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Would You Date a Person with Chronic Illness?

A Chronic Voice: Would You Date a Person With Chronic Illness?

This question pops up on my Quora feed every so often: “Would you date or marry a person with chronic illness?” So I thought I’d address it once and for all, by first asking – would I, as someone with chronic illnesses, date or marry a healthy person?

I have been fortunate enough to date men from extreme ends of the spectrum, in relation to my health. It gives me insight into different perspectives, which enables me to identify and appreciate certain characteristics better. Their opinions about our future together were diverse, and so were their attitudes towards my daily health struggles. Before going further, I’d like to state that the purpose of this article isn’t to bash anyone at all. Everyone is entitled to how they want to live out their own lives, for better or for worse.

Dating at One End of the Spectrum

I once dated a man whose greatest desire was to start a family of his own, and it troubled him that I never seemed to get better. He did not like the open-ended, variable timetable of my illnesses. Neither did he want to start with a ‘deficit’ before even trying for a child.

I underwent a few surgeries while dating, and he felt tormented that he could do ‘nothing’ to make it better. Yet he never provided any emotional support, and would often bail out on the bad days. I ended up having to be stronger for him, because ‘it was difficult for him too’. I would always give in to him, because I thought that I had less rights to my own opinions. It was already a burden for someone to be with me, what more could I ask for?

Dating at the Other End of the Spectrum

My current boyfriend on the other hand, always sees the future in a hopeful light, and goes with the flow of life. He has seen me at my worst, yet has never treated me as a lesser human being. I know for sure that life will never be easy with me, yet to him it’s a non-issue. He claims that there is nothing wrong with me at all, and neither does it affect his lifestyle.

I find that I am growing as a person while with him, because he supports me to the end. He would never undermine any desire I have for education, and that comes in many forms. Apart from the intellect, it also consists of life skills, random hobbies, and most importantly, self awareness.

Mental and invisible health issues are often seen as suspicious in the eyes of the public, but I have never felt stigmatised by him. I am allowed to display my psychological and physical pains at the level of torture that they truly are at. This brings so much relief, just to have someone who believes you, and who never belittles the impact your experiences have on you.

The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned From These Polar Experiences

With the freedom I have had to grow, I’ve learned that I am worth just as much as any other person out there. So what if my illnesses are permanent? There is only one me amongst the billions of us on this planet, and we are all worth something in that regard.

There is no doubt that a person with chronic illness will need more help than someone who is healthy just to get by. Many situations might test your patience, question your love and flirt with your morality. But no human being is truly independent anyway; just cut off their oxygen supply for a few minutes.

So in conclusion to my earlier question – would I date a healthy person? Yes of course. I’d pour my heart and soul into it, with the added awareness that I deserve this just as much as anyone else. But if I were dating someone who treated me with contempt or blame then I, a person with chronic illnesses, would leave him. If there’s anything I’ve learned at all from dating as someone with permanent illnesses, it is to have some respect for yourself.

What is it like to be on the 'losing' end when it comes to relationships? Here's my brief perspective as someone who lives with permanent, chronic illnesses. | A Chronic Voice

23 comments

  • This was a very interesting read thank you. I do not suffer from a chronic illness but would not find it a barrier. Physical and son psychological issues are not what I would call barriers to stop love. However I have a slightly different twist, can I as a single person expect someone to take on my responsibilities, I have a sick sibling who ultimately will be totally dependent on me?
    This has caused major tension and breakup of previous relationships.
    Its not just the people who are sick that struggle.
    Wishing you all health, wealth, love and happiness x

    • Hello,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts 🙂 Yes that is an interesting twist. I do have friends that had to become the sole breadwinner of the family at a young age, so I do have an idea of what you’re saying. It definitely is a struggle for caregivers too. They slip through the cracks too often because they either feel guilty and remain silent, or people don’t realise the enormous burden they carry, too. I am glad you brought this point up, and hope you continue to speak about such issues in one way or another…awareness and support for caregivers are also very important 🙂 Wishing you health, wealth, love and happiness too!

  • I met my now husband after being diagnosed. I told him straight away and he made no promises. In fact he said he couldn’t promise that he would cope. 10years later we were married. I have subsequently got much worse and we deal,with what life brings together. It is hard and our relationship is different these days, not bad, it’s wonderful, but still different. There are still no promises. I know my husband would leave if he felt he couldn’t do it anymore. As would I.. therefore I know he’s still here because he loves me and wants to be here. No one is perfect and sometimes it gets to us both. So far so good. I don’t know how I would manage without his support and I hope I never have to

    • Hi Kathie,

      I’m really happy that you both are trying your best to make things work out…that’s all we can do I suppose 🙂 And he sounds like an honest person that says it not because he’s thinking of ever giving up, but because he doesn’t want to disappoint you (this is just from reading your few short sentences!). Wishing the both of you all the best in this grey-area life that we’re all trying to navigate through. x

  • Such a fantastic post! I too have been in relationships with people on both ends of the spectrum. Both of whom knew that I was ill when they met me, but one treated me like he was doing me a favour (even said, “no one else would put up with you and your illnesses”). He was abusive in more ways than one. The other extreme is my now husband. He’s always been so supportive and we’ve worked through the difficulties of chronic illness together. When we married, neither of us had any idea that I would need a wheelchair, but it hasn’t phased him at all. He still sees me as the same person and does everything he can to help me keep as much independence as possible. I dread to think what would’ve happened if I’d married the other man. He wouldn’t have adapted to a wheelchair at all. Xx

    Tania | When Tania Talks

    • Hi Tania,

      Thank you, and thank you for sharing! Am glad you married the right one 😉 Totally get what you mean when you say your ex wouldn’t have adapted to you in a wheelchair. It can be hard to tell though, when you’re engrossed in a bad relationship (at least for me). You just keep compromising little by little, until it becomes the norm. I’d say one thing though. Being ill does attract the most fabulous sorts of people into our lives 😉 No selfish person would want to stick around for this shit 😉 Wishing both you and your hubby many beautiful days ahead!

