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Love Letters

Love Letters: Talking About My Diagnosis

Please send letters to meregoldstein@gmail.com or loveletters@boston.com


Q:

Dear Meredith and Friends,

I am a little stuck. Before I ask my question I should preface that my dating life has never been more than a low-heat simmer. Certainly there have been periods of a soft boil, but for the most part, the heat of my dating life has never really been at cooking temperature. Sometimes I think about why that is, and for the most part it is because of my simple decision to spend time finding myself so that I am more confident and comfortable with what I have to offer. However, lately I find that I am ready to date. But there remains a barrier.

I was 19 when I was diagnosed with a non-fatal form of muscular dystrophy. Once being an active and athletic bro, I am now 30 and a much weaker version of my old self, but I am thankful that I can do a lot of things a normal person can do and still move about occupationally without comment or notice from anyone else. It is a good thing that I am still able to do a lot now, but I am preparing for the day(s) when doing things will be a little more difficult.

In the not so distant past I have met a number of wonderful women. It seemed that a connection was established with most. At a certain point -- sometimes the first date, sometimes the second through fifth -- I disclose my pathology and the result has always been the same, despite explaining the disease process, potential future therapies, and what is means to me and my future. Sometimes it is immediate, sometimes it takes a few days, but overall the departing message is the same. They make flattering comments but say that their interest has waned and friendship seems more appropriate.

I get it and I do not really dwell on it. I move forward and appreciate the fun of simply getting to know someone else. I am an optimist and know a better half exists. A part of me wonders if perhaps I should disclose my disease at a specific time. Certainly it is highly variable depending on the level of the connection, but history suggests that I should probably disclose the information later rather than sooner. This is where I need your help, Meredith and readers. Not knowing what to do or when has been a flame retardant. Is there a certain point when I should consider disclosing my future problem? How would you prefer the news?

– A Chilled Heat, Southern New Hampshire

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A: It is very, very possible that these dates have fizzled for reasons that have nothing to do with your health. If you read Love Letters you know that it can be tough to get past a few dates with anyone, especially if you meet people online and have no history with them.

You mention that disclosure should depend on the level of connection. You're right about that. There is no perfect moment, but you should be able to get a sense of when a date is ready to listen and share their own stories.

You asked how I'd prefer to hear the news. Personally, I'd like a nice, fun first date without too much heavy talk. Then on a second or third date (or whenever the conversation became a bit more intimate) I'd want to hear the details of your life -- including your health. I'd also want it explained. I'd want to get the sense that you're comfortable talking about this stuff so that I could feel comfortable asking questions. I might even want you to say, "Ask me anything."

Really, it sounds like you're doing this right but that you just haven't met a match. The same could be said for a lot of people who are out in the dating world. You just have to keep trying and remember that it can take a while to get cooking.

Readers? When/how would you wan to hear about this? Why are these dates not working out?

– Meredith