It can be easy to dismiss signs that a relationship isn’t the best fit, especially if you feel happy to be in a relationship “despite” your health condition or disability. If you live with anxiety, depression, a chronic illness, or physical disability, don’t allow yourself to settle for someone who isn’t the right person just because you think you’re less dateable. You’re not – you’re quite the catch!
Dating can be difficult for anyone, but especially when you live with a health condition or disability. Before we continue on, let’s get one thing straight: your health condition or disability isn’t the problem. Everyone has something they’re going through that can be challenging at times when dating. For example, dating someone who is in school, working alternative shifts, or responsible for other family members can be difficult to navigate at times. But that doesn’t mean they’re less dateable. Having a health condition or disability is no different.
Here are four red flags you should be aware of when dating with a health condition or disability:
They don't try to better understand your lived experience with the health condition or disability.
When you’re dating someone, it’s critical that they don’t make assumptions about what you’re going through. An important first lesson to learn is that no matter what health condition or disability you have, every person’s experiences are unique. It’s become easier to talk about some conditions, especially mental health ones, but you may find your partner making assumptions about your anxiety or depression based upon a video they saw on TikTok, a post written by a friend, or even their own personal experiences.
They should be asking questions like:
* What does anxiety look like for you?
* What triggers your PTSD?
* What is smiling depression, and how can I help support you when you’re struggling, even if it’s not obvious on the outside?
* What does doing great look like for you?
They should come to the conversation with an open mind, and be OK if their beliefs are challenged a bit. For example, if you live with HIV, are they challenging any stigmas that they may have internalized? If you have a disability that affects your mobility or ability to perform daily living activities, are they asking about accommodations or adaptations you prefer?
Having a partner who is inquisitive, thoughtful, and receptive is important in a relationship. It’s annoying when you constantly have to remind them why you can’t do X, Y, or Z. The more they understand and welcome this part of you, the more likely you will feel respected and heard. If talking about your experiences with a partner and educating them about what you’re going through feels like a chore that doesn’t get easier, your partner may not be the right fit for you.
They don't respect your boundaries.
There is nothing more frustrating than having a partner who minimizes or dismisses your boundaries. You know yourself better than anyone else, especially when it comes to your health. If you’re dating someone who doesn’t respect your boundaries, then you need to think twice about your relationship.
Here are some examples:
* “It’s just a drink” – when you’re navigating sobriety
* “You’re always tired, so we might as well go out” – when you live with a chronic illness
* “It’s just mind over matter” – around your anxiety
* “But you look happy” – when you have depression
* “It’s not that hard, anyone could do it” – when you have a physical disability
If any of the above sound familiar to you, know that it’s a red flag you should seriously consider. A partner should support you in maintaining your boundaries, and even help add in some extra self-care opportunities while they’re at it. If they’re not supporting your own wellbeing, what are they really valuing in your partnership? Your health is important. If they don’t value it, then you should probably rethink your relationship.
They make you feel like a burden.
This is a big one. A common side effect of dating the wrong partner when you live with a health condition or disability is feeling like a burden because of it. You are not a burden. Let me repeat that again: You are not a burden. Having to navigate something different from the “norm” does not decrease your value as a person. You have a unique outlook on life, and experience it differently. In my mind, that makes you an asset. A good partner will see your strength the same way.
They don't make you feel seen.
This last red flag is important to consider, especially if you feel your person is checking all the previous boxes. When you are with your partner, do you feel like they accept all of you? The good, the bad, and the unexpected? Getting to that point can be difficult (that’s normal in every relationship!), so dating someone who is up for a road that may get bumpy at times is a keeper.
You deserve to be with someone who sees every part of you, and welcomes it. Someone who supports you in your dreams, and wants to see you shine. If you feel like you’re dating someone who is hung up on your health condition and disability to the extent that they can’t fully appreciate you as a person, that is a deal-breaker. You are awesome, and there is someone out there who can’t wait to meet you.