Schizophrenia and Romance
As a field guide, I can write about this topic with a fresh eye. I don’t recommend the online dating services.
I quit eHarmony and chemistry.com because they sent me matches that didn’t meet my criteria. One guy wrote that the love of his life: must love animals. I dislike dogs and cats and other pets. My idea of interacting with animals is to go to the San Diego Zoo. I’m sure the PETA folk would object to a zoo too.
You might have better luck with TrueAcceptance or NoLongerLonely: two Internet matchmakers strictly for individuals with mental health challenges like schizophrenia and bipolar and other conditions. I wasn’t lucky on either of those web sites.
I would also nix OKCupid. I found out too late that OKCupid is only for hook-ups. I had no idea when I signed up that this was the case.
On the opposite end: a woman told me eHarmony caters to conservative Christians.
You will be asked to answer questions to see if you’re compatible to other members on these web sites. You have to realize when you answer the service’s questions that it sets you up for the kinds of responses you get. You might not get any responses if you’re rated as not being kinky and adventurous on OKCupid. You might not get any responses on eHarmony if you’re a free spirit that likes to attend and perform at poetry readings.
In New York an online dating service that charges $25/per month is legally required to send you at least 5 matches. eHarmony charged me only $5/per month and sent me only 2 matches.
It was all a waste of time online. The reason the dating services don’t work is that it’s superficial: a person orders up an allegedly perfect partner with a list of traits like he or she is assembling the parts of a sleek car on an assembly line.
The problem is the guy orders up the perfect woman of his dreams and yet he only wants a woman who will part her legs quickly. Forget the famous quote of putting lipstick on a pig. It’s like putting a man’s tie on a pig. You can catch a disease if you’re not careful.
The other thing is that the guy, even if he’s 50, will want to have kids. Any guy 35 or older because of his old age is at risk of having offspring with a greater risk of developing schizophrenia. This research has been publicly stated for at least 5 years.
If you have schizophrenia and don’t want kids, you’re out of the running with these guys. You’re out of the running sometimes solely because you have schizophrenia.
For LGBT individuals I recommend the book Steve Petrow’s Complete Guide to Gay and Lesbian Manners. It talks about going on first dates, getting involved in a relationship, etiquette and how to bring up whether you share the same outlook on marriage and kids, among the detailed information the author covers.
For all of us, I propose a better strategy. I’m here to tell you there’s a more effective way that is near-guaranteed to help you meet a guy or a woman. It’s called face-to-face. A quaint notion. Yet I’m convinced it will work.
Getting active in the world is the sure-fire way to come in contact with people that you share passions with. It might be through a MeetUp that you meet a guy. It might be at an author talk at a bookstore. It might be at a coffeehouse where you see the same person every Saturday and screw up the courage to go to him or her and introduce yourself.
Romantic partners are optional in a person’s recovery yet I always think love is worth the risk. Sharing your life with the right person that’s your soul match can be a blessing. In some ways it can be harder yet in other ways your life can be easier when you have a partner who supports you and pitches in at home or runs errands with you.
The cardinal rule is to protect and respect yourself and your partner. Use birth control and condoms to prevent unwanted pregnancy. A condom can prevent STDs and HIV whereas female contraception alone does not.
As regards disclosure when you have schizophrenia: wait. And wait some more. Wait until you’re ready to get closer to the person. That can be for you on the fifth date or the fifth month yet you get to decide.
Talk about a person like Catherine Zeta-Jones that has bipolar. Or Elyn Saks that has schizophrenia. Subtly press to see how the person reacts to gauge whether you want to tell him or her about your own diagnosis.
A friend recommends telling the other person as soon as possible so that you don’t waste your time being strung along with a guy or gal that will only ditch you when he or she finds out.
I might err on the early bird side myself however I would couch it in human terms. I would state that I take medication and I’m in remission and keep fit and healthy and active.
You reveal only the details you’re comfortable revealing. If your romantic partner presses you for the details, you might need to reveal one or two things that happened when you were diagnosed. Other than that: not so fast. I don’t think it serves you well to blabber about the worst.
Focus on creating a memorable, unforgettable image of who you are that is positive on the first date. You want the person you’re with to see the real you unvarnished by your diagnosis.
Every dating expert in her book tells readers that the first date is not the time to reveal such intimate details. One relationship coach suggests you do so only at the six month time period.
I’ll end this SharePost by telling you to relax and enjoy yourself.
Carry cash and ID in your wallet in case you have to end the evening quickly or bow out because it’s not working out. Meet in a public area the first time you meet. Accept that you’re entitled to go at your own pace. Revealing any kind of personal details upfront is not good.
Have fun. Smile. Take an interest in your date. Let him or her do most of the talking yet also take part in the conversation by talking about your hopes and dreams.
As I wrote elsewhere:
Life is short. Have the cheesecake.
Christina Bruni wrote about schizophrenia for HealthCentral as a Patient Expert. She is a mental health activist and freelance journalist.