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Would You Date a Person with Chronic Illness?

Would You Date a Person with Chronic Illness? | Featured Image Blog Post on A Chronic Voice

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 whilst we were 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 next boyfriend on the other hand, always saw the future in a hopeful light, and goes with the flow of life. He has seen me at my worst, yet never once treated me as a lesser human being. I knew for sure that life would never be easy with me, yet it was a non-issue to him. He claims that there is nothing wrong with me at all, and that I didn’t affect his lifestyle.

I found that I grew with him as a person, because of his support to the very end. He never undermined any desire I had for education, which comes in many forms. Apart from the intellect, it also consists of life skills, 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 could display my psychological and physical pains at the level of torture that they were truly 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.

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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 myself.

*Note: This article is meant for educational purposes and is based on the author’s personal experiences. It is not to be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your own doctor before changing or adding any new treatment protocols.

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    For More Insight:

  1. “Why Would I Want to Date You?” (themedicaldorm.blogspot.sg): https://goo.gl/LVXzkZ
  2. The Guilt of Depending on Someone When You’re Ill (themighty.com): hhttps://goo.gl/qYPdYj
  3. Why I Don’t Blame My Depression for My Relationship Ending (themighty.com): https://goo.gl/k8Yjhz
  4. Why I’m No Longer Offering My Husband an ‘Out’ Because of My Illness (themighty.com): https://goo.gl/5VKuW9
  5. When You Should Tell Your Date About Your Diagnosis (trippingonair.com): http://bit.ly/2J0FdHC

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Would You Date or Marry a Person with Chronic Illness?

Would You Date or Marry a Person with Chronic Illness?

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Jules Lewis
Jules Lewis
February 14, 2023 10:08

When I became disabled (sudden injury, surgery that went badly, some improvement, then plateaued), my partner of 6 years left me. We’d been very into fitness, hiking, canoeing, weight lifting, etc., and he just couldn’t handle the idea of being with someone with chronic pain and mobility problems forever. It hurt, but I understood, and I’m glad he left right away – if he’d stuck around for a while it would have been worse.

I’ve dated several people since him – all of them have been either supportive or just “eh, whatever”. I’ve always talked to them a lot about stepping back if they need a break, and that has worked well.

My current partner (9 years!) is chronically ill, also has chronic pain, and has mental health problems worse than, but similar to, mine. We just get each other. We support each other. We rarely have to explain what’s happening. Occasionally 1 of us has to step back for a bit (I needed to when my Mum had cancer), but we both have friends we can turn to.

We both have a fair number of bad days, which often don’t coincide, so it can get frustrating sometimes when we want to do something (or have sex!), but we’re used to it.

Best relationship I’ve ever had.

Debra Roberts
January 30, 2022 01:25

You’re beautiful and strong and I commend you for taking the time to share all of this. I have a 32-year-old son who’s been battling a mystery disease for over three years now and it all started after he and his wife had their second baby. It’s been crazy that they can’t figure out what’s wrong with him and his plethora of symptoms and bad days. His wife is a trooper and stands right with him, even learning to cook very stringent foods that help him heal and stay strong. This is his story if you’d like to read it. I find that my sharing, we learn different things from one another that work and don’t work. I too, have an autoimmune disease (Sjorgen’s) and while it doesn’t hold a candle to Lupus, oftentimes, people with Lupus have Sjorgren’s and vice versa…they travel in pairs. https://patientslounge.com/conditions/Help-Needed-To-Solve-An-Undiagnosed-Serious-Mystery-Illness

Lucy
October 26, 2021 21:43

This is such a great post Sheryl, thank you. We’re just as deserving of love, respect and help and capable of giving those things in return in a relationship as anyone else. Anyone who makes us feel otherwise doesn’t deserve to be with us 🙂

Katie
March 20, 2020 05:10

I have husband that I’ve always been able to keep up for the most part. He’s rarely sick (and so was I for the first 20 years of our marriage). Since developing Fibromyalgia, it’s certainly an adjustment for both of us and we’re still figuring things out. Luckily, he’s patient and willing to adjust. He’s slowing down, too, due to age, so that helps;)

April Key C. Rode
March 6, 2020 01:50

Great post! I enjoyed reading this and it is so important for everyone who has a chronic illness to be reminded that we have to love ourselves more.

Chad
Chad
December 22, 2019 04:15

As you said, it is not for everyone and there is nothing wrong about that but I would definitely do it. Great post really.

