On Monday, I spoke about disease disclosure in very general terms as it may relate to someone’s health. Today, Darcy talks about disease disclosure within the context of dating.
The #1 dating question I see in the cystic fibrosis community is, “When do I tell someone I’m dating about CF?” The conflict goes something like this: “If I tell them I have CF right away, I might scare them off, but if I wait to tell them about CF, they might feel like I was hiding something and that I’m not trustworthy.” I knew Gunnar had CF before we started dating, so I hadn’t thought about disclosure much until now. I’ve been thinking about it this week, though, because of something that happened to one of my friends.
Here’s some background. A friend of mine was using a dating app, and she matched with a cute gentleman. After a few days of texting, they discovered they had a lot in common (including several mutual friends) so they planned a date. She was excited.
The night before the date, she randomly ran into one of those mutual friends at a bar. She told the mutual friend about tomorrow’s date, and the mutual friend emphasized that the date was a great guy. But then he added, “I just think there is something else you should know about him. He’s GREAT, and he also uses a wheelchair.” (Why the mutual friend chose to disclose on the date’s behalf is a question I don’t have the answer to).
My friend went back to the date’s dating profile and realized that if you looked really closely at his photos, you could see a glimpse of a wheelchair in one picture. It seemed like the photos were cropped to conceal any signs of the wheelchair.
This reminded me of one of Gunnar’s blog posts from a few years ago. Gunnar waited his whole life to date me actually used to date other girls before I came around (the audacity), and he once did an experiment on disclosure. He created a dating profile where he mentioned that he has cystic fibrosis, and he also created a dating profile where he did not mention that he has cystic fibrosis. He got a lot more “matches” on the dating apps when he did not disclose his cystic fibrosis diagnosis.
Back to my friend… she felt conflicted in the sense that she felt somewhat “lied to” by the date’s nondisclosure, but she also knew that the date didn’t owe her any sort of announcement about his disability.
This got me thinking – so where does that leave single folk in the dating scene who may have a significant health issue? It almost seems like a lose-lose situation. If you disclose too soon, a potential date might be “scared off” by the unknown. If you don’t disclose right away, it might seem like you’re trying to “hide something.”
Here is what I don’t like about that lose-lose scenario… it only focuses on the other person. Yes, I know we are generally trying to impress the other person on a date. But you are also looking for someone who matches you. Maybe you’re a vocal advocate for cystic fibrosis and it makes most sense to you to disclose right away – do it!! Maybe you consider cystic fibrosis to be a very personal thing and you want to wait to share it with someone – do that!! Maybe you trust in spontaneity and have no plans for how to disclose – sounds great! Do what feels right to you and don’t waste energy trying to guess what may make the other person most comfortable. People can handle a little bit of discomfort, anyway (and if they can’t, sayonara).
Be true to yourself. The right match will appreciate what works best for you.
At the end of the day, the ability to own the decision to disclose or to not disclose is what’s attractive, anyway – everyone is attracted to confidence!
My friend was confused as to why the date seemingly “hid” his disability, until I told her about Gunnar’s dating app experiment. This dude was probably just trying to avoid preconceived judgment and land more matches on dating apps… doesn’t everyone do that?
I know I made judgments about Gunnar’s life with CF before I learned the real story. One of my initial thoughts was, “Is he going to feel inclined to rush things between us because of his illness?” The answer was a hard no. In fact, we were “together” for several months before making our relationship “official,” and I was the one to finally bring it up. He replied that he just “assumed” we were officially together. Sigh.
My point is, we all make judgments about one another on dates. And yes, your date will probably make assumptions about cystic fibrosis, and those assumptions may or may not be affected by the timing of your disclosure. Unless you can control other people’s minds, it’s inevitable!
What’s also inevitable is that you will find people that don’t let those judgments interfere with their feelings for you…
So next time you’re on a first date, disclose your CF. Or, don’t disclose your CF. Drop a hint with your enzymes, or steer the conversation in a different direction. Do whatever feels right to you in that moment. Most importantly, let go of what you think you’re supposed to do for the other person, and embrace what you want to do for yourself. That’s attractive.