Sometimes we get so consumed with how our autoimmune diseases are affecting us, that we fail to acknowledge how they’re affecting our loved ones – more specifically, our significant others. Dating with an autoimmune disease is tricky. Jackie shed light on how to have the perfect, gluten-free date. Shanelle offered the official rules for having an affair with your autoimmune disease, and Caitlin candidly shared her dating experience with irritable bowl syndrome. We only have so much control over our conditions, and when they take control of us, how does it affect the people we’re dating? I consulted my boyfriend of three and half years for some insight. I’m ashamed to admit that it was the first time I’ve ever asked him any of these questions. For privacy reasons, he will be referred to as, “boyfriend.”
When I first told you about my thyroid disease, did you understand what I was telling you?
Yes, but I wish you would have told me about it sooner. Not knowing about some of your symptoms, like fatigue and depressed feelings, made me interpret them as disinterest in the relationship. It was easy to misconstrue them, and it was difficult for me to gauge whether or not you wanted to be in the relationship at times.
Okay, so how soon is too soon to drop the autoimmune bomb?
Well that’s subjective. I think it has to do with the level of comfort between two people. Looking at our experience, I think people should tell their partners before it starts to negatively impact the relationship.
Did you think of me differently once you knew about it?
Not right away. At first, I just understood you more. As time went on, I started to respect you more. I started to realize your disease was a positive thing for our relationship.
You’re going to have to elaborate on that one.
I feel like the majority of younger couples don’t have to deal with major health problems as a relational issue. When health concerns do take priority, it really puts things into perspective. For example, we do a good job of not fighting over petty things, because compared to some of the health hurdles we’ve tackled together, the trivial stuff is a waste of our time and energy.
Do you ever resent me because of my health problems?
No, and no one should ever be with someone who resents someone for that. I do get frustrated though, but I think it would be unfair if I weren’t allowed to be frustrated at times.
What’s the worst thing a person with an autoimmune disease can do to his or her partner?
The absolute worst thing is to not ever tell your significant other, but it’s also bad to lie about it. Like when I ask you if you’re not feeling well, because of your condition, don’t lie and say, “I’m fine.” Then, I start to think it’s me that’s the problem. Just be up front, especially for guys. We really like it when girls are straightforward, because it can be so difficult to read you. When you expect us to just know, then you’re setting us up for failure.
How does it make you feel when I unconsciously prioritize my disease over you?
I try to be as understanding as possible, but sometimes it’s frustrating.
Overall, what can we do to make our partners’ lives easier? Or, what can we do to reduce those feelings of frustration?
Be honest, but also don’t forget about us. It’s important that there’s communication and understanding, but if the relationship begins to focus too much on a person’s disease, and not enough about the relationship between the two people, then things will start to go downhill. It can get too heavy. Plus, guys need attention just as much as girls do too.
Do you have any advice for fellow allies?
Listen, and listen some more. And, if they’re having a bad day, sometimes it’s better to force them to have a better one.
If anyone would like to ask the boyfriend questions, please leave them in the comments section, and he would be more than happy to answer them.
Kelly Hultgren-Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis-Contributing Writer