  • Interesting perspective! I always said I would never date anybody with a mental illness, after a couple of horrible dating experiences. In saying that, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety after my now husband and I got engaged. It was certainly very difficult for him during this time, and I feel the only reason we have made it is because he would always remind us both that the illness I had was just that, an illness, and he knew who he fell in love with. I wish we both didn’t have to go through that, however we did and are happily married and stronger than ever!

    My husband also has epilepsy and I have spent many many sleepless nights next to him in hospital, however I have always found those scary moments to be instrumental in reminding me just how much I love him.

    Sibce we were married I have developed a sometimes debilitating autoimmune disease which has its difficulties if course! I can’t speak for him, but he is almost always supportive and will go the extra mile to make sure we have dinner on the table every night and a clean house. Of course he gets tired and struggles sometimes, but nobody is perfect and we do show our worst sides to those we love the most.

    Quite frankly, I don’t know how I could have gotten through the past 5 or 6 years without him. I have learned from him that love is a choice and not a feeling. Sometimes love feels good and sometimes it is a hard slog, but it is never worth giving up on the other person. We make each other be the best we can be.

    • Hi Emma,

      Thank you for sharing more insight 🙂 It’s great that you’re making each other the best you can be and that you’re both trying, that’s all that matters! You both sound like wonderful, supportive people, and I wish the both of you a happy and fulfilling life together 🙂

  • This is a very interesting and needed post. I love how you talk about the “two ends of the spectrum”. In my case the spectrum was a little different. Because of my mental illnesses I “settled” on a spouse who also had challenges that unfortunately neither of us could get past. The mental caused physical conditions and the stress of an abusive marriage just made things worse. When I was able to get out of that and work on myself, I found someone who had always actually been there. It took us awhile to work through the obstacles, but we have been married for over 15 years and he is my rock. He accepts my challenges and does all he can to make me feel whole and loved.

  • I think another interesting angle of this topic is how married people with chronic illness can continue to “date” their spouses. My husband continued dating me throughout our marriage until I got sick. Then he wasn’t able take me out as often due to my physical limitations and he had to spend time taking care of me (and himself) and that didn’t leave him a lot of time to date me. Not being able to date (even though we try) has definitely affected our marriage.

    I’m glad you’re with someone right now who seems to be great for you!

    • Hi Ava,

      I do think it can be harder for people who get diagnosed with chronic illnesses only after their marriage, as there are certain ‘fixed perspectives’ and expectations you both had in mind when you said, “I do”. It would definitely be interesting to hear it from your point of view, especially since you write well! 😉 I hope you both manage to find a perfect balance, he seems to be a great guy from what I can tell from all your posts 🙂 Take care!

  • Thank you so much for participating in our chronic pain & chronic illness link up party at The Unbroken Smile. I’m sure our community will love your article, thanks so much for sharing! Please join us again next week. ((Gentle Hugs))

  • Hi Sheryl,

    I so agree with your post and love what your BF says in your comment to Kelsey (even if you weren’t sick, there’ll be some other issue). Ultimately, we all have quirks and issues. For some of us it’s our health.

    I also discovered the same thing about who to date – the most important thing is someone who you feel good with. We may feel desperate and unlovable – but it’s not true and the best gift we can give ourselves is to love ourselves enough to be kind to ourselves. ie: What you said, anyone “who treated me with contempt or blame then I, a person with chronic illnesses, would leave him”

    and there really is just one you – one me

    Thx for your post!

    • Hi Veronica,

      Thank you for dropping by! Yes we are all unique in this universe, and that includes personal quirks, talents and issues all in one 😉 And yes we deserve love as chronic illness human beings too!

  • I LOVE the wisdom and awareness with which you approached all sides of this. SO good.

  • It’s funny I found this post today! I’ve been struggling to explain to my husband why my illness is not worse for him! He can’t seem to see that in addition to being limited, I have the pain and fatigue and guilt too. Yes, it’s hard for his life to be limited but sometimes this causes him to have so little empathy or compassion! Yet he had seemed so compassionate when we were dating!
    100% be wary when choosing a life partner because it is hard knowing no matter how well you do, it’s never enough.

  • I couldn’t have written this any better myself. Your words were something I needed to head this morning. I myself am dating again after a relationship that made me feel less of a person bc I was sick. I hope at some point I can find the courage and the words to write my own account of that chapter in life. Seriously though… this is one of the top 3 blog posts I have ever read. Thank you xoxo

    • Hi Kels,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, I appreciate it. Yes dating again can be such a scary thing, simply because of that illness barrier and hurdle to go through. I do have more stories to tell, but they are irrelevant for this post in particular. Stay tuned (when I actually get around to writing it) ;p And thank you for the compliment, that’s a big honour! Wishing you a great day and wonderful journey ahead with your loved ones.

  • Great blog post! I have had similar experiences with dating! I am still looking for Mr. Right. I often feel discouraged because of my illness; I guess I feel I do not want to put anyone through my stuff. Any advice on how you regained your confidence? How did you meet your current bf? Thanks 🤗

    • Hi Kelsey,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment 🙂 I am still learning to not put myself down all the time, but my therapist helped a great deal. Ironically I sought her for totally different issues during a bad health period, but I realised that everything in your life is linked. Something my bf said to me as well, “even if you weren’t sick, there’ll be some other issue anyway.” Which is so true…there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship, it’s a lot of working together as human beings. All the best to you, and don’t sweat it! Give out the good vibes to get the good vibes 🙂

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