Three hands waving red flags with hearts on them.

Misdiagnosed As a Player

As someone with multiple chronic illnesses, I am no stranger to being misdiagnosed. This is usually by doctors attempting to find the latest reason for my misbehaving immune system. I certainly didn’t consider this would also become an issue in my dating life.

The problem is that behaviors that come with having a chronic illness can appear to be "red flags" by mainstream society. Here are some of the things I have done, due to my condition, that have come across as "symptoms" of being a womanizer or playing games in a relationship.

Taking long to reply

I like to think of myself as a pretty talkative and social person. However, my condition does sometimes make this hard to do. Having a chronic condition is a full time job, requiring a lot of time and energy and the only pay is the possibility of reduced pain. I often find l it hard to reply to messages as quickly as I would like. Some days I am even too fatigued to brave the thought of going on my phone or I am busy resting or practicing self-care to keep my conditions under control.

I have tried to resolve this issue is by adding "reply to people" to my to-do list and messaging everyone back in bulk when I have the mental capacity to do so. But this hasn’t gone down very well with girls that I have courted. I have found that it usually provokes one of two reactions.

The first is the accusation of lack of interest on my part. This is not the case at all, I would love to be able to reply instantly and keep conversations flowing with people that I am interested in. Sadly, my conditions get in the way of this.

The second is a more jealous response - it is assumed that I’ve been up to no good in my absence. This is the most frustrating scenario as if I don’t have the energy to reply to a WhatsApp, I certainly don’t have the spoons for any misbehaving!

We live in a "now" culture where people expect everything instantly, including messages. Sadly, this isn’t something I can always provide, no matter how much I am interested in talking to someone.

Not being able to go out

Those of us with chronic illnesses are no strangers to having a night in. More often than not it is not out of choice. No matter how desperate we might be to have a night out on the town, sometimes pain and fatigue scupper any hopes of doing this.

This makes arranging dates quite difficult. Our pain and fatigue levels can change in the blink of an eye. I have had times where I have planned an elaborate date outdoors on a day where my fatigue and pain are at low levels, only to find that when that day arrives, my situation has changed completely and I am no longer capable of going through with it.

Then there are the days when I already know that my body is in no state to go out and do anything, so suggest a night in from the jump. The problem here is that despite how innocent the suggestion to stay in may be, it instantly comes across as an invitation for a "Netflix and Chill" session. I completely get that it gives the impression that I am simply after something physical, but the reality is that I am often only physically able to offer this setting as a compromise.

Pandemic problems

The pandemic has also made this a whole lot more difficult. I am on some very heavy immunosuppressants and need to take greater precautions to avoid contracting COVID. At present, I don’t feel comfortable in an inside setting. This rules out dates in restaurants, cinemas, bars or clubs, etc. I am therefore very limited in what I am able to do, especially in the winter months when it is very hard to find anyone willing to agree to a date outside in the cold.

Unfortunately, no matter how much I would love to wine and dine that special someone, my health prevents me from doing so right now.

Being ready for a relationship

Around the time I was first diagnosed with AS, I re-connected with a girl I had known as a teenager. Despite experiencing an intense flare up and using crutches to get about, I was eager to see her.  I forced myself to hobble across town to meet for drinks. We hit it off instantly and after a few drinks and a lot of flirting, she asked me what I was looking for. I explained that I didn’t feel ready to start any kind of relationship at present  but was very interested in getting to know her. The new diagnosis had affected me massively, both mentally and physically and I wanted to address these issues before jumping into a relationship.

She seemed to be very understanding and agreed that she also wanted to get to know me more. This was music to my ears and we carried on talking and met up a few more times when I was capable of doing so.

A couple of months later we agreed to meet up again. I said I had a surprise for her. I hoped she wasn’t expecting an expensive gift as the months of unemployment due to my health problems meant that was unfeasible. Instead, I turned up to see her without my walking aids and did a little dance to show off my newly functioning legs.

As the night progressed, she turned to me and asked "now you are off your crutches, shall we make this official?" I told her that regrettably getting off crutches was just the first step for me and I had a lot more to work on.

She didn’t understand that my condition was deeper than the physical part that she could see. My entire life had been turned upside down and although I was doing a lot better physically, I still had a lot more mentally to figure out in order to adjust to my new situation. She did not react to this well at all and I wasn’t given a chance to explain that there was more to my situation than met the eye.

I understand that she thought I was leading her on, but I was genuinely interested in pursuing something with her. I just didn’t think it was fair to her to start something while I was still coming to terms with my condition. I had lost my job due to my diagnosis and  forced to move countries for treatment. I was not in a good place mentally or physically (despite not needing crutches anymore). Unfortunately, she didn’t want to hear this so we went our separate ways.

Final thoughts

I don’t want this to scare any singletons with a chronic condition into thinking they are doomed into being forever alone. That certainly isn’t the case; there are plenty of articles on this site written by fellow AS warriors in successful relationships.

However, when dating someone with a condition like AS, it’s important to realize that their behavior might not be the same as the able bodied population. Do ask them about any "red flags" that you notice. You may find that you have jumped to the wrong conclusions and "misdiagnosed" their intentions or behavior. That being said, it is equally important for someone with a chronic condition to be open and honest about their situation too.

Has your condition affected your dating life? Let me know in the comments.

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