Working with women with HIV/AIDS in rural America, where many were single but wanting a relationship, offered some good insights about the dating and relationship process when living with a major illness. Revealing your HIV status, particularly during the early years of the AIDS epidemic was a fearful experience, not only because of the rejection, but also the concern that they might tell others. At a time when people lost jobs and housing because of their HIV status, there were many issues to be dealt with when disclosing to a date. However, many of the women I worked with did go on to develop healthy relationships. Some are married, some have had a series of partners, friends, lovers etc. Below are some of the things I learned about dating from these women:
• The most important thing to keep in mind is that you are not your diagnosis. Yes, it is part of your life, but it’s just that “part” and not “all” of it. You have much to offer others, so your health issues are just one part of who you are.
• Don’t settle for someone because “they’ll have me.” You can end up in a very unhealthy and/or abusive relationship by believing it’s better to be with somebody then to be alone.
• There are people that look for partners with health issues so they can be in a relationship where they “can take care of you.” I could do a post just on this type of individual. The important point is that you don’t need anyone feeling sorry for you because of your diagnosis. Relationships work best if they are on equal footing. Each of us comes with our strengths and issues.
• In terms of finding the date, doing things you enjoy that involve other people, such as hiking, film series, book club, food or wine tasting etc., is a good way to meet someone who shares similar interests. Attending condition specific events, such as a boat trip fundraiser or support groups, can be another way to meet someone. That noted, many of people I know that are recently coupled, regardless of age, sexual orientation or diagnosis, have met through on-line dating. According to various different rankings, Match.com, Zoosk, e-Harmony, Elite consistently appear among the top five sites.
However, according to 12 Best Dating Sites for Disabled Singles, there are some excellent sites for those with may specific health issues such as Special Bridge or Soulful Encounters (No border exists in the heart of the disabled).
Some people think it’s easier if they date and form a relationship with someone that has the same issues. That may or may not be true for you. You can always check the local chapter of your condition specific organization to learn about social events, dating service etc. Below are links to a variety of dating and social networking websites, many of which are free, for those living with various types of conditions:
Prescription 4 Love: A dating and friendship service geared toward people with special health conditions and diseases. Includes more than 30 chronic conditions.
Disabled Dating Club: On-line since 1997, this is a free site.
No Longer Lonely: Online social community for adults with mental illness.
Cancer Match: Cancer Survivor Dating and Social Network
Poz Match: HIV+ owned social community. It's for everyone regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, and gender.
Whispers4u: A social disabled dating website for Differently Abled women and men to find love, friendship and happiness in a safe online dating environment. Free
Match.com’s Safety Tips.
• Depending on your condition, where to go on a date can be an issue. However, following Match.com’s Safety Tips recommendations are good to keep in mind:
- meet in public
- tell a friend
- stay sober
- drive yourself to and from the date
- don’t leave personal items unattended
- don’t go to their house or yours on a first date.
• When to tell someone your diagnosis is very tricky. One woman had the biohazard sign and HIV tattooed near her pelvis. She said that if in the heat of the moment she forgot to mention her HIV status, there would be no confusion on that score.
Explain your situation on a “need to know” basis. Unless you met them in a support group, or an on-line dating service where you have either revealed your diagnosis or it’s a condition specific site, you may wait a few dates. However, if you are about to be sexual, or this looks like it has the potential to be a relationship, then let them know. The more you keep it a secret, for fear of being rejected, the more likely it is to blow up in your face.
Check out Dating Dilemmas: 8 Tips for Telling Your Partner a Health Secret
Several people I knew with AIDS referred to revealing their status as their “jerk barometer.” If he/she never called again, they were probably not someone that would have worked out anyway. Don’t let that dissuade you from accepting other dates.
More Resources on Dating
Dating & Chronic Illness: Is it possible to be in a relationship when you are chronically ill?
Dating with Fibromyalgia
Before You Start Dating (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)
Sexuality and Chronic Disease I
Sexuality and Chronic Disease II