exercise for the afternoon, or cancel your date because of fatigue. Whatever it is, let your partner know what’s going on so they can help you and not take things personally.
John Aiken, RSVP dating and relationship expert, as seen on the hit show Married At First Sight, and on Ch 9’s Today show, Today Extra and A Current Affair. He is a best-selling author, regularly appears on radio and in magazines, runs a private practice in Sydney, and is a sought after speaker. (www.johnaiken.com.au)