Catherine Santiago Jose
Catherine Santiago Jose
December 22, 2019 01:37

I am happy that I am able to read this beautiful and interesting article today. I have never tried to date a chronic illness person but you know what, what I believe is you can’t do anything if your heart choose to love an illness person the only thing you can do is to fight for it and make your relationship work together.

Katie Wallace
December 21, 2019 05:04

I can imagine this would be very hard to navigate. Thanks for sharing your experience. Hard things can make people more compassionate. You can encourage alot of people because of your experiences.

Stacie
December 21, 2019 02:49

I would absolutely date a person with a chronic illness. I wouldn’t let that stop me from sharing life with them if I was interested. A chronic illness is something a person has to deal with, it’s not who they are.

Emmy
December 21, 2019 01:49

I have chronic illnesses and my husband has a rare bone disease that has no cure. We both experience pain and have bad days in very different ways, but our imperfections have helped us create a ton of empathy for each other. We don’t talk about our issues publicly so most people think we are healthy and are living the good life! I often get comments like “oh I wish I was as active as your family, you’re lucky you are young and healthy.” That always irks me because the reality is, it is an everyday struggle for both of us. I am so grateful I have a very caring and understanding husband, but I wish we were both 100% healthy.

arv!
arv!
September 16, 2019 21:07

I agree that dating someone with a chronic illness is not for everyone. One needs to be realistic when considering it. I’m sure it is frustrating for a person who is suffering from illness.

Nikki Michelle Albert
Nikki Michelle Albert
June 11, 2019 02:35

When I first started dating my spouse he was healthy, I was not. And it was totally a non-issue for him even though over time it has caused us both a lot of stress. Over time though he has had cancer and he has gastroparesis… so technically we are both chronically ill (his cancer was treated via surgery). And I understand him and he understands me. Works

Despite Pain
June 9, 2019 21:24

It’s amazing how different some people are. I sometimes think that the ones who don’t deal with their partner’s health condition well, would possibly deal with other aspects of the relationship badly anyway.

I remember meeting my husband and felt so self-conscious about my problems. He just accepted everything that came our way and helped me when I needed help. And, 27 years later, still does. There are good people out there who make the best partners.

An old friend of his gave him lots of praise when he found out I was disabled. It almost felt as though he was saying, “Well done for rescuing the stray cat that nobody else would have taken.” My husband married me, a real person. Not a disability. The disability just happens to come along with me. The guy’s comment wasn’t meant badly against me, he was genuinely praising my husband, but it felt quite cutting at the time for me, as though the only thing people could see was the disability.

(Sorry, I went off on a tangent..)

Despite Pain
June 10, 2019 14:42
Reply to  Sheryl Chan

I wish, lol. I’m 53, although this morning, I feel about 93. ?

Jenn
Jenn
April 12, 2018 07:49

I’m a single mom.of two, early 40’s. Been ill for many years, chronic pain, and always broke. There is not one single person in my personal life who cares two cents about me, so once the kids are grown, which is soon, I want to get a house out in the woods in the middle of no where and just he alone. The hurt, every day, is too painful to bear, so why try. I wish I had my health back, I was I had a huge bank account, but I don’t. And that’s what men want. Not someone like me. So, being a hermit at the moment is my only goal. Can’t get hurt being a hermit. And for those who reply back and say..no.dont give up..that isn’t true..it’s all hogwash. For those who have found someone, must have money then. That’s all that really matters. If I were fat, ugly, but with money, I’m certain my dance card would be filled. And getting help? Ha! People only want to be around me if I help them. If I need help, they run. Unless I pay them.

Mandy Farmer
Mandy Farmer
April 1, 2018 01:45

This is a good thing to think about for everyone.
I was thinking recently how one never really considers what those vows might mean, for Sickness and in health, richer or POORER,

G.alam
G.alam
March 9, 2018 06:41

You all just covered so many fears that have been restricting me from even allowing a relationdhip since knowing my illness..youve left me with knowing some of my fears are justified, and youve also made me feel worth investing in.. filled me with hope and a willingness to stay open to what may come and i want to say a huge thank you for that!!

