Dear Daisy: How Can I Date With A Health Condition?

daisy buchanan, grazia, agony aunt

by Grazia |

Dear Daisy,

I am in my early 30s, have a job that I love, live in a flat that I love and from time to time I even have a fantastic hair day. I am also disabled - I had a spinal injury in my early 20s, was temporarily paralysed and now I live in chronic pain. I also have secondary health issues from it (annoyingly the nervous system controls BASICALLY EVERYTHING), which means I am essentially a Delicate Flower.

In most ways, I have honestly come to terms with all this. Except when it comes to dating. A mixture of it ruining my self esteem, and exes being, well, assholes, makes me feel like a fraudulent, damaged good, creature who has no business going on dates. I recently stopped dating a really nice guy, because I felt so guilty that he would have to deal with my awful health rubbish.

AM I DOOMED TO A LIFE OF SPINSTERHOOD? Do I deserve love? Am I being awful by trying to date? Help!

Dear SB,

If I was a single man hoping to date a great woman, I would be seriously interested. You’re mature, kind, hugely considerate of other people’s feelings, confident but complex and very funny - and magically, you convey all that in about 150 words. This is wizardry, and I reckon that the lads should be forming a line to take you out. However, I know nothing is that simple, and managing a chronic condition is a full time job. Which means you have two full time jobs and counting.

Most of us don’t, when single, daydream about meeting The One and having to help them manage a serious health condition. (Some do, and if you haven’t encountered them already, I’d advise you to steer clear, because you want someone who is drawn to your strength and positivity, not someone who thinks they’re special because they’re prepared to go to the chemist for you.)

Consider the eternal cliché of the internet dating ‘skiing selfie’ profile. We’re told that people will want us if we’re radiant, active, and able to schlep up snowy hills without a single bead of sweat forming on our foreheads. It must be nerve wracking when you have to explain to someone that if you’re going to a bar, you can’t stand for long periods, or that your options are limited if you want to go for dinner afterwards.

But there are definitely plenty of people out there who will meet you, see how funny and fabulous you are, and be interested enough in that to accept and embrace everything about you. Anyone who doesn’t want to be with you because of your health condition is probably the sort of person who would have dated you in half a heartbeat, were you in the fullness of health, and turned out to be a total dick. It sounds like there might be a couple of those in the past. But those exes weren’t assholes because of you, and I’d put money on them continuing a career of continued assholery.

I can only imagine how hard it is to stay upbeat and confident and feel like you, when every day you have a physical reminder that you don’t feel like your best self. The trouble with confidence is that we’re told to take responsibility for it, as though we can take over the world with a combination of unwavering optimism and mind control, with a dash of delusion. But you're not Donald Trump, and if I were in your position I reckon I’d spend at least one day a week in a state of furious, sulky rage. It’s not your fault that this has happened, it’s monstrously unfair and you deserve to feel good about yourself. You’re entitled to a lovely life, and a loving partner, if you want one. And your health shouldn’t be something you have to deal with alone. You deserve to date.

But the most pressing thing is to do the things that make you feel good, and gorgeous, and worthy of a wonderful relationships. It might be reading, or singing, or getting your nails done, but I want you to find one joyously selfish thing that makes you feel happy and indulged, and to commit to doing it for at least two hours a week. (Ideally a whole day, but I know you’ve got a lot on.) Focus on rebuilding your identity as a wonderful, witty woman - someone who can, and should be super fussy about who she dates, not someone who needs to be grateful for any interest. I’d avoid Tinder, and any corners of the internet that attract the ‘casual’ dater - you want someone who will take you seriously, and that’s worth investing in. If it’s possible, try dating the old fashioned way too, and see if your close friends can set you up with anyone. You’ll get fewer matches, but they’ll hopefully be better.

Dating is difficult, but it should be hard to find someone who is good enough for you. And I’m confident that you’ll find them, because you seem clever and lovely and loveable, and most importantly, you want to!

All my love, and good luck!

Daisy X

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