Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“When Should I Tell Dates About My Health?”

How does someone approach the subject of poor health when dating? I’m a 26 year-old male who has a couple heart problems. I feel fine and my cardiologist would tell anyone that I have just as much of a chance to live as long and good quality of a life as anyone, the only difference being daily medication, checkups twice a year and a new pacemaker every few years I’ve come to this conclusion. But, sometimes being labeled as something can almost be as bad as being that label. Does that make sense? People hear the words “pacemaker,” know that I take heart medication and or see that I take longer to recover from a workout at the gym and think I’m damage goods or something. I might be over-exaggerating a bit, but I do know of this being an issue on a handful of occasions. And each time it happens, the pain feels worse. My health isn’t great, but it is stable and it hasn’t stopped me from doing anything that I can think of. But because of my health, I’ve gone from someone who had a lot of confidence in dating to very little. And if you’re curious, these heart issues only developed three years ago.

I’m moving to a new area within the next few months because of a job relocation and because of this, I’m considering online dating. I’ve never done this before so I’m curious as to how you think I should approach my health subject in both online dating and dating outside of it? How soon is too soon to tell someone about my health and do I break them in slowly or all at once? — Matter of the Heart


While your issues are quite different, I’ll first point you to last week’s His Take column, in which the guys advised a woman on how and when she should let dates know that her ex-husband used to abuse her. They all gave really great advice, the summary of which was: you do not have to — nor should you — share intimate details of your life, like the reason for your divorce, or, in your case, your heart condition — until you’ve achieved a level of comfort with someone. There’s no schedule for when that time will come, but I promise it isn’t on a first date (and definitely not in an online dating profile). Depending on you and the other person and the dynamic you share, you may feel ready to open up after a few dates … or it may take a few months. There’s no right answer here — it’s really what you feel comfortable with … and when the need to know arises. For example, if sex and intimacy exacerbates your condition, you should probably give some hint of that before you let yourself get too … excited.

Along those lines, if there’s a spark with someone you can see yourself pursuing a relationship with, it isn’t a bad idea to give a few clues early on. For example, you could let her see you take your medication and if she asks what you take it for, you might answer, “Oh, I have a health condition I have to take medication for.” If she asks what your health condition is, you can smile and say, “Don’t worry, it’s nothing contagious.” If she pushes or asks more follow-up questions, answer them as you feel comfortable, being as vague or as specific as you want. Basically, a general rule of thumb to keep in mind is to answer enough questions or share enough information that concern is minimized but not heightened. Letting a potential girlfriend know that you have just as much chance at a long and high-quality life as anyone else is a good place to start.

I’m sorry you’ve had occasions to feel like “damaged goods” on the dating scene and that your confidence has taken a hit. I’m tempted to suggest that that might have something to do with your age and relative new diagnosis you’re likely still coming to grips with. Once you reach my age (34), it isn’t all that unusual to meet and date people with a host of health problems, or history of health problems. Twenty-six is still pretty young to be dealing with heart issues and the women you’re meeting probably just aren’t used to going out with someone who isn’t in perfect health. No reason to let that get you down. Use the opportunity to show them that health conditions don’t have to be a big, scary thing that ruin your life or slow you down. You don’t have to be some sort of poster child for heart problems, but living a full and active life will never stop being attractive and will go a long way in increasing your confidence and showing off your vitality.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

53 comments… add one
  • avatar

    PFG-SCR June 21, 2011, 7:43 am

    While I agree with Wendy that you don’t put this in your profile or mention this on the first date, I disagree with, “Along those lines, if there’s a spark with someone you can see yourself pursuing a relationship with, it isn’t a bad idea to give a few clues early on.” I think once you “allow” someone to see you take your medication, you explain why you’re taking it without being vague. This is one of those “it is what it is” situations, and instead of giving an answer that it’s “not contagious”, just be open about it once it’s first brought up, but be sure to give the full story.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom June 21, 2011, 11:44 am

      I agree about not being vague. If you give the impression that you have something to hide they will think that your condition is worse than it is or they will think that you aren’t honest. It wouldn’t hurt to briefly tell them why you have a heart conditon because it sounds as if this isn’t hereditary and they may worry about whether if they married you they would have children with a heart condition. The fear of children born with a heart condition may scare more women away than your current health.

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  • avatar

    BoomChakaLaka June 21, 2011, 8:06 am

    While I don’t think it should be one of the first things you tell someone about yourself, I think it is something that should be mentioned when you feel ready. I wouldn’t make a big deal about it, and just mention it casually (just like Wendy put it above). I would also encourage you to emphasize how it is just a factor in your life and not something that defines/hinders you. You’ve been able to maintain an active/somewhat normal life despite having a pacemaker and medications. Continue doing that and emphasize those things rather than your condition.