Peter Sellers
Peter Sellers
January 10, 2018 04:02

Since my own diagnosis of kidney disease at the age of 35, dating has been tortuous and has yielded no results. Now at 50, and at risk of sliding into resentment with streaks of bitterness, I’m struggling to stay positive and hopeful.
As a 50 year old man struggling to make a sincere connection in a large cosmopolitan city like Toronto, I am often confronted with women who seem more intent on finding a partner that meets their list of expectations. That is a shopping list of qualifications for Mr. Right. And having a chronic illness seems to put me in a rejection box; “ DEFECTIVE MERCHANDISE: REJECT IMMEDIATELY”.
Honestly, this is extremely frustrating and humiliating. Do I have to adjust my perspective here or am I doomed as a man to suffer quietly ? Should I focus on dating women with a disability ? Maybe join a kidney disease support group ? I would prefer to socialize with healthy people and not dwell in the world of illness and disease; it tends to be self-absorbing and morose ( which I am equally guilty of ). We can sit here and write about how kindness and compassion needs to be practised, but this culture is not always nice and tends to kick people who are down and out. Should I even keep trying ? Why should I bother ?
Sincerely
Getting bitter and angry

Bruce
Bruce
October 1, 2017 19:44

Every time I see someone talking about relationship problems/situations, it’s almost quaint. I can’t even get a date anymore, certainly not online, everyone wants Prince Charming or an “equal”, whatever that is. People don’t want to be bothered, that’s the reality. My last girlfriend just quit showing up, didn’t bother to tell me what was going on. So now, I don’t have to “wish someone else would have to experience this chronic pain so they would have empathy” anymore. Or have sex, or a conversation, or swap jokes, or share a meal, either. Certainly makes life simpler and quieter if nothing else, on the positive side. Even if there is a disturbing lack of choice involved.

Jason
Jason
June 22, 2017 05:30

Thank you for sharing this. My wife and I both have had issues with dating prior to our relationship. There ere a lot of factors that have helped us on our journey together. She and I both were caregiviers to ill relatives prior to our relationship, and we both have physical and mental disabilities that have made ie it difficult in other relationships. The difference is that we support each other no matter what. She had anyeurisms burst in her brain when she was about 35 that left her paralyzed on the left side of her body, I was in an industrial accident when I was 29, and had my left foot crushed and severed about 3/4 of the way around. So neither of us are able to walk very well, but we are both warriors and fight daily to live our lives to the fullest. Additionally she is bipolar and has anxiety, while I suffer fro severe depression, anxiety, and PTSD. We have been together for alost 5 years, and find it refreshing how well we adapt to each other’s needs on a daily basis. I handle the household chores and she manages the finances as neither of us are capable of working and we rely on her disability check every month. But we have discovered that we are better together than we ever were apart. My family thinks the world of her, and her children who are close to my age have always accepted me with open arms, as I am the only husband she has had since her disability who truly treats her with love and respect. We don’t have an easy life, but together we have a life that we wouldn’t otherwise have. We both tried dating so called “normal” people but were usually treated as charity cases or mentally and emotionally abused because of our disabilities. We both have good and bad days, but we have each other to lean on regardless, and we’re not giving up on each other. We have decided that we will be married until one of us passes away no matter what. In other words, we both took the leap to date someone with a chronic illness/disability, and found it to be the best relationship we’ve ever had.

Renee Summerlin
Renee Summerlin
June 21, 2017 23:11

Enjoyed your article so much! Just a little background on me–diagnosed with severe JIA in 1966 at the age of 8. I’ve always been able to do anything I’ve wanted to, I just have to be a little more “creative” sometimes! When I met my husband in college, I remember how his mother reacted when we announced our engagement. I overheard her questioning him because of my RA. We married in 1979. Ironically, my husband was diagnosed with MS in 1987. We have a very loving and strong marriage–we also take care of each other!!!

Jamie
Jamie
June 21, 2017 22:47

My partner and I have been together since we were 20 and he was diagnosed with MS at 27. He told me to walk away if wanted to but it honestly never crossed my mind. I was very sick myself for a while and he was there every step of the way. He supported me through college and has been my biggest supporter and my rock and i always maintain that my degree is our degree. Yeah I work because he can’t at the moment but he keeps the rest of our life running smoothly. We are definitely equals in our relationship.

anonymous
anonymous
March 21, 2017 06:14

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

Kathie
Kathie
March 17, 2017 03:16

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

Tania
March 4, 2017 17:30

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

Emma
Emma
March 1, 2017 05:15

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.

Lydia B
March 1, 2017 03:03

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.

Ava Meena
February 28, 2017 07:38

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!

Elizabeth
February 28, 2017 07:18

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))

Veronique
February 28, 2017 00:18

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!

Stacey
Stacey
February 27, 2017 23:24

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

Melissa
Melissa
February 27, 2017 05:09

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.

Kels
February 26, 2017 23:05

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

Kelsey
Kelsey
February 26, 2017 13:01

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 ?