Life with ankylosing spondylitis is complicated – especially when you add relationships into the mix. After all, creating and maintaining loving relationships isn’t always easy, even for the healthiest of people. Over the past twenty years, I’ve had quite of bit of experience with dating and relationships while living with my own chronic pain and illness. One of the biggest issues that continues to come up is deciding how to talk about my medical condition with a new (or potential) partner.
Over time I’ve found some answers to these questions, and I’d like to share them with you.
Dating: when is best to talk AS?
Let’s start at the beginning: you’ve just met someone and have begun dating. You haven’t told them about your AS (or if you have, you’ve just scratched the surface). You really like them and can see the potential for a future with them. Now what?
It can feel risky and scary as hell to open up and tell someone about your health problems, especially someone you’d want an intimate relationship with. But at some point it becomes inevitable. So here are a few ideas for making the conversation a little easier, when you feel it’s time:
Are they worth telling?
Figure out if you actually like the person you’re dating before you begin to share information about your health. If you’re not interested in a relationship, you really don’t need to share the details of your pain or illness. Your health is no one else’s business, especially not someone you’ve only just met.
Go with your gut
Once you decide you like someone enough and you’d like to pursue a relationship with them, that’s the time to start talking more about your health. My best advice is to follow your intuition. Share when it feels right and you feel comfortable with this person.
Do it face to face
Talk to them in person – don’t text or email unless you have to. This is very personal information you’re disclosing, and sending it off into the virtual world only to get a typed response that you may misinterpret can result in miscommunication, misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
When you tell someone in person, you’re letting them know that this is an important conversation, and you’ll be much better able to gauge their reaction, and they yours.
Choose your moment
Avoid situations where you’re rushed, romantic moments or when your emotions are heightened. Plan the conversation ahead of time – and let your date know that you have something you’d like to share. Take some deep breaths and relax as best you can before you start to talk.
Take it slowly
Begin by disclosing one piece of what’s going on. I personally like the slow reveal (sharing a bit, here and there, over time) rather than the big dump all at once. I’ve noticed that sharing too many of my health issues right away (like on the first date) can be enough to scare away even the bravest men. Men who might otherwise like to be in a relationship with me, but don’t understand the condition and don’t know me well enough to make an informed decision.
Get the balance right
Be aware of the fine line between maintaining your privacy and lying by omission. If you end up months into a relationship with someone without having told them about your condition or the extent of it, your partner may feel as though they have been lied to. How do you prevent this? Again, trust your gut. Put yourself in their shoes, and proceed accordingly.
This has been my relationship advice, but add your own ideas and do what works best for you. What matters, above all else, is that you feel comfortable with the way things are progressing.
Follow your intuition and you can’t go wrong.
This article was written by Kira Lynne, a regular contributor on This AS Life. A social site helping the whole AS community to: Learn. Share. Inspire. Discuss.