    This somewhat reminds me of my boyfriend. The first time we met, he told me he had ADHD. I don’t think I remembered it because it was just mentioned in passing. It wasn’t until our first date a few months later that I noticed that he got distracted by my hand motions or any movement for that matter that was directly in from of him (the couple at the table behind me, etc). I asked him if I was boring him and he said, No, I have ADHD. Although it was the second time hearing it, I took this opportunity to ask and learn more about his condition. It was a great way to learn more about him and his childhood and how he’s lived with this condition.

    While heart disease and ADHD are two different things, I think the lessons here are the same: Mention it when you’re comfortable and don’t let it define you.

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  • avatar

    Lexie.b June 21, 2011, 8:34 am

    There’s always someone who comments that “it’s all in your head” and today that person is me.

    When I read your post I thought about it, and honestly, someone telling me they have a heart problem, but one that didn’t stop them from doing the things they wanted to do, and required a pacemaker every few years and medication daily, would not stop me from dating them. I think that most people would agree that if they met someone they clicked with that a heart problem wouldn’t make them run in the opposite direction.

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    • avatar

      PFG-SCR June 21, 2011, 8:45 am

      I don’t think we’re in a position to tell him that this is “all in his head” (no pun intended), but I do think there is a bit of a defeated tone to his letter. I think it’s important when he does have this discussion with someone that he’s positive and upbeat about it because the way he delivers this message can impact the other person’s view of the situation, as much the actual message itself.

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    • avatar

      TMSC June 21, 2011, 9:26 am

      I can see what you are saying, but I do think his concern is totally valid. I am being honest when saying if I dated someone and found out he had a heart condition, I would be concerned. I am not saying I would run in the other direction. I would ask questions, and I might worry about him. But, my guide in how to react would come from him. If he doesn’t let it hinder his life, and it is just a part of who he is, that is how I would treat it as well. The LW obviously leads a full life regardless, and the right person is going to focus on that instead of the condition.

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    • avatar

      DramaQueen224 June 21, 2011, 11:43 am

      I’m not sure if it’s “all in his head”, but maybe the LW isn’t presenting this information in the best way/at the best time? Just the way his letter is worded, talking about his life expectancy right off the bat, might be a little intimidating to his dates, even though he’s saying his life expectancy is good. I think starting with some of the other points, he takes meds, he has a pacemaker and then assuring his dates that he’s doing good might be better than starting off with “don’t worry I’m not going to die”.

      Also, it might be possible that the LW is talking too much about his condition too soon. This is clearly a major and recent event in his life, and it’s reasonable for him to want to discuss it with people. However, strangers usually aren’t as interested in our medical conditions are we are, so if he’s bring it up on the first date and talking about it a lot, that might be the source of his problem.

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    • avatar

      Betty June 21, 2011, 5:20 pm

      Speaking as someone with a myriad of health problems from young age, I can guarantee it’s not all in his head. I was once dumped while on a date for requesting to change restaurants to one safe for my severe shellfish allergy. People can be really callous assholes and that kind of thing really weighs you down. It’s hard to be upbeat about dating after a couple of situations like that.

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  • avatar

    Dave Jay June 21, 2011, 9:23 am

    Ever hear the saying that “Love is blind”? Believe it! Anyone (and I mean ANYONE) who loves you would not let this interfere in a long-term relationship, and you should not lament the loss of anyone who does. This is a physical condition (as opposed to the usual mental ones we see here), and it is much easier to compartmentalize; that is, your heart condition in no way makes you more apt to be unfaithful or any of the other things that really matter in a relationship. As Wendy advised, don’t flaunt it out there on the first couple dates. No need to mention it to anyone until you’re pretty sure you are in love, then reveal it to them as a show of respect FOR them.
    On the bright side, if she does leave you, you already have a broken heart! (What? Too soon?) I wish you all the best 🙂

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    • avatar

      TheOtherMe June 21, 2011, 11:14 am

      I totally agree here. Even though most people will tell you that you do not need to disclose this from the get go, ( which I also agree with ) I prefer to address your perception of feeling like ” damaged goods”. As a woman, let me tell you that your condition would not push me away.

      As a woman:
      If there was a spark, I would still want to know more about you.
      if there was a connection I would still want to date you.
      If you were the best relationship I ever had, I would still want to marry you.

      You see ? You are NOT damaged goods, I’m sure many others would say the same.
      Good luck LW!

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  • avatar

    Kerrycontrary June 21, 2011, 9:48 am

    I agree with Wendy’s advice to let the subject come up naturally and only with someone whom you trust. While this is quite different, I suffer from migraines which can inhibit my daily life. It easily affects whomever I’m dating because I may need to go home early or can’t leave the house that day depending on the migraine. I’ve had guys who are jerks about it and ones who are totally understanding. You just have to find the right person who cares enough. Plus, since your heart problems won’t shorten your life span I think most women should be understanding. I would encourage you to go for it with the online dating and just try to find a kind woman who you will be able to trust. Best of luck to you.

