February 06, 2008

The Dating Game: Having Lupus Doesn't Mean Saying No to Love

Hi everyone.

Even though Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, which means 6 more weeks of winter, it sure doesn't feel like it. It's going to be an unusually warm day here in DC. Plus, it's the day after Super Tuesday -- and it's DC -- so there's lots to talk about in our nation's capital.

And speaking of things to talk about, I have an article I wanted to share with you. It's very timely, especially since Valentine's Day is 8 days away.

The article -- The Dating Game -- was written by Mary Dixon Lebeau, and appeared in the Summer 2007 issue of Lupus Now magazine. I will post the first half of the article here, and then link to the article in its entirety.

Wishing you a great Wednesday.

Until next time, Wick

The Dating Game

For Erica DeMeerleer, Valentine’s Day 2002 was anything but romantic. In fact, the events of that week nearly broke her heart.

DeMeerleer, an account executive for Comcast, was 25 and involved in a two-year relationship at the time. She had moved from her hometown of Bellingham, WA, to Seattle for her work, but was trying to maintain the relationship long distance.

“It was a period of high stress for me,” DeMeerleer recalls. “I was adjusting to the new home, struggling with high rent payments, and trying to keep my relationship going.” She was also coping with incredible pain, which she thought was a symptom of the rheumatoid arthritis she had been diagnosed with six years earlier.

Then came the week that shook DeMeerleer’s world. “Three days before Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend broke up with me. Then a few days afterward, my doctors told me I had lupus,” she says.

“I was sure nobody would want to deal with my problems and that I would probably always remain single,” she says. “I remember thinking no one would ever love me.”

Learning that you have lupus is always hard, but when you’re single, you face an additional set of fears. You may struggle with when and how to discuss lupus with a potential partner -- and worry about how he’ll react once you do. You may even wonder if you could keep up a healthy romance at all, especially when you’re feeling fatigued or self-conscious. Is it possible to look for love -- and actually find it -- while dealing with all this?

Fortunately, the answer is a resounding yes. The key is the same as in any relationship: communication. "The number one issue in any relationship is communication," says Robert Phillips, Ph.D., founder of The Center for Coping in Hicksville, N.Y. and author of Successful Living With Lupus and Coping With Lupus. "With lupus patients, it depends on how well the person diagnosed is able to communicate what they’re experiencing or what they need without applying pressure to the other person."

It may take work, but with good communication, lupus patients can have a “happily ever after” -- as DeMeerleer can attest. Just one year after that heartbreaking Valentine’s week, DeMeerleer met Zeb and fell in love; the couple celebrated their second wedding anniversary last October.

“It works because he’s very open and honest, which compels me to tell it like it is,” DeMeerleer says. Honesty is key to the strength of their relationship. “We’re working hard on something great,” she says.

Sharing and caring

Usually the road from “glad to meet you” to “happily ever after” is a long one, and in the best cases, a variety of conversations will be held along the way. For singles with lupus, one of those conversations will reveal the diagnosis. This discussion, however, does not have to happen right away.

“There is no rule of thumb for when,” says Phillips. “It really shouldn’t be a part of your introduction. For example, you wouldn’t say, ‘Hi, glad to meet you, I have lupus.’ I suggest you wait to get to know the person and see if there’s chemistry.”

“When you reach a point in the relationship when you’re naturally sharing things about your life, lupus would be one of the things you share,” he adds.

Eileen Lynch, a Seattle-based paralegal, understands the reluctance to have such a conversation. Diagnosed at 22, Lynch avoided dating while she struggled to accept her condition. “I shied away from dating because I didn’t want to burden someone,” she recalls. “Then, when I returned to dating, I didn’t have successful relationships because I was so guarded and couldn’t open up.”

But a friend opened Lynch’s eyes to the opportunity she had been given. “He told me that I was actually lucky because I had a built-in meter,” Lynch says. “If someone didn’t want to be with me because of lupus, then he wasn’t good enough for me to begin with.” Lynch decided to put that meter to the test and started dating again, meeting men through friends or on online dating sites.


Are you enjoying the article so far? If so and you would like to read it in its entirety, please visit The Dating Game on lupus.org.

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