One of the biggest questions that comes up time and time again when patients talk about dating with a chronic illness is, "When and how do I tell my significant other about my condition?" The simple answer, is that there is no simple answer. A lot depends on disease severity, and how much symptoms interfere with your life. It also depends on how comfortable you are talking about your illness, as once you mention it, your partner will most likely have questions. It can be helpful to have either written information or websites you think it would be helpful to look at ready, so that the person can get an accurate picture of what life looks like with this illness.
Some patients are so open about their illness, they are advocates and speak out on behalf of others in their community. Some disclose on their social media profiles, or wear cool shirts like these from our friends at the Great Bowel Movement. The most important thing to remember is that each person is different and each relationship if different.
Delivery and timing play key roles in this discussion, as disclosing a health issue can be a significant turning point (good or bad) in a new relationship. Some people find that the earlier they disclose, the earlier they find out the other person's true colors. Others feel more comfortable waiting as they don't want it to "scare someone else off", or they don't want to be defined by their illness. I would personally advise patients to check with their gut, and if they want to share, start small. Sharer's remorse can be especially unsettling, especially at the beginning of a relationship. You can always share more later, but you can't "unshare" something you wish you hadn't disclosed yet. There is a very real stigma still in our culture, around illness, both mental and physical. I advise patients to wait until they have a certain level of trust with the person they are dating and then to continue to communicate about their illness as much that feels right to them. Obviously, sometimes there are situations in the first couple of dates where a person may need to disclose to avoid confusion. For example, some patients have food limitations, need to be near a restroom, get fatigued during physical activity, and these are all things that may need to be communicated and potentially explained as to a partner when they naturally come up.
The good news is that there are plenty of wonderfully happy couples out there who have been through this journey of dating with a chronic illness, and are proof that love can truly trump anything. Ultimately, a chronic illness is a big part of one's life, but only part. In a similar light, illness may be a big part of a couple's journey together but it is only a part. Continue to celebrate the other aspects of your relationship and be creatively accepting as you go on your unique path together.
To close, I will post a few links I found interesting- please let us know if you have others that have been helpful!
Prescription 4 Love- a dating website for people with various conditions, anything from asthma to cancer to diabetes to MS.
Meet an Ostomate- A website for those who have ostomies (temporary or permanent)
Diabetic Date- For those with diabetes looking to date
Dating for Disabled- Online dating website for those with various disabilities