people on a date talking about sickle cell

My Top Three Tips On Dating

Dating can be nerve-racking in general. Add an invisible, chronic disability into the mix and you have a concoction of the most unpredictable dating experiences you could imagine.

Dating with an invisible illness

My dating experiences didn’t really start until my mid 20’s. After my first long-term relationship of around 7 years ended — because of sickle cell. He felt I would be a burden to the future he wanted. I felt he was entitled to a future without me; the burden part was none of my business.

I didn’t cry on the kitchen floor, watch sad movies and eat ice cream. However, words cut deep no matter how much you tell yourself they don’t. Having a relationship that was broken down by my health, turned out to be something that stuck with me for years.

Only recently have I realized just how much of an influence that had on my dating experiences; I went through staying single intentionally. Only dating people that I knew to not telling the person I was dating that I had sickle cell because ‘I’d be fine.’ Yeah right!

Worries

Most people will worry about what to wear and other things on dates. My focus is now always on how the topic of sickle cell will be raised and what will follow.

  • Will he ask me or will I tell him?
  • How will I explain it this time around?
  • How will he react?

A few tips

Of my dating experiences and general encounters of meeting people and introducing myself, there are now three things that I always stick by.

1. Practice on everyone

I used to think it was only necessary to tell people I had sickle cell on a need-to-know basis. However, my thought process now is everyone needs to know. Not only is it a great way to educate people on sickle cell and spread awareness, but it is also great practice for the times it matters most. I realize my apprehension towards having this conversation with people I’m dating comes from the fact that I actually care about the outcome of the conversation. So, as the saying goes; practice makes perfect. Or at least a little easier.

2. The sooner the better

Since the sickle cell conversation is usually at the forefront of my mind, I always find it easier to get it out of the way first, otherwise, I won’t relax and will constantly be thinking; when should I bring it up? Is now a good time?

Accepting that no time will ever be a good time, I find incorporating sickle cell into a conversation early on is the best way forward. The conversation will either be well received or not. If not, well at least time wasn’t wasted on someone who didn’t deserve you in the first place.

3. Be clear about the future

How much you share or don’t share about sickle cell is another debate. Especially on a first date. In my experience, I always mention crises and how painful they can be. I also reference the probabilities of passing the sickle cell gene on to children (because I would like to have children). It’s then an easy way to use your date as an example and slip in the question “do you know if you are a carrier?” Their answer then determining the outcome of the probabilities.

Another point I make clear is the fact that if the person I’m dating is a carrier of sickle cell, my choice would be not to get into a relationship with them because of the probability of the gene being passed on to children. This makes things crystal clear where I stand and therefore cannot be misinterpreted or be a shock as time goes on.

Difficult conversations

Although I am sharing these tips, I know how difficult these conversations can be. I sincerely hope that if you’re new to dating and reading this, you only need to have this conversation once and live happily ever after.

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