So, I signed up for Match.com. Why? Because I’m single and it’s presently what some call “cuffing season.” This is the time when people who spent the summer BBQ hopping and frolicking in fields of flings lock themselves down to one person. Some suggest this is in order to stay warm or to avoid watching Netflix alone during snowstorms. The fall is recruiting time, and as the leaves fall and the air chills, my list of beaus is still empty.
I create a fab profile and begin wading through the pool of possibilities. I click on a few guys, then run into a very interesting one. This gentleman added bolded text to his profile photo: “I have a disability.” My first thought is, “No! Wait till they meet you and fall in love with your wit, curl pattern, and perfect comedic timing. Then drop it on them.” Next, I think, “Wait, you should be upfront so they know what they’re getting into.” Finally, I take the guy out of the story and I ask myself, “How do I date with lupus in the picture?”
There’s more to me than my illness, yet I realize that it plays a role in who I am. But before I even start the dating process, first things first, I have to check my expectations. What am I really looking for? A life partner or a home attendant? Really, am I looking for someone to help me live with lupus? Sometimes we get so caught up with being a patient that we forget the goal isn’t to find a health proxy; the goal is to find a partner to share life with.
I have friends with chronic illnesses who’ve confessed that they started the first half-hour of their date by detailing their diagnosis, listing past surgeries, even mentioning how their medication makes them constipated. Not only is this NOT sexy talk, but the other person could’ve called the hospital if they wanted to date your medical chart. It’s easy to fear that this huge daily battle will turn someone away. But trust that the regular dating process will show you if a person is even worthy of your time. If their values and personality don’t match with yours, I don’t care if they’re a part-time rheumatologist and massage therapist who can save you money on prescriptions — you don’t want them!
Many times, lupus naturally comes up. Maybe they ask a deeper question (like people interested in you are supposed to do). “What’s something you struggle with?” I’ve even been asked why I rock so much purple. I look to see how much they’re sharing, how open they are, and I mirror that. That openness could come earlier rather than later, depending on how quickly the connection happens. But I do not present my illness as a weakness or a defect that I need to warn someone about. Lupus is not baggage I’m hoping to put on someone’s back. It’s more like a handbag: I carry it but if he wants to sweep me off my feet while I do, hey, let’s go! I’ve lived with lupus, I’ll be fine whether they stick around or don’t.
While dating, I try to remind myself that I am Shanelle first. Long before I became a Lupie, I loved chocolate chip cookies, listening to catchy music with questionable lyrics, reading Harry Potter books, doing community service, and laughing a lot (mostly at myself). I will not let lupus hog the conversation at the dinner table and take over yet another part of my world.
I don’t know what disability the guy from Match.com has but I do hope he got a few likes and a date or two. As for me, I believe you should let the person get to know at least the basics of you that were there before your diagnosis, and that still exist, and expect them to join in the joys and struggles of life. Lead with what is important: the content of your character.
Note: Lupus News Today 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 Lupus News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.