By Kris McFalls
Dating after a divorce is awkward. But, dating as a single mom with kids who have a chronic illness is worse: It's intimidating. Throw in a couple of autoimmune diseases you have yourself and you might as well consider joining a convent or the priesthood. Or at least that's how I felt.
After my divorce, I joined a growing trend of singles trying to find love on the Internet. My search revealed many ads like this one: "I am a young (pick an age 20 years more than yourself)-year-old looking for a youthful, energetic and independent woman with long hair that is in good physical shape and who is not a hypochondriac." The ad, of course, was code for: "I want a much younger, skinny partner that will look great on my arm, always be healthy and never be demanding."
There was no way I could leave that one alone and move on. Because of my more sensitive side, I felt the need to educate these people. Therefore, I countered with a sound bite of my own. My ad stated: "If you are looking for someone with a perpetual smile, a figure to die for and someone who will never get sick nor care about what you think, do or say, you can find her in a toy store; her name is Barbie."
While I was grateful that on cyberdating sites stupid people showed their superficial nature and shallow personalities from the start so that I could avoid wasting my time, I was curious to know why some would use the term hypochondriac. I soon learned, as many of the readers of this blog would suspect, hypochondriac often meant that their former partner had a disease that was not well-defined, hard to diagnose and poorly understood. This, in turn, taught me that disclosing information about my kids' health or, worse, my own would send men reaching for the block sender option faster than rumors spread on Facebook. Nonetheless, I was not going to be deterred.
Meeting in cyberspace did, after, all have its perks. For instance, cyberdating while sick is OK to do! Additionally, I could rule out the loons without endangering myself by meeting them in person — like the one who wanted to date before he had even buried his wife who recently died of cancer. Or, the one who wanted to get married after one email because he prayed about it and, therefore, knew I was the one.
It took some time and practice, but eventually I found some good in cyberdating after I made a few adjustments. For instance, once I learned that by first seeking to understand the other person's values and beliefs, they had more interest in mine. I also learned that disclosing details about chronic disease can start slowly on an as-needed basis. That way you get to know each other as a person and not as a disease.
Once I got more comfortable with cyberdating, I even tried reaching out to people who I actually had a chance at meeting in person. Eventually, I took the chance and wrote someone within a few miles of my home, which for me was a big risk. Lo and behold, he wrote back. We clicked, and now four-and-a-half years later, we are still together.
Cyberdating has evolved with technology. Today, people with a chronic illness can find sites such as Dating 4 Disabled, Disabled Singles, Soulful Encounters and Prescription 4 Love that are set up specifically for people with a chronic disease. Let's face it though: Dating with or without a chronic illness is not easy. But, there are people out there worth meeting. Having a chronic illness does not mean we have to live our lives alone.