A hand holding a phone that shows an online dating profile for a man with a big, nervous smile. A row of red Xs to the left and green hearts to the right.

Dating With a Disease: Online Options

Time for yet another discussion about dating with a disease! Yep, I’m still super single, so I’ll try to refrain from offering any advice. I can, however, discuss some of the challenges that are out there for folks like us. Meeting someone is tough under any circumstances. That difficulty can magnify when you live with a chronic illness like MS. These days, many people are turning toward online dating apps as a way to meet someone. So in this article, I’ll talk about some of the options out there and my experiences.

Apps aplenty!

There are a ton of different online dating apps available these days. Tinder, Bumble, Plenty of Fish, Hinge, Match, and OkCupid are some of the common ones (if there’s a common one I’m missing, help a brother out and tell me in the comments!). Even Facebook has added a dating section recently, so the options are ever-increasing. Many of these apps are designed to be used from your phone, often utilizing its built-in GPS to find people near you.

The functionality

More and more of these apps have begun using some form of the “swipe” system that Tinder pioneered. Essentially, you bring up your app and it will use your search preferences, along with your location, to present you with a queue of people’s profiles. You then look at each profile and swipe left if you aren’t interested or right if you are (it’s almost like a game!). That’s a common mechanic on these apps, though most try to add their own spin on it to make it their own (for example, Bumble only allows women to make the first communication if people match). Like most phone apps, the basics are free, but extra functionality requires you to pay (normally a monthly fee).

App usability

While these are easy to use for most people, when you live with MS, things can get tricky. It can be difficult to type long messages or profile information on a tiny smartphone. Some of them have websites, but with apps being built around your smartphone’s GPS, they are really designed first and foremost to be used on a handheld device. I often struggle with hand issues, both weakness and spasms (among other things), that can make this difficult. More than once a spasm has made me “swipe” the wrong way. Usability varies greatly from app to app, and you really need to see what works for you (Tinder is incredibly streamlined and looks very “clean” and easy to use, whereas Plenty of Fish looks like a disaster to me). The problem with dating is that you really want to use whatever has the most users in your area. So usability isn’t always your first concern.

My experiences with online dating

Online dating hasn’t been easy for me. Do I list that I have MS or that I’m disabled? Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Even if I don’t, what do I say I do for a living? Many women list that they are looking for a man who is “put together” and works. Not sure that I count there. Aside from my own profile, I’m pretty sure every woman’s profile I’ve ever seen lists that they “love to travel” (I think they actually mean vacation, they love to go on vacation, because it doesn’t look like they are constantly jet setting all over the world). Hmm, me and travel have difficulties because of my illness. Many also list that they love to be “active”. OK, damn.

MS makes it difficult to meet the criteria women seem to be searching for

It also seems that most women I come across love one thing almost as much as they love traveling - sitting on the beach! Well, that doesn’t sound too delightful if you have MS and temperature worsens your symptoms. I know you can’t take a ton of stock in some of the information on a dating app profile, but it’s difficult to be in my position and not feel a little disheartened. Do I fit in with anyone? Should I even be looking if I’m this limited? Browsing other people’s profiles can really make you question yourself and make you feel like an outsider.

I’ve not really given up hope, yet

So why do I keep using these apps? Well, online dating is mainstream now, it’s increasingly how people meet one another. It’s not how I’d prefer to do things, but it seems like my best option these days. I’m someone that feels that if I can just talk with someone in person, my chances skyrocket. I simply need an opportunity to explain my situation in person and give them a chance to see that I’m probably not what their preconceived ideas about MS or disability say I should be. Do I have a lot of hope? No, I’m 43 and disabled, but honestly, my lack of hope deals more with my location (a resort area and one that is also filled with people whose views are far different than mine about a lot of things) than it does my disability.

Having more in common with people than we think

I think for most people that have a chronic illness, if we can get that in-person opportunity, our odds of finding love go way up. It’s just getting that chance that is difficult. We have to remember that so many people are on these apps that you have to go through a lot of people to find someone. You also have to keep in mind that, no matter what their profile looks like, at a certain point in life, everyone has gone through something difficult. For us, it just happens to be MS. You likely have more in common than an initial glance at a profile suggests. At least, that’s what I hope. So I’ll keep on swiping (and honestly, just swiping left or right on profiles can be a fun way to kill time)!

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


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