Love's Sting

The older I get, the more my feelings on dealing with a chronic illness change. When I was a young teenager trying to cope with my new diagnosis and the severe impact of treatments on my life, I dealt with hopelessness and despair on nearly a daily basis. As I got older I realized I needed to change my attitude about it because I knew it was something I was going to have to deal with for a very long time, if not forever. Though I naturally do still have moments of hopelessness, generally I try to stay positive about my situation. If anything, having arthritis is quite a joke between my friends and I. But ultimately, I'm honest about it with most people.

At least, that's what I thought until recently. Though I think I'm very open and honest about living with a chronic condition, I realized there is a certain population I hide it from. And it's certainly the population I should not hide those things from. That group would be the people I've dated.

I think the temptation to come off as perfect and having no issues is so strong when you're beginning to date someone. The thought of telling them you have a life long illness can be very off putting. Personally, I do mention I have arthritis, but often don't go terribly into detail. I'm afraid of scaring the poor guy off, because it seems the general opinion is that most people want to be with a partner who is healthy. I can't speak for everyone, but sometimes I feel embarrassed or not good enough- who would want to be with a woman who is in constant pain, has issues with her hips, and takes medications that are outrageously expensive? Will he run off, thinking he'll become my caregiver? Will he automatically write me off because I'm not in perfect health? Is he going to assume that one day (in a very, very long time) the medication or deterioration to my hips will mean we could never have a child (truth: most women with arthritis can successfully have children)?

But those are my thoughts- not his. You can't tell what the other person is thinking, and it's never usually as harsh as you think it will be. If the person truly loves you, they will understand. It doesn't mean it won't be hard on them and they won't struggle, but they'll try. It doesn't mean everything is going to be perfect, but it means true love deserves a fighting chance.

I'm quite fortunate that my boyfriend is so supportive. I wish everyone felt so supported and accepted by their partner.

I do highly recommend that when you start dating someone new, you ease into telling them about it. It can be hard to receive it all in one sitting. Maybe not the first date, unless it comes up, but soon after. It's a really good way of seeing someone's true colors early in a relationship, but I also think it's something they should know. I would want to know if the person I was dating was dealing with a chronic illness, I'd hope they would feel safe to confide in me and not hide such a part of their life.

Dating is a tricky thing. Dating with a chronic illness is even trickier. But it's possible, and there's no reason why you should ever feel discouraged. There are times it will be hard, but what relationship is perfect? You don't love someone because they're perfect, you love them knowing that they are not.


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