Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Chronically Dating

I had left behind the dating world for nearly 7 years and I thought I was leaving it behind permanently. However, after my marital separation and divorce I found myself once again dating. I was suddenly thrust back into situations calling for me to decide when, what, and with whom to share the details of my chronic illness.

I previously shared how I've chosen to disclose my health and particularly my past with an ostomy. I am much more confident in my disclosures than I once was when I was younger. I'm now comfortable with someone not accepting me because of my health. I've learned that if another can't accept my health, then I don't need that person in my life. In fact, events of the last year have lent to my improved ability of letting go in general.

Dating after divorce with a chronic illness has been interesting to say the least. I've become increasingly open about the details of my health and illness with suitors and I've been met with overflowing acceptance. I've always been accepted by those I've shared my health with previously, however, this time around the dating world has been filled with even more acceptance. Perhaps dating in my 30s is part of the difference as we tend to view the world, ourselves, and others in a different light than we did in our younger years. This may also explain the differences in reactions I've experienced since re-entering singledom.

Although I've been accepted by each partner, there were some very different reactions. My suitors ranged from "I'm ready to take care of you in whatever fashion required" to "I can't lose you early on in your life". While one suitor was eagerly ready to spend whatever amount of time my life holds for me caring for me and my health needs another suitor was so concerned about losing me early in life due to the likelihood of cancer that he wasn't sure he would be able to handle a romantic life with such a very real expiration date.
I was shocked to actually encounter someone who was so concerned about being able to handle the real possibility of my own death at a relatively young age. I am accustomed to death, particularly the threat of my own that sometimes I forget what others may feel or experience in relation to my own mortality. I also wondered if this person would be the individual those of us with chronic illness all dread: the person who leaves because of their own inability to handle life with chronic illness.

I'm not sure how we guard ourselves against such individuals as I haven't truly been in such a situation. Guarding our hearts is a wise move to a certain degree. At some point, we either must trust our partner or we must let go. The degree to which we scrutinize our potential life partners varies from person to person and experience to experience. I can only urge others to be aware of their own comfort levels and move within those boundaries. We aren't required to move past those boundaries until we are ready, whatever those boundaries may be. Dating isn't always the easiest lifestyle and chronic illness can complicate dating life. However, I view loving yourself first and finding your own happiness as a fundamental key to tackling life, including the dating world. We don't need to seek love and acceptance from others when we find love and acceptance from within ourselves. Once we have conquered this feat, any love and additional acceptance from others becomes a shared joy rather than a request for validation and esteem that we have yet to afford ourselves.

I found part of accepting my life and in particular my divorce was to also accept the possibility of spending the remainder of my life alone. With marriage, I had a lifetime caregiver if needed. With divorce, I gave up that lifetime caregiver for a life of uncertainty on my own terms. I don't know what the future holds, but I've accepted the unknown. I do know that no matter what is in store for me, I create my own happiness and I can survive. The dating world is no different - we hold within ourselves the power for happiness and survival.

4 comments:

  1. Well written and insightful, thank you. Here's a more accurate translation of Buddha's teaching: "If you do not find an intelligent companion, a wise and well-behaved person going the same way as yourself, then go on your way alone, like a king abandoning a conquered kingdom, or like a great elephant in the deep forest."

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    1. Thank you for the kindness. I like the translation you've provided, it's adds more to what we should look for and expect in others.

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  2. I am a lot older than you are, but the desire for companionship doesn't wane with age or even with disease. I left my husband after 24 years of marriage, divorced him at year 28, and soon after, I was diagnosed with the cancer I had suspected since the symptoms began in my thirties. I started dating a guy before the diagnosis. He disappeared soon after, but mostly because, after hearing from my kids that the guy was a controlling, narcissistic jerk, my brother scared him away. Far away. Across the ocean. I resumed dating with a sense of urgency. I was terrified of dying alone and unloved. I joked about wanting to write a funny chronicle of my cancer-fueled obsession with finding love and call it "Desperate for Desthbed Romance." I've since been amazed to find myself so surrounded with people who love me -- my kids, my friends, and sometimes total strangers-- who visit, sent gifts to cheer and potentially heal me, or money when I was broke and in dire need, people who stay to help care for me when I'm feeling very sick, that I have decided a romance, now, would isolate me too much from the people I love most. I have learned that love can be broad as well as deep, and that having more time with many people who love me is more emotionally satisfying than having one person who loves me deeply... especially because my 24 year marriage was filled with conflict, and what I love most about my new cancer life is having discovered peace. This peace, I think, would be very fragile, if I tried to have a long term relationship. But I'm speaking strictly for me. And I know that if I were healthier, thinner, and could get my chemo-ravaged hair to grow, my libido would surge, and I'd soon find myself rethinking this position. Platonic love from friends and relatives IS wonderful. But once in a while, it'd be nice to experience something a little more... stimulating. 😉💐💕 Don't give up on dating. There are many wonderful humans to be discovered. I hope you find one to cherish, who will love you to the end. Which I hope is a LONG, long way off.

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    1. Leaving after 24 years...I think that must have taken great courage and strength, further speaking to your character than what you're already surviving. It's a special, although sometimes difficult thing, to balance platonic and romantic love and relationships. But I think a nice mix, of neither being too overwhelming, is the way to go. At least I'm finding that to be my preference at this point in my life. Like you, I don't want to be overtaken by the romantic...probably because I don't want to lose myself in someone else. I love that you describe it as a discovery of peace. No matter what or where we're at, peace is a wish I hope we always manage to enjoy in its freeing power.

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