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  • avatar

    ArtsyGirl June 21, 2011, 9:51 am

    I agree with Wendy – there is no point in wearing your medical condition on your sleeve. It sounds like you are on top of your health so unless you need people to watch for signs of ill health over dinner, you do not need to talk about it until you feel a level of commitment and comfort from your date (be it the 1st or 31st date).

    I do think it is always good to reveal this type of thing before taking your relationship into the bedroom even though your condition will not affect your partner. I know it would make me feel more comfortable to talk it out before engaging in physical activity.

    That being said this is the season to easily and nonchalantly reveal your condition to any dates since a lot of outdoor activities allow you to go out sans shirt – be it at the beach, water park, or even walking/jogging. I imagine that you do have a small scar where you pacemaker was placed so if you are feeling ready to broach the subject you can always see if she notices the scar. If so you can explain in simple terms that it is not overly dangerous and that you are keeping on top of your health. Offer to send her some medical links if she wants more information and then leave it at that. Also, if you are doing something physical when you reveal your condition it might help show her that your heart is not impeding your life.

    Best of luck!

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  • avatar

    _jsw_ June 21, 2011, 9:56 am

    I agree that there’s no reason to mention it until much further on. I’ll assume that your medication doesn’t need to be taken in an obvious and unavoidably public way, so it seems like a relationship could progress before you mention it at all.

    If you were terminally ill and had very little time left, obviously it’s something you’d need to mention. But in your case, it doesn’t really affect your life expectancy, and, with medication to control it, it’s even less of an issue than something like diabetes. It’s a chronic condition, nothing more, and there’s no reason you should feel obligated to discuss it until you feel that you have a real chance of a relationship with someone. At that point, it’s worth mentioning… but, again, this is at the boyfriend/girlfriend stage, not the third date. Unless, well, the two of you move along really quickly. 😉

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  • avatar

    SGMcG June 21, 2011, 10:11 am

    On the night I met my husband, he mentioned to me as we were talking/learning about one another that when he was in his teens he had MAJOR corrective surgery for his scoliosis and has a permanent rod in his back. When I asked him how he felt about it, he noted that he probably would never ride any amusement park ride that would severely jerk his body around, but that he’ll have the straightest back in the nursing home. His attitude about his surgery was so postive and he was very upbeat when I asked deeper questions. He shared a memory that after his surgery he related his story to another frightened teenage patient during his one year checkup. The anecdote really spoke to me about what kind of person he is, and I couldn’t help but get to know him more.

    Although it sucks that you have a pacemaker, one good thing about it, aside from the fact that it helps you lead a normal life, is that you have a SCAR. I don’t know about all the women on this board, but I personally DIG seeing scars and hearing the stories behind them. What you have in your posession is a guaranteed conversation starter and if the woman is into you, she’ll grab that opportunity to ask to see it and touch it accordingly. Once you get into your conversations, just be kind, cordial and yourself – like you would during any discussions with a date. In your conversations regarding your pacemaker, be honest in your answers should she ask questions and let your personality shine.

    Most importantly, get out of that mindfunk that you’re damaged goods. When talking about the rod in his back, my husband likes to take the approach that he’s taken on an improvement that will enhance his life and that he’s one step closer than the rest of the population in the inevitable apocalyptic kaiju robot takeover (and CHICKS DIG GIANT ROBOTS). I don’t know what YOU would personally do to take your pacemaker and give it a positive spin, yet it should highlight your personality and your interests. This could be something that could be done as you are exploring the new area where you are moving to. Are there charitable opportunites, functions or events regarding heart disease prevention – like a fundraiser or walk – where you are moving to that are coming up? Maybe you could meet someone there who not only understands where you’re coming from but already can empathize with your health situation when you mention why you’re there. The mere presence of the charity should get any anxiety about having a pacemaker out of the way.

    Believe me LW, I know it’s not easy. Yet those who would view you as damaged goods rather than the sum of your character and who you are NOW are probably not people worth getting to know better anyway. Reactions to your pacemaker can help you in finding a quality person to share your life with, whether you talk about it during the first date or not. Keep focusing on being a better you for yourself and the rest should come naturally when it’s time.

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  • avatar

    goofy June 21, 2011, 10:27 am

    I don’t post here often but I am an avid reader. I also have a chronic illness (Crohn’s Disease) that I was diagnosed with at 21 and am now 25, so I can relate to the LW’s situation. It can be hard to be diagnosed with something so life changing and *forever* at a young age. Have you dealt with these emotions, LW?

