Dating with a Chronic Illness: It’s Complicated

Dating with a Chronic Illness: It’s Complicated

Dachshunds & Duvets – a column by Jessie Madrigal-Fletcher

For the past week, my inbox has been inundated with invitations to treat my beloved to an overpriced dinner or a dubious sweater covered in hearts. This overtly romantic onslaught has me thinking about something millions of us do at some point in our lives: date. Additionally, millions of us do so while living with a chronic illness, and this makes dating a completely different game. 

So, in an effort to share the wondrous particularities of life with a chronic disease, here’s a little rundown on how dating works for someone like me.

It involves potential disappointment from the go.

My loyal friend endometriosis comes up as soon as I meet anyone. I’m like, “Have you met Endo? She moved in 20 years ago and loves to give me IBS.” Writing about the disease is what I do for a living, so it comes up very often. Sometimes the person I’m into barely makes an effort to pronounce my chronic condition, or rather amusingly, repeatedly refers to it as “that thing you have,” while wiggling their finger toward my crotch (true story). 

It gets especially bad when they pull a horrified expression as soon as I mention the word “illness.” To all potential lovers, a good poker face when listening to someone with a chronic condition is never an undervalued skill. 

bar, dating
Looking for love … in all the wrong places? (Photo by Jessie Madrigal)

Our illness can make us an “imperfect” match. 

An endometriosis sufferer in the midst of singlehood will swipe through profiles on dating apps and get to the dreaded “baby section.” A lot of people publicly state their desire for a child. It’s hard not to feel deflated knowing that may be the one flaw to screw up any romantic plans. 

Additionally, fertility is also quite a heavy topic of conversation for a first date. However, when is the right moment to tell someone you may not be able to have kids? Or that your condition makes life so tough already you aren’t even considering becoming a mother?

So, yes, we are far from perfect, but then again, who isn’t?

We are definitively not looking for a carer. 

While occasionally ill, chronically fabulous people like myself are not looking for carers. We are not seeking a nurse or anyone to feed us when we are bedbound — although an ability to quickly fetch a tub of vegan ice cream is highly appreciated. 

What we don’t want is anyone’s pity, and unsurprisingly, we get that a lot. Head-tilts and worried expressions are unsexy. Even that attempt to touch us masked as the so-sorry-you-are-going-through-this arm squeeze can feel very awkward. 

We appreciate coolness.

As an endometriosis sufferer, I just want people to be cool around me and to treat me like a regular human being. I especially favor those who don’t assume I’m a flake when I have to cancel last-minute plans because of a flare-up. I really appreciate anyone who won’t mock me if I order a gluten-free pizza, but will make a joke at my complete lack of self-awareness in ordering the side of garlic bread. 

Most importantly, I want to hang out with someone who won’t freak out if I accidentally bleed on their brand new bed sheets. Because with endometriosis — spoiler alert — that can easily happen. And I will feel 100 times worse than you and suddenly wish for the ground to open so I can crawl in there until you forget my name, I promise.

sausage dog
Worst date ever? He never shares his toys and eats all of the pizza. (Photo by Jessie Madrigal)

Yet, dating us can be a lot of fun.

Hanging out with someone with a chronic illness can be surprisingly exciting. Our pain thresholds tend to be pretty high, which I’m not sure serves for anything, but I like to think of it as a rather brilliant superpower. 

Endometriosis patients, in particular, have developed a good sense of humor dealing with the somewhat embarrassing nature of having complicated vaginas. We also don’t sweat the small stuff, and we appreciate the beauty of a great night in … cheap date anyone?

Socializing with a chronic illness can be a complicated minefield, but it doesn’t make the experience any less fun. Deep down, we are just regular folk, looking for love … in all the wrong places. 

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Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.

My name is Jessie. I am a writer and part-time Yoga instructor living in the south of England. Since being diagnosed with endometriosis, I’m determined to be the boss of my chronic illness. You’ll find me with two sausage dogs curled up on my belly and my duvet nearby, writing about life and whatever my mind thinks up. This is my journey.
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My name is Jessie. I am a writer and part-time Yoga instructor living in the south of England. Since being diagnosed with endometriosis, I’m determined to be the boss of my chronic illness. You’ll find me with two sausage dogs curled up on my belly and my duvet nearby, writing about life and whatever my mind thinks up. This is my journey.

2 comments

  1. Miss Molly says:

    Thank you for the laugh, and the clarity of understanding! I’m 4 years date free, partly for not even feeling like dating while juggling doctors and a diagnosis and treatment, not to mention how my body feels (not like being intimate), and it feels nearly impossible to invite someone you don’t know yet to be part of that… I appreciate your article a lot!

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