Dating with a Disease: Thoughts on an NYT Magazine Column

Recently, I came across a segment in “The Ethicist” section of The New York Times Magazine (where people can write in and ask ethics-related questions to an “expert”) in which they were asked “Is It OK to Dump Him Because of His Medical Condition?”. The person writing in recently learned that someone they had just started dating had Crohn’s disease and had it “pretty bad,” and they wanted to know if it was unethical to stop dating him because of it.

Leaving someone due to chronic illness

Acknowledging the selfishness of it, she went on to say that she wanted to shield herself from potential pain. Initially, the “expert” gave her the go-ahead, reminding her that they weren’t married and weren’t in some sort of “death do us part” situation. After some backlash, they did a little backpedaling without really changing their stance. As a single person who also has a similar and debilitating illness, obviously I have some thoughts I need to express about all of this.

Some people see my MS before they see me

I’m 42, single, and am disabled by multiple sclerosis. I have, rather unsuccessfully, attempted to date over the past few years. While I wouldn’t say my disease has ended potential relationships that have started (if you’ve read me over the years, you probably realize that I’m a bit of a vocal and opinionated person and not everyone’s cup of tea), I do think it’s eliminated me from contention for a number of people before they had a chance to get to know me. My condition and situation in life have blinded them to who I really am. I get it; how many women out there are actually open enough to give someone my age with an incurable disease a chance? I’m an easy 'swipe left,' and I know that. Seeing someone asking about this in the New York Times Magazine definitely highlights the challenges someone like me faces when it comes to dating.

When I disclose that I have MS

While I confess I have issues after that initial stage in dating, it’d still be nice to get there more often. I’ve flipped back and forth over when I mention my MS. Currently, I mention it right in my profile because if they can’t be open-minded enough to get past that, I’d rather not waste any time (not to mention, a simple Google of my name is going to bring up everything I write about the disease, including a lot of somewhat embarrassing stories).

Life with MS is an unknown

As I said, I often change my opinion on when I (or others) should make mention of it. However, given that “what do you do for a living” is one of the first common getting to know each other questions, it still comes up fairly early no matter what. Obviously, you want people to not have to know about your illness to give them a chance at getting to know you. The woman that wrote into The Times is a perfect example of why. I don’t blame her, or anyone, for being apprehensive, I'd probably be in that situation too. There will always be fear of the unknown and for most people out there, a chronic illness like MS is a huge unknown.

People with MS have so much to offer in relationships

I do wish people could get past the initial shock of someone having a medical condition like mine (or the person discussed in the Times article). While our situation may not be what they’ve pictured when thinking of a dream partner, I think we can actually offer a lot more in a relationship, because many times we’ve been through the wringer when it comes to life.

Dating with a disease

If someone is taking the steps to date with a disease, that means that not only have they survived a lot, they’ve learned to thrive despite their illness. They aren’t dating to find a caretaker, they’re dating because their disease has helped them learn the real joys of and to appreciate life and they want someone to share that with (at least in my case). Someone like me may not have the fancy career I once had, but my struggles have made me a better person than I was back then, they’ve matured me.

We have already adapted to our lives being up-ended

One final note I’d love to make is that I wish people could realize just how fragile life is. Everyone is one accident, bill, diagnosis, or lay-off from having their entire life uprooted. No matter how high you are, you can be lower than low in an instant. People like me and that gentleman discussed in The Times article have already been through that, adapted to it, and come out on top. Not everyone can say that. We know that when life gets rough, we can carry on.

Know your worth!

Can we be so sure about you? Who will the real burden be if life goes to hell? At any rate, I read that Times piece and needed to talk about it. If you’re dating with a disease, remember your worth; it’s probably a lot more than most people realize.

Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share!

Devin

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