Dating can be a formidable experience at the best of times, but even more so when you have a physical condition that needs to be mentioned at some point, I know only too well. The question is when, and how? You have probably come across this article because you are suffering the very same quandary that I did. At what point do you open up to the person you’re seeing about your physical condition? Will it end the relationship before it even starts?
This is a really daunting prospect but I want to assure you that it really isn’t as scary to overcome as it initially seems. Having dealt with a skin condition called psoriasis since I was 10 years old, I have only ever dated with my condition, it’s always been the big elephant in the room for me. I am a survivor of the “he’ll run as soon as I tell him” dating anxiety, and I am about to lay it all bare.
Don’t overthink it
My skin condition has always bothered me, particularly when dating. It was so unsightly to me that I was only able to wear certain clothes. I stopped myself doing things like swimming or holidays because I couldn’t bear to be in a bikini – so imagine my anticipation when it came to dating and sex!
I never found it easy to tell men. In fact, quite often I would sooner end a relationship than discuss my physical condition. That was until I met my now-husband. I knew that I’d have to break my news at some point and that moment came much quicker than I anticipated. A mere three weeks into our relationship he booked us a weekend away and the prospect was scary as hell. I was given a couple of days’ notice, it would be the first night I spent with him and I could hardly wear long-sleeved top and bottoms to bed in 30’C July heat, could I?!
I did. On the first night, we were laying in bed and I had my long PJs on. I always struggled in situations like this. I paid a very hot, sweaty price for being careful with my clothing in summer. As I cuddled into him I felt so relaxed and content with him, just not in this situation! It all got very serious as he muted the TV, told me he had feelings, and hoped our relationship would going to continue to grow and develop. It hit me like a tonne of bricks that now was “that moment”. I didn’t have time to prepare what I was going to say as I hadn’t anticipated that we’d get to this point so soon. As he got up to go to the loo I blurted out “I have something to tell you! I’m really nervous though. Oh, you won’t want to be with me after I tell you this”.
Concerned, he perched on the side of the bed and listened. I went on to explain my condition, barely making eye contact because I couldn’t bear to see the look of disgust on his face. I think this part must have lasted at least ten minutes as I went around the houses and completely avoided getting straight to the point. He smiled at me and simply said “I already knew”.
He had spotted it one night on my arm but hadn’t thought much of it. Doesn’t that just show how irrelevant these things are to others? Our perception of ourselves is often so far from how others perceive us. It really didn’t phase him, I had always assumed men would be embarrassed to be seen with me in case others spotted it and thought I was disgusting.
Take it steady
No matter how you meet a date, you’ll never lay it all on the line. “Hi, I’m Dannii. I’m a hypochondriac, I hate cooking, I always leave my towels on the floor, and I have a condition that I’m pretty sure will put you off wanting a second date”. We only offer the very best refined version of ourselves (until a few weeks down the line when they’re a little more invested, as I did!)
The whole fun in the “getting to know you” stage is just that, over the weeks you gradually open up more and more about each other, learning as you go and delving deeper. I’m still learning things about my husband ten years into our relationship!
It’s always important to take it steady in the initial stages, you don’t want to lay yourself bare by mentioning your condition if you don’t have to. If it’s not going to work after a few dates then you’ve lost nothing. There is no need to put unnecessary pressure on yourself to open up too soon. I never worried about having to spill the beans until at least 2 weeks in, and even then I could buy myself more time if I had to.
There is no “right time”
You have to feel secure with the fact that you wouldn’t be dating this person at all if they hadn’t seen something in you that sparked their interest. This is a piece of advice I wish I could tell the younger me. It’s all so clear now but at the time I felt owned by my physical condition, it was a huge barrier in dating. You, like everyone else, have many amazing qualities to offer and you’re not defined by your physical condition. Everyone has flaws. Your date may hate their ears, have a scar on their back, or suffer from mental health issues.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive set time on when is best to be opening up about your condition, but you probably saw that coming. My personal view is that third or fourth dates seem to be a good time to start delving a little deeper into each other. You will probably find a moment during a conversation that just seems like the perfect time to drop the bombshell. Probably not the best idea to blurt it out the way I did; my husband still laughs about how he panicked that I was going to tell him I had an STD!
I think we assume it’s going to be a big, official announcement rather than general conversational chit-chat but that’s often how it comes about. The less of a deal you make it, the easier it is to open up. I’d practically rehearse a speech on the matter in preparation for the big moment! It consumed my mind and I know for sure that my obsessive thoughts ended a lot of potential relationships before they even began. I’m thankful for that now I have my wonderful husband, but it didn’t help my confidence much at the time.
Don’t let your condition control you
I have probably only told five partners about my psoriasis and each time I’d say it didn’t bother me, that I wasn’t really phased by it. It couldn’t have been further from the truth but I thought the more fuss I made about it the more I was highlighting what a huge issue it was. In turn, they may have seen it that way too.
If you’re not already at ease with your physical condition then it is probably already holding you back. It’s so important to be mindful of the fact that everyone is facing their own battles and whilst yours is no different, you don’t have to live in the shadows of it. Be bold and take control of your future, don’t let your condition control you. Before you know it, time passes you by and you realize you’ve spent far too long weighed down by issues that were not worth it.
Whatever your physical condition is, you’re not undatable to someone else. It comes down to having enough confidence in yourself and your other qualities to see past your own condition so others can too.