I guess you could say that I’m back in the dating saddle, which is both a good and bad thing. It’s definitely good that I’m moving on from my past relationships – especially the one I posted about – but it’s very overwhelming to me because lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are always lurking in a dark corner, waiting to throw a kink into things.
So when you start dating someone, when is it okay to drop the “sick bomb”?
My first inclination is the sooner the better, so if someone wants to run the other way, they can before either one of us gets too attached. But because so few relationships seem to make it past the first date, maybe it’s best to wait it out. Then I got to thinking that maybe the third date is best. If you’ve gone past one and two, you’re getting somewhere. Definitely time to come clean. So in other words, I don’t know. I’m feeling very conflicted at the moment.
Mainly because this conversation gives me nightmares. I imagine it going something like this (even though I’ve really had it, and this is pretty much how it goes):
ME: There’s something I need to talk to you about, and I’m not sure how you are going to feel about what I have to say.
THE GUY: Trying to be cute, says, “Are you seeing someone else? Did you used to be a man?”
ME: No, nothing like that. (This is potentially worse)
THE GUY: Whew!
ME: I’m sick. I have lupus and rheumatoid arthritis – followed by a very laymen explanation of illnesses – and while these illnesses effect my life to varying degrees at varying times, I thought you should know so that you can make the decision to get out while you can, if you don’t think this is something you can or want to deal with.
In my last three relationships, I blew the third date rule in waiting to have this conversation. The first and third because we were quickly getting to know each other, so I disclosed prior to the first date, and the other because we had known each other for a long time before we got together, and he already knew I was sick when we started seeing each other. And maybe that’s why it was so easy for me to fall into a relationship with this person, because he already knew I was sick.
I think as much as we would all like to have faith in people and give them the benefit of the doubt, we have to be realistic about the fact that illness is a definite deal breaker, or at least it feels that way to me. And I would hate to see illness get in the way of what could otherwise be a good relationship, but I have seen relationships end over much less, so I guess that’s how it goes.
I am convinced now that the third date rule – which I came up with – really doesn’t work, if the relationship gets to that point. Men these days are relentless. Everyone wants to be your facebook friend, and text and tweet you (get your mind out of the gutter…or maybe not…), and get to know you better by not really getting to know you. And because of this “let’s be facebook friends first” mentality, guys are actually getting access to a surprising amount of information very early on (even before the first date). This is the first time that I’ve considered my blog to be a liability…
But the truth is, I’m not going to censor myself. Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are a fact of my life. And I guess with the right person, these illnesses won’t be all of who I am. They are only a small part of me. And the right person will be able to strike a balance between the two. Or they won’t be the right person, and they’ll walk away. I guess that is a risk I have to take.
Maybe this post sounds rather doom and gloom, but I’m not convinced that this conversation goes well most of the time. In fact, I think this conversation going well is the exception and not the rule. As tough as many guys claim to be, I’m not optimistic that many of them can (or want to) deal with something like this. Although I’m learning that some can, it doesn’t mean the relationship is going to work out.
Because in most cases, the “in sickness and in health” bit is hypothetical. But in a way, too, is the above conversation. I could go into remission tomorrow. My illnesses could stay the way they are for the next 20 years. Or not. But the truth is, I don’t know… And that’s why I have to be honest and upfront, no matter how much it pains me to do so…
One casualty of illness is that I worry that I am too quick to glom on to guys who are willing to wear the illness hat, or at least try it on for size. It’s easy to see that person as being Mr. Right, even when they’re not even Mr. Good Enough, not even close. The problem is, though, that this acceptance is going to be a huge piece of the puzzle. So it’s easy to get seduced by the idea that someone is okay with the “idea” of my baggage. Because no one that I’ve been with has actually experienced a flare first hand, oddly enough.
I have to wonder, in a very Carrie Bradshaw kind of way: Has illness acceptance become a proxy for chemistry? Has “this is who I am, take all of me” literally come to mean “take all of me”?
I’m curious to know from a male perspective: When would you want to know about health issues like this, and how would you best like the conversation to be framed? Or do you trust the person you’re with to know how and when the right way to tell you is?
And from an illness perspective: What are your rules about this type of thing? And do they work or not?
(Oh yeah, and my super, hot pink medical bracelet? Can’t exactly sport that on a first date…)