When you’re single in what seems to be a sea of happy couples it’s all too easy to look at reasons for your singleness with an excessively critical eye. For those of us who live with chronic illness, it can feel obvious to blame our condition for not having found love. But is it? To my thinking, the answer is both yes and no.
Yes, you are single because of your chronic illness
A chronic illness affects every area of your life, including relationships. Dating takes a lot of energy. When your chronic illness is being particularly present and requires all your attention, while at the same time draining your emotional and physical batteries, there’s just enough of you to get through the day. Meeting new people, getting dressed up and going out, putting your best foot forward, and following up to show your interest… Well, it’s exhausting just thinking about it. During those times, it might be best to focus on getting better before you make plans to find your Prince/Princess Charming.
But that’s not all. The unvarnished truth is that certain people can’t handle being with someone who has a chronic illness. I’ve met many of them myself — the man who wanted an equal partner and when pressed thought it was important to be able to paint the house together. Another backed out of a date when he heard about my rheumatoid arthritis and disability because his mother had had multiple sclerosis. Remember that this kind of reaction is not about you at all — it is due to that person’s preconceptions and baggage. It is not your job to teach them otherwise, so move on with a light heart.
No, your chronic illness is not** the reason you’re single**
There are a multitude of reasons why people are single. Maybe you are comfortable being on your own. You could also be picky — there’s nothing wrong with that, but it does get in the way of dating. Or maybe you choose to spend your free time with your extended family and friends. That doesn’t leave much space for a new person.
Take a look at how much effort you’re putting into finding that special someone. Maybe you don’t have the time or the inclination to put yourself out there and if so, that likely has more to do with you being single then your chronic illness.
There’s also the fact that sometimes, you have to kiss an awful lot of frogs before you find your Prince/Princess. Go out with your single friends for a drink and share stories about dating. It will make all of you feel better.
A chronic illness can seem pervasive and ever-present. But there is so much more to you than that. There is your fascination with macro photography, collection of Agatha Christie novels, the way you snort when you laugh, and your intense dislike of Brussels sprouts (for instance). We all have quirky and charming traits that together make up our unique personality. I firmly believe that when you’re ready, you will find the person who will love you madly just the way you are, chronic illness and all.
I believe this because it happened to me. Eight years ago, I met the love of my life, although I didn’t know it at first. We met on an online dating site and were friends for a while. Everyone else around us knew that we’d fallen in love, but it took us several months to figure it out. Thankfully, we did. And ever since, we’ve loved each other madly, just the way we are.
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Lene Andersen is the Community Leader for HealthCentral’s RA Community. Lene (pronounced Lena) is an award-winning writer, health and disability advocate, and photographer living in Toronto. She’s written several books, including Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain, and 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain, as well as the award-winning blog, The Seated View. Follow Lene on Twitter @TheSeatedView and on Facebook. Watch her story on HealthCentral.