    My advice to you is along the same lines as Wendy’s, to do what feels comfortable to you when disclosing your health. At the same time, you say this “hasn’t stopped you from doing anything you can think of”. Are you showing that? When I met my boyfriend I was training for a half-marathon to raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, so my disease was discussed over the phone even before our first date (we were set up). By talking about my training, I was showing that I was every bit as healthy as everyone else. Are you displaying that you are healthy to your dates? I understand that talking about a heart condition can be scary, but I agree with poster BoomChakaLaka that if you approach talking about it from a light-hearted (no pun intended) stand point, your dates may not suddenly have visions of doom and gloom. A lot of how people respond to news is a reflection of how they learn of it.

    In the end, do not lament the loss of women who run away because of your condition. These women are clearly not mature enough to deal with the harder parts of life and would make poor partners in the long run. At the same time, not every date may flounder because of your health. You two may just not be a good match.

    Good luck to you!!

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    • fast eddie

      fast eddie June 21, 2011, 12:05 pm

      My goddaughter has Crohn’s Disease and lives a very full active life including 2 beautiful children and a wonderful step daughter. The entire family has given me much joy. Like the LW and yourself there are many medical conditions that people live with and deal with the reactions of the general population to them.

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  • avatar

    Rei June 21, 2011, 10:58 am

    Hey, you’re like me! I have a congenital heart defect, have to take daily medication, and have my internal defibrillator replaced every few years. My advice is just act like it’s the most normal thing in the world. People tend to go with the tone of the conversation-setter so when you decide to tell them, which I’d suggest not on the first date but pretty soon after in follow-up emails or phone calls, be cool, be confident, and be relaxed.
    I know for me that all the guys who I’ve been interested in have known about my condition because I tend to wear low-cut shirts and have a giant scar which tends to elicit questions. I don’t act angry or scared–people are just curious–and not a one of them has ever had a problem with my heart condition.

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    • avatar

      PFG-SCR June 21, 2011, 11:38 am

      Thank you for sharing your own personal story with this, Rei! You’ve got such a great attitude and positive approach!!!

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie June 21, 2011, 10:21 am

    I agree with Wendy and the others that it isn’t something to put in the profile or wear on your sleeve. Go right on living your life and when YOU feel it’s appropriate to disclose your condition let it out in whatever manner feels right. From what you wrote is really isn’t a limiting thing rather something you live with and expect to keep doing just that for a long full life as many other people with that condition do. It’s only the fact that your relatively young that makes it unusual. As you’ve already learned some people will imagine all sorts of things that aren’t factual. I know a few people that have pacemakers all of whom are more physically fit then my completely healthy self.

    Hang in there dude you’ll find someone that’s intelligent and mature enough to learn and understand the parameters and doesn’t have an issue with the medication bottles. 🙂

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    • avatar

      TheOtherMe June 21, 2011, 11:17 am

      …” you’ll find someone that’s intelligent and mature enough to learn and understand the parameters and doesn’t have an issue with the medication bottles”

      Well said, Eddie

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  • avatar

    MiMi June 21, 2011, 11:28 am

    I see including a few judiciously worded sentences in your online profile as a good way to be open about your condition and show your confident attitude, without drama.
    You have learned some life lessons earlier than most, and it sounds like you have been responsible and dedicated in taking good care of your health.
    While many other 26 year olds have spent the last three years mastering the art of Happy Hour, you have something of substance to bring to the table. Surely there is no need to hide your sterling achievements and qualities in order to be viewed as a “regular guy”?

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  • avatar

    jena June 21, 2011, 11:46 am

    I agree with most of this, except for being vague about your medication. If I asked someone what they were taking (I wouldn’t, that’s a bizarre thing to ask) and they said, “Don’t worry, it’s not contagious,” I would bail SO HARD and SO FAST. If you let me see you take your meds and can’t or won’t tell me what they’re for, I’m going to think you have something big and scary that you’re hiding.

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  • avatar

    missarissa June 21, 2011, 12:40 pm

    I have experience with this one. I met this fit-looking guy at a party when I was in town for a weekend, and we met up the next day so he could give me a walking tour of the city. We did that for several hours and went out to lunch, where I called my sister from the bathroom telling her I was on “the best first date ever.” We didn’t want the date to end, and had dinner plans, so we decided to see a movie before dinner. We went to a corner store to get candy and drinks for the movie, so we wouldn’t have to pay ridiculous movie-theatre prices. I grabbed a (diet) soda, and asked if he wanted one. He said no, he actually couldn’t drink soda, because he had had gastric bypass two years before. He then told me he used to weigh nearly 400 pounds and couldn’t drink soda because the bubbles messed with his stomach. He said he had had two surgeries, the first was the gastric bypass, and the second was “cosmetic” to remove the extra skin.

    I honestly felt a little like my perfect date was shattered. I had been in awe of how well the date was going and how amazing he was, and now, turned out, not perfect. I had dated someone right before him with weight issues, who had basically turned into an exercise bulimic and had lost about 100 pounds right before I started dating him. I wondered what was wrong with me, that it seemed like I could only attract this exact type of (somewhat damaged) person. [Note: they had the same first name, so that was even weirder to me… really? I only date Gregs with severe weight-loss and confidence issues? really???] I put on a “who cares?” face and listened to his story. I acted completely non-plussed, even though I really wasn’t. He said he had scars and that worried me.

