A New Approach to Dating with MS

Folks, I did it again. After breaking up with a guy eight months ago, I recently returned to an online dating site to find a new friend. Some things about the experience are exactly the same, while others have changed quite a bit, and definitely for the better.

Things that are the same in online dating

Some of the same guys are there that I saw years ago. They probably did what I did: date someone, then break up, go back online and meet someone else. I suspect it’s a revolving door for many of us.

The types of people are the same, too. I can put some of them into categories including personal examples:

Porn whisperer: Recently I received this message: “Are you a large woman that enjoys dominating and being bossy?” Any comeback I could think of would have fed his fantasy, so I left it alone.

Narcissist (and opportunist with an undiagnosed brain chemistry imbalance): Incredibly handsome jazz singer/harmonica player and squash pro with poor impulse control. He talked loud and fast, ate all my food, drank all my Mexican beer, called me an arrogant know-it-all, then fashion-shamed my shoes before fleeing into the night.

Narcissist (and hyper-competitive, attention hound, supermodel wannabe): He was tall and slim with perfectly symmetrical, Nordic features and blond hair down to his waist. He totally dominated the conversation on our first date, highlighting his favorite activities of visiting Goth clubs as a form of relaxation, intimidating his ex-wife by wearing skirts in public, and telling me that I’m too cerebral and need to unwind the Goth way. After walking me to my car, he gave me a hug and stepped back. “Did you notice?” he asked with an expectant grin.

“What?” I said, quickly scanning through those two seconds pressed against his chest. No alarm bells had gone off.

“I have breasts,” he announced loud enough for the entire parking lot to hear. “I’m getting estrogen injections because I want to know what it feels like to have them." I decided not to see him again. At my age, I don’t need the competition.

Things that are very different now

The main thing that is different is me. This year, I’ve become very much lighter in mood, thought, and outlook, so much so that I regard most things in life as being terribly amusing. Not in a cynical, embittered way, though that mindset is entirely okay, too. I’ve been there and might return to it at any moment. It’s just that for a while now, nothing gets my goat. I laugh a truly light-hearted laugh at most things. Nobody offends me anymore.

Changing my attitude about disclosing my MS

I've also changed my attitude about revealing multiple sclerosis in my profile narrative. I used to omit it and chose to reveal that information when I thought appropriate. Not only do I mention it now, I make a joke of it: "I have multiple sclerosis and walk with a cane, so if you insist on meeting me at the hiking trail, tennis court, or ice rink, be prepared to carry me around while you do your thing." Totally painless. I've come clean and, I hope, made them smile, too. It also telegraphs how comfortable I am with myself.

A long road to confidence

There’s really no how-to I can share with you. I’ve traveled a long road to get here. I’ve always had high self-esteem, but confidence can be easily undercut by the constant stress, rejection, and trauma of chronic illness. I reached a plateau this year, MS-wise and otherwise, and that might have allowed me the time and space to grow.

An update

Recently, I met a man online that I really liked. I ended it before it went very far. It had nothing to do with my MS. He had a family member die from MS-related aspiration pneumonia and an ex-wife with MS. He was very familiar with the disease and wasn't at all put off by it. I stopped it because he confessed he was in a relationship and wanted to see me on the sly. He also confessed to having a problem with being honest (category: pathological liar). This was a challenge to my light-heartedness, and I left the dating site to restore it. I'm happy to report that it took a whole twenty-four hours to return to my happy place. I won't return to the dating site for a while, though. Liars and deceivers, porn-whisperers and narcissists will still be there when I go back. I'm in no hurry to run the gauntlet again.

We're in this together

I'm sharing these details so those of you who have had similar experiences won't feel so burdened and alone. It isn't easy to maintain an 'I'm Okay, You're Okay' mindset. Feel free to share your experiences, we're in this together. We have the strength, compassion, and class to know our value and, at the same time, feel sympathy for those who are still entombed within their ego, greed, and insensitivity.

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