I get asked for relationship advice a lot. I guess that’s par for the course, as my husband and I were the first couple in our group to get engaged, move in together, and get married.
Interestingly, I also get asked a lot for dating and relationship advice by other spoonies. I guess that makes sense, too, since I managed to snag my adorable husband while being blatantly, unhideably sick.
It didn’t just happen, though. It took a lot of work and self confidence to get to the point where I was able to date as a sick person. One mistake I had made in earlier relationships, before a virus made my illnesses unable to be disguised, was not disclosing my illness at the beginning of the relationship.
I know, you’re thinking, “but if I tell them I’m sick, it will scare them off!” But really, if it does, is that the kind of person- male or female- that you want to be with? When I didn’t disclose that I was ill, I spent a lot of time trying to hide my symptoms. “Faking well” put a lot of strain on my relationship, and on my body as well. As the stress of faking well got to me, my symptoms got worse. I started making excuses for not being able to talk or hang out, and they took the excuses to mean that I was bored of them.
In the end, I had to break off several relationships because people couldn’t accommodate my “sudden” illness or thought I was faking. It wasn’t healthy for me or for the poor boys I was dating!
Other than disclosure, I think it’s especially important for spoonies not to throw everything they have into a relationship. It was always tempting for me, having lost so many friends and hobbies, to become too into a relationship and lose my sense of self.
In illness, it’s important to maintain your sense of self. Because your body has betrayed you, you might feel- like I did- that you’re unattractive, unworthy of love, and uninteresting. Thanks to these misconceptions about myself, I found myself clinging to any scraps of attention someone would throw to me. That’s not a healthy way to have a relationship, and clinging to scraps of love and affection can make you feel even worse about yourself.
Once I started going to counseling, accepting my illness and my body, and finding things I could still do that I was interested in, my relationships thrived. I made friends online and in person who were understanding, and I met my now husband. Because I had a life separate from my husband, our relationship didn’t feel rushed or forced.
Of course, your mileage may vary. Everyone is different in their relationships and their personalities. However, these were important things for me when I was dating!
Now, I’m determined to make our marriage last. The statistics for marriages where one partner is chronically ill are grim, but they’re just that: statistics. Although they may show a trend, they’re not a death sentence for my own marriage. After all, this may seem impossible, but so did dating!