    Later that night, after the movie, and dinner (technically, it was our second date), we were alone in his room and he kissed me. As clothes came off, I saw his scars, two on his chest , and one entirely around his hips, which were still very scar-like. It freaked me out a little bit… he looked like he had fallen apart and been stitched back together, not entirely unlike frakenstein. I felt like a horrible person for thinking that, and feeling a little weird. He told me to be careful, because he didn’t have feeling in some of his abdomen because of the surgery. I made a joke about having to bite him elsewhere then, and the night proceeded as nights like that do.

    A year and 8 months later, I live with this fit-looking not-quite-perfect but still amazing man. He told me later that the fact that I didn’t react when he told me about the surgery, that I thought it was nothing, really affected him and allowed him to relax with me. He also said that when I didn’t react to the scars, he could tell I was different. I’ve never told him about my internal reactions, that I did think it was “something”, that it worried me, that it made him seem “damaged” to me. Sometimes I think that I’m being dishonest by not telling him that. But his “little belly” as I call it (the inside stomach, not his gut) is a daily part of our lives, and I have to cook differently and eat differently because of it (no leafy veggies, for one). And I think its a pretty good trade-off for getting to be with him.

    So, LW, there’s a chance she might care. There’s a chance she might think you’re a little damaged. But so what? If she likes you, she likes you, and she’ll get over it. I didn’t honestly think about NOT dating him because his belly was broken or he had scars. It just … mattered… a little… and honestly did affect how I saw him at first. But it wasn’t a deal breaker. You can’t fault a girl for caring; but you can fault her for how she deals with it, and makes you feel. It doesn’t really matter how she feels about it on the inside, because she’ll either take you or leave you. And you should either take her or leave her, depending on how “damaged” she makes you feel.

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  • avatar

    kali June 21, 2011, 12:53 pm

    Rei’s condition is congential. I didn’t see where LW said whether his was or not. Congenital may not mean heritable, but I would want to know that as someone who was dating him. I would not want to move forward with a relationship knowing any offspring could inherit something as serious as “a couple of heart problems.” LW might want to have answers for those questions as well.

    And then, yes, go with a confident, positive attitude and a low-key tone. After all, you’re going to be around for many years to come. Might as well make the most of it!

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    • avatar

      kali June 21, 2011, 2:52 pm

      Seriously, thumbs down? I kind of expected that after reading the ‘love conquers all’ crap above but I grew up with a severly epileptic, brain damaged, developmentally delayed younger brother, another sibling with severe ADHD, and another with major bone deformities and dyslexia. That kind of stuff happens, even when there’s nothing wrong with either parent. Why would you want to take a chance on inflicting a major defect on a child if you know going in that’s a possibility?

      If LW’s condition is genetic and could be passed on, not everyone is willling to take a chance on doing that to potential offspring. I felt like it needed to be said after all the sweetness and light above. Sorry to be realistic.

      Let the purple thumbs bloom!

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      • avatar

        TheOtherMe June 21, 2011, 3:11 pm

        I am sorry for the health issues that your family is dealing with. I am sure you don’t love your siblings any less because of their conditions.

        That being said, I did Not thumb you down even though I don’t agree with what you said. You make it sound like there is no hope for anyone with a congenital condition. Like no one should date them let alone have babies with them.

        Also, when you say “‘love conquers all’ “crap”, that might sound a little harsh to the commentators who have shared with us how they are living with difficult health situations and would still not change a thing if they had to.

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        TheOtherMe June 21, 2011, 4:44 pm

        I meant “still not change a thing if they had “the chance” to, sorry

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        kali June 22, 2011, 1:39 pm

        I said *I* wouldn’t move forward with a relationship someone with congenital defects that were liable to be inherited by future offspring. I realize other people might have opposing opinions. I get it. But having lived with my family, I choose not to do so.

        As far as love for my siblings, you are right. HOWEVER, I also saw the toll it took on my parents’ marriage and the amount of resources it absorbed that might have been otherwise allocated. It also focused my parents attention on the medical issues and other areas were neglected. Why do that if you don’t have to?

        And I just gotta say ‘bravo’ to anyone dealing with a serious medical condition and thriving. More power to them. I don’t believe you are correct, however, when you say they wouldn’t change a thing if they had the chance. Then again, just my view on the topic. Yours seems very different.

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        goofy June 22, 2011, 2:01 pm

        I have Crohn’s Disease, and while it has certainly made me stronger (and smarter at dealing with the medical/insurance system), if I had the choice I would DEFINITELY choose NOT to have it! This doesn’t mean I am not thriving as Kali said, I lead a very normal life. But just because I lead a normal life doesn’t mean I’m just fine with having a chronic illness.

