Nitika Chopra is a certified life coach, wellness entrepreneur, go-to resource for young women around the globe, and a motivational lifestyle guru.
Last week in The Chronic (illness) Crew on Facebook, a young woman asked an incredibly vulnerable question that sparked a beautiful thread of honesty and virtual sisterhood. She was feeling defeated and nervous about dating while dealing with a chronic illness and wanted to know if anyone else in the group had experienced any success with starting a relationship after being diagnosed. You see, while dating is hard for a lot of single people out there, it is a specific kind of hard for people who are bringing a significant illness to the relationship before it even starts.
Maybe for you it isn’t illness, but the trauma of losing someone you love too soon and how that has shaped you. Or the struggle to find your purpose and how that has knocked your confidence. We all bring some level of intensity to our relationships and the parts of our souls that are pushed, pressed and stressed are often created through the most challenging experiences we have ever had.
As soon as she asked, I hollered back and declared a strong “Hell. Yes!” to her inquiry. While I am currently single and my psoriasis is in remission, I have had over two decades of weaving in and out of relationships where my health made me intensely aware of the possibility of rejection. And it wasn’t only me. There were lots of other women in The Chronic (illness) Crew that had similar fears about dating and dealing with their health, only to find that the right man will nurture them, not shame them. One woman wrote, “I just met an amazing man who doesn’t mind that I have Crohn’s disease, and he loves me even more for it because he said it gives me character. After only knowing him for 2 months, he stayed all night in the ER with me. There are some amazing men out there!”
It was another moment that humbled me and reminded me why the conversation around thriving with a chronic illness is needed. The experiences I have had while dealing with my psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis for the past 27 years were not special to me. In fact, according to The National Health Council, there are about 137 million other people dealing with similar challenges in the United States.
So how did I deal with falling in love and wanting to share myself with someone while I was in the depths of my health challenges? It wasn’t easy, in fact there were many moments that were more terrifying than I thought I could handle. But it has always paid off. Every man I have ever dated or been in a full-blown relationship with that was ever worth anything has always loved ALL of me. Psoriasis flakes, deformed bones and everything else that comes with my conditions.
There are a few things to remember while you navigate getting to know someone at the start of a romantic relationship. Read below for 3 things to remember while dating with a chronic illness.
- Vulnerability is Key. Although sometimes I hate to have to be the one to lead with vulnerability, it’s key if we want our partners to be vulnerable in return. I have found that the more I just name my feelings and share that I am afraid to be rejected because of my health, the response is one of acceptance and love. Vulnerability can look different for everyone and it’s important not to force it just to have someone validate us, but to stand in how amazing we are and then lead from our heart. Knowing that whether or not this person accepts us we are so beyond worthy of love.
- Keep it Light. Ok so this is one I REALLY resisted when I was first learning how to date after my divorce. I had been through some intense stuff and there was really nothing light about my life at the time and especially not about my health! But over time, I realized that the heaviness I was carrying around and putting on my potential partners, was MY heaviness. It wasn’t what I wanted our share experiences to be based on. So yes, there would be times when I would share how hard things were and how much trauma I had been through. But just as I don’t want to be defined by conditions, I don’t want my relationships to be defined by them either. I had to actually practice being light. Laughing, joking, playing and practicing ways to focus on joy versus pain. For someone who is dealing with a chronic illness, this can seem somewhat impossible at times and I beyond get that. But I promise that your health and your relationships will benefit from it in the long run.
- Take It SLOW. Although I don’t have all the facts on this yet, I have read a lot of content that explains how most people who have a chronic illness are highly sensitive and empathetic individuals. Whether they realize it or not. Among other things, I believe our illness is one of the ways our body is trying to cope with everything we experience and feel. Don’t worry, this is not my way of saying that we cause these conditions or that our emotions are the whole story, but I do believe they are one part of it. I have also seen that an intense level of co-dependency is often present with people who struggle with their bodies in this way. I know I have experienced that for my entire life and it’s only been very recently that I have truly understood the ways I have been codependent in my life. So when we meet someone who we think might be able to fill our emptiness, nurture our wounds and love us in spite of our conditions it can be incredibly tempting to jump all the way in. I ask that instead you take a beat and allow things to unfold at a slow pace. It’s uncomfortable to do that but I believe it will lead to the type of results that you truly desire.
Dating isn’t the easiest thing to do no matter what you have going on in your life but I do believe that if you enter the dating world with more empowering thoughts about who you are and what you’re worth, the better results you will have. I hope you will keep some of these practices in your back pocket for your next date and know that with time, patience and a little vulnerability mixed in you will find the type of guy who is worthy of how amazing you are. Promise.
Now I want to hear from you in the comments below. Have you ever found dating with a chronic illness more challenging once you were diagnosed? Or if you’re like me and got your condition before you even started dating, how do you think that shaped your experience? I want to know and your comments always move me to my core so please share your thoughts! Love you xx