Dating with Arthritis |

When to Tell a New Love Interest About Your Chronic Illness

When to Tell a New Love Interest About Your Chronic Illness

By Logan Levkoff, Ph.D.

When to Tell a New Love Interest About Your Chronic Illness


I have never cared for the fairytales of our youth. They never truly represented what relationships were about and, more importantly, they never represented how complicated (and “imperfect”) lives really are. Yes, Cinderella had some pretty nasty step-siblings, but she didn’t seem to have a problem with body image or bad hair days or painful joints preventing her from doing her chores. In real life, these issues exist; I’ve always felt that those old stories would be much better if they tackled real issues. Like….taxes and in-laws.

Nonetheless, dating (in the real world) isn’t just for supposed “perfect” people. First, perfection doesn’t exist and that’s a good thing, because perfection is boring. Life is complicated, but that’s part of what makes it rewarding.

Whether you have RA or another chronic illness, it’s part of what makes you, you. It shouldn’t prevent you from finding a partner, nor should it prevent you from allowing yourself to look for a relationship. We all come to partnerships with baggage of sorts, some of it is emotional and some of it is physical. Instead of looking at this “baggage” as a negative, perhaps we need to consider that it is part of our story. We wouldn’t be the people we are today without it. Our baggage gives us perspective.

That being said, I do know that arthritis patients – especially those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – are often concerned about how and when to bring up the topic of chronic illness with a new person. I’ve never been a big believer in following dating “rules,” and it’s no different here: I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule to follow! Some people may be comfortable sharing their status early on; others may feel like they need to trust someone more before they disclose. There are benefits to both. Whenever you do choose to disclose your condition, do so in a way that’s true to who you are. Make sure you’re in a comfortable setting, limit distractions, and speak from the heart. Encourage your partner to ask you questions!

And of course, it should go without saying that a person’s reaction to your disclosure is a great litmus test for partner quality. If someone’s reaction isn’t a good one, cut your losses right there! Rejection (no matter who you are or what you are dealing with) is always a possibility. It’s always tough, but ideally, we grow from it. We learn more about the type of partner we need (and want).

"Nonetheless, dating (in the real world) isn’t just for supposed 'perfect' people."

Today, there are so many places to meet people; in stores, in classes, through friends, on line (at the market), and online (via the computer). I suppose that what I’m trying to say is that the more options we have, the better off we are. In some ways, the possibilities can be endless, but even still we often fall into similar dating patterns.

I encourage you moving forward to date outside of your type! Take stock of the dating patterns you tend to fall into. Consider this: has that model worked for you? If not, what’s the risk in engaging with someone who doesn’t meet your typical dating criteria? So, throw out the laundry list of dating musts and focus on a few core qualities that you cannot live without.

If we never take any emotional risks we cannot possibly reap emotional rewards. And in case that isn’t enough, we all deserve love and connection. Chronic illness doesn’t change that.