        TheOtherMe – maybe you did not intend to, but your comment about those of us with illness “not wanting to change a thing” seems to glamorize illness.

        This is the reality: I give myself shots every other week (and at times up to 2x a week), rack up co-pays, spend HOURS on the phone with my insurance company, have had surgery, worry about health insurance, and worry about passing this (or related diseases) along to my children (if I have them, and after getting through a high risk pregnancy).

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        TheOtherMe June 22, 2011, 2:43 pm

        You’re right Goofy, I expressed myself poorly, I was trying to speak about the comments of people who have a spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend with a medical condition and say they would not change and thing because they feel the benefits of sharing their lives with this person outweigh the sacrifices of their health condition.

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      EB June 21, 2011, 3:01 pm

      A congenital heart defect is actually the most common birth defect to children born in the USA. They can occur for a myriad of reasons but generally if it is a genetic issue it is a manifestation of an overarching condition like Down’s Syndrome. The possible hereditary ramifications are pretty in my minimal, at least in my opinion, if a parent or a sibling has a congenital heart defect — the risk increases from eight in 1,000 to 16 in 1,000.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom June 21, 2011, 9:04 pm

        We have friends whose son was born with a congenital heart defect. It has affected every aspect of his life because his body didn’t receive enough oxygen during the pregnancy and due to that he was born with microcephaly. The development of the entire nervous system was affected. He had to haved three heart surgeries before he turned two. After the second surgery he had seizures and that also contributed to brain damage. They paid so much for treatments and therapies, even with health insurance, that they lost their home. They love their son totally but decided that the slightly increased risk of having another child with a heart defect was more than they could accept or handle and so their son is an only child. It is very easy to minimize the risk if you aren’t the one living with it.

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        kali June 22, 2011, 1:40 pm

        Thank you! My point exactly.

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  • courtney89

    HMMM June 21, 2011, 1:35 pm

    This is interesting to me, because when I was 13 I was diagnosed with a condition, for which I had to get shots 6 days a week for a couple years but now that I am older, the only thing still around to remind me about it is that I wouldn’t have a period if it weren’t for taking birth control, and twice a year I have to go to my endocrinologist and get blood drawn and sometimes do ultrasounds or echocardiagrams depending on what they need to check. ALSO of course, I almost forgot the biggest thing- I can’t have my own children, although I was told in vitro might possibly work, but it’d be risky for me to get pregnant. I still have yet to be in a situation where I’ve felt serious enough with a guy to tell him- (I’m still only 22) I’ve told my best friends over the years of course, but it still scares me to think of what reaction i’d get from a guy, or how soon to even tell a guy? It’s something I know might be a deal breaker, but i’ve learned that if thats a deal breaker with a guy, then he can’t accept me as I am and I will find a guy who will. 🙂

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      justpeachy June 21, 2011, 3:42 pm

      Just date a guy with lots of sisters because then there’s lots of possible surrogates for your future babies (assuming that’s an option).

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      • courtney89

        HMMM June 21, 2011, 4:46 pm

        Interesting, I had never thought to think about that. I have my own twin sister, but she doesn’t even know if she wants her OWN kids, let alone carry her sister’s kid for 9 months! But definitely another option for me to consider. Thanks! I also know there are many women out there who are just unable to get pregnant for a variety of reasons, so I would hope that wouldn’t scare away any decent guy.. but if it does, then so be it!

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      • courtney89

        HMMM June 21, 2011, 4:48 pm

        Wait.. is that even possible? It is, right? For a sister to carry her sisters babies? I guess i need to get educated on the surrogate options!

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        justpeachy June 21, 2011, 4:58 pm

        I kind of meant it as a joke, but that’s awesome. And maybe your sister just doesn’t want to raise kids and would be open to the surrogate thing.

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      • courtney89

        HMMM June 21, 2011, 5:17 pm

        I obviously didn’t take from your post for me to go around and interrogate guys on how many sisters they had and if they had no sisters well then I wouldn’t date them. hahaha. I just hadn’t even considered the thought of surrogacy and the mention of it made it come into my mind. I have a few years to go yet before I need to start worrying about building a family!

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        aly June 21, 2011, 5:36 pm

        I think its gotta be a scary thing to tell someone you really love and care about something that has the potential to end the relationship. There is no answer to when to tell your significant other that kind of news, but put yourself in their shoes and think about when you would want to know such information. This goes for both guys and girls who have health issues that they will need to discuss with a potential life partner.
        There are so many different things a girl who can’t get pregnant the regular way can do, I’m sure there’s a way! And adoption and surrogacy are definitely viable options as well.

