Below I have jotted down a few things I Wish I Knew A Long Time Ago. They seem simple, but they really are key.
Pre-Dating “Homework”: It is essential before you begin dating that you clearly establish a strong foundation of self-love and appreciation. Sadly, it is easy for some girls (and boys) to see themselves as “damaged goods” and therefore be willing to do things in relationships or overlook major character flaws that they wouldn’t if they didn’t have an illness. The first step in doing this is to uncover the difference between your mind, your body and your soul. We so often find our self-esteem in the clothes we wear or how pretty we feel, but it’s important to go deeper to discover what is valuable about you beyond the physical. Once you are able to make that differentiation, you can then explore who you are and what you believe about life on a much greater level. When you can truly see yourself as the amazing person you are, you will then be able to begin the search for a healthy relationship.
Dating: There are so many questions that come up when you first start dating a new person. Things like, “When should I tell him about my illness?” and “What kind of reaction will he have?” can distract you from getting to know someone. The answers to these questions need to be explored in your “homework” so you can enter into dating with a plan. You have to figure out where you stand on these important issues before you go on the date. Trying to sort out when you should tell someone about your physical problems in the back of your mind won’t work; you won’t be engaged in the moment and will miss getting to know the person in front of you. If you think of these things ahead of time, you will have a game plan and can feel more confident.
In general, when you are on a date, it is essential that you find techniques that help you maintain your level head and not get caught up in the “need to impress”. Pretend like it’s a job interview and you are the employer! There’s only one position available as your partner, so be discriminating and choose wisely!
Getting Serious: When you have an illness, falling in love can feel bitter sweet. Amidst the excitement and joy come the questions: “How will we handle it when I get sick?”, “Will he stay with me when I am in need?” and “Can I or should I have children?”. Facing the sad parts of your reality head on is key to having a strong relationship. If you can’t talk about the hard things, there will be trouble down the road. As the person with the illness, it is your responsibility to educate and initiate dialogue about your disease process. It is your partner’s responsibility to take it seriously and look within themselves to see if they are up for the challenges ahead. If your relationship is going to work, you will both need to feel safe and comfortable in talking about your true feelings at every turn. While facing illness is difficult, it can enhance a relationship with the right partner because you both will be keenly aware of how precious your time together is.
The burning question for many people is; “Can I have the relationship of my dreams despite my illness?” and my answer is “yes”. There is someone out there who will love you enough that a short time together is better than no time at all. Is your life more complicated because of your illness? Yes, but you have the opportunity to embrace your challenges and enrich your life and your love.