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        aly June 21, 2011, 5:44 pm

        I think its gotta be a scary thing to tell someone you really love and care about something that has the potential to end the relationship. There is no answer to when to tell your significant other that kind of news, but put yourself in their shoes and think about when you would want to know such information. This goes for both guys and girls who have health issues that they will need to discuss with a potential life partner.
        There are so many different things a girl who can’t get pregnant the regular way can do, I’m sure there’s a way! And adoption and surrogacy are definitely viable options as well…

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      TheGirl June 21, 2011, 4:48 pm

      I think the same thing applies here. You don’t need to let the full truth out right away. Most guys are not going to ask you if you want to have children that soon. If you decide to become exclusive, then you should definitely talk about kids and your inability to have them in the same context as the standard life goals talk that every couple needs to have. Besides, there’s always adoption, and there are lots of kids out there that really need a home.

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      • courtney89

        HMMM June 21, 2011, 5:24 pm

        adoption is the one thing I have always thought about.. and while I know there are many countries with young children in orphanages, I also would like to help young kids here in America, because I know there is plenty here that need a good home. I have had two real “exclusive” relationships that lasted about 9 months and 6 months and I never brought it up to either of them.. of course i was 17-18 and 21 and had no thoughts of children. But I know the next exclusive relationship I have, will probably be the point where I will have to bring it up. It won’t be on the first date or the wedding night (by the way.. I cant have kids, new husband!) but probably soon enough to where I know it won’t be a waste a huge chunk of time if he doesn’t want to continue a relationship.

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    Lydia June 21, 2011, 1:46 pm

    I have some experience from the other side of the fence; my boyfriend is a type 1 diabetic. He told me on our second date – we went out a dinner and he had to inject insulin, so it wasn’t as if he had much of a choice. For me, it really helped that he was so open about it. Diabetes is an illness that is manageable, but can still really affect your daily life (for example, a few weeks ago he got *really* low bloodsugar and walked outside stark naked – and this was after I had been begging him for half an hour to eat something). I won’t lie, sometimes it’s scary and troublesome to deal with his illness, but I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else.

    It never occurred to me to stop dating mu boyfriepnd because of his diabetes, and LW, it probably won’t occur to the right girl for you either. But she probably will have questions and concerns. Once she knows something is up, you should be prepared to address them. Openness is really key in these situations.

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      Lydia June 21, 2011, 3:25 pm

      Ugh, my boyfriend, obviously, not mu boyfriepnd. Damned typing on a tiny phone keypad.

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    justpeachy June 21, 2011, 3:28 pm

    Some of the commentors have posted their experiences on how it is to be on the opposite side of things and their experiences were positive. I figured I’d share mine as a bit of a cautionary tale.

    My high school boyfriend and I had been dating for about a month when he called me up one night. He’d had a bad day and was in tears and just started ranting about all sorts of things he’d never told me before, like that he had Crohn’s disease and there was the potential for other undiagnosed conditions given his family history and that he never wanted children because he didn’t want to pass anything along. When it’s the first time you’ve heard your boyfriend cry and he’s saying all sorts of things you don’t understand and you don’t know what to do since it’s all happening over the phone, it’s a very scary place to be. He was embarrassed so never really brought it up again and I didn’t want to upset him so I never brought it up either and I never really understood what it meant to him and to the future of our relationship.

    So my tips would be to wait until you’re exclusive with someone, bring it up in person, calmly and without emotion if possible, be prepared to answer questions, and don’t make it feel like it’s something you don’t want to talk about. She’ll have more questions down the line and she needs to know that you’ll be comfortable talking about it.

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    Fidget_eep June 21, 2011, 4:35 pm

    I have excema, I have had it since I was born. My skin is not something I can hid and it can effect my relationships in that getting hot and sweaty in any way (outdoor or indoor activities) can cause a major flair up. Then this summer I got another blow, I had a mild case of alopecia (no leg or arm hair and periodically missing eye lashes) but then I lost nearly all my head hair. That is a blow to any female’s self-esteem. I tried for the longest time to hid the bald patches with what little hair I had, but with the encouragement from my boyfriend and mom I finally got a wig (in December 6 months after the loss) and then finally shaved what hair I had off. It could grow back, but so far it doesn’t look like it. My boyfriend has been soooo supportive of all my major quirks. He says he appreciates that I can still laugh about it and find the humor in my situation. I ask if he wants me to be a red head, brunette or blond for the day. (he bought me two of my wigs).

    LW you have to be confident in yourself and your understanding of your condition so that when you do tell her about the condition you can answer her questions intelligently and answer nearly all of them. When I get major flair ups and it hurts to move my neck or bend my arms because of scabs or open wounds, my boyfriend knows that I can tell him clearly if he can help and how, either by getting ice or rubbing medicine on my back and I love his understanding. He knows I know my skin and does whatever he can to help me. (wow, sorry for the ramble I don’t usually talk about how I feel about my skin).

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  • courtney89

    courtney June 21, 2011, 4:43 pm

    Thanks for sharing! Sounds like you are very matter of fact about your situation, it’s a part of you, its life and it can’t be changed so no use dwelling on it, I commend you for handling it the way you do! And it sounds like you got a great guy too!

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  • sobriquet

    sobriquet June 21, 2011, 4:52 pm

    While you should not let this define you, I think you should give her all the details at once as soon as you feel comfortable bringing it up. Being discreet or casually bringing it up leaves the possibility of her getting the wrong impression. She may not think it’s as bad as it is, or she may think it’s much worse. My advice is to lay it all out there and let her know that despite this medical issue, you’re a very capable guy who will more than likely live a long life.

    I say this because I’ve been on the other side before, and it was disastrous. I dated a guy who casually mentioned that he had suffered from asthma his entire life, but that it was “no big deal.” I asked him if he could play sports and he told me he could, just not for an extended period of time. His example was: “I can play a 30 minute game of tennis with you, but I can’t go on a 3-hour hike.” That seemed clear enough. Imagine my confusion when he almost passed out half way through a shopping trip at Whole Foods. I freaked out and ran to the car to get his inhaler and was pretty close to taking him to the hospital because I thought something was terribly wrong. Turns out, that was a pretty normal incident. He just accidentally left his inhaler in his car. I’m not sure I ever got the real story about what was up with him.

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    Betty June 21, 2011, 5:36 pm

    I have autoimmune issues that have really affected my dating life. I’ve found the key is to mention that I have a diagnosed condition within a couple of dates to weed out people who just don’t want to deal with it and then only offer a detailed explanation for when things get a bit more involved. I’ve been online dating for off and on the last couple years and found there are a lot of people who will immediately move on and it really is better to find out now. You’re gonna have to pretend you have an ego of steel to make a go of this, but it’s worth it!

    The hardest, and most important, part is to not make a big deal of your heart condition, if you can come up with a glib, easy explanation and leave detailed information for later you’ll probably have better luck. Something along the lines of “I have a heart condition, but it doesn’t really affect my day to day life. Maybe, if you’re interested, I’ll tell you more about it some time.” If they ask questions that you’re not ready to answer, don’t feel bad about saying you’d rather keep it fun tonight, but maybe next date. I’ve had good results from using this type of technique. I also have a store of hilarious anecdotes about my health care diagnosis process that help put others at ease. It allows people to learn more about my health concerns but helps show that I have a healthy attitude. That I’m not defined by my problems the way people can be.

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  • katie

    Katie June 21, 2011, 6:56 pm

    i have a feeling that in this situation, the way that you view it, and how you tell them, will be the way that they view it. if you approach talking about this subject very casually, like oh theres a problem with my heart… i have to take this medication and get a couple extra exams each year.. its not that big of a deal. its controlled, im fine. im not at risk for anything, ect. if a guy said that to me, i wouldn’t see it as a big deal. if, you said it as, oh i have x genetic disorder and this part of my heart doesnt work and i require daily medication for the rest of my life, bla bla bla, that would scare me more. its all how you tell them, and how you spin it.

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    jubietta June 21, 2011, 8:54 pm

    Dear LW-
    I would encourage you to buck the “Damaged Goods” label. If you are damaged goods, then we are all damaged goods! Some damage is easier to hide than yours, and most of us have had longer to build our defenses around our tender spots than you’ve had. It’s easy to advise you to “go with confidence” when you choose to share your diagnosis/prognosis, but I think any of us would have difficulty following that advice if we were pressed to divulge our personal sensitivities to relative strangers with whom we’d like to connect more strongly.
    The cool part is that our damage makes us unique and builds us into stronger, more capable, more relatable folks. Damage builds empathy. Empathy is good for relationships, it works like glue.
    And while it’s great to accept that we’re all damaged, comparing damage never works (though I do love those movie scenes where two characters whip off their shirts and start comparing scars). The trouble is, that for we emotional humans, the worst thing we’ve ever experienced sets the bar for how bad it can get for us. And my worst thing and your worst thing are on par with each other, at least that’s how it feels from the inside.
    I wish you a long, healthy and happy life with someone whose damaged in their own quirky way.

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    AKchic June 22, 2011, 1:06 pm

    *hugs*

    You aren’t damaged goods. You just need a little more maintenance to keep yourself on the road of life than others. I have a pain condition and take a lot of medications to keep myself moving too. Medications to keep the migraines at bay, medications to keep the arthritis from stiffening me up too badly, meds to keep the pain at a dull roar (or keep me from having a horrible flare up and keep me in bed). Not including the medications for PTSD, anxiety and bipolar disorder (mostly controlled without meds, but on occasion I do need to take something during my manic phases).

    Please don’t call yourself “damaged goods” or even think of yourself that way. You aren’t. A diabetic isn’t one. An asthmatic isn’t one. Yes, it’s a little more heart-ache (pun intended) on the road to a lifelong mate, but at least you have a great sifter to help you weed through the bad ones wasting your time.

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