Last week, the New York Times published an article in their Ethicist column titled "Is it OK to Dump Him Because of His Medical Condition?" where the writer was posed a question by a woman about whether or not it was ok to no longer see a guy she was dating because he told her he has Crohn 's Disease which causes him to visit the doctor frequently and follow a strict diet, and my lead to a shortened life expectancy.
The author, in turn, replied, "You don’t owe it to anyone to accept that burden; indeed, if you think you don’t want such a life, you have a good reason not to enter into the relationship."
Ouch. The word "burden" cuts like a knife, as that was my biggest fear when living with Crohn's prior to meeting my husband.
One of the stories I often share is when I was hanging out with friends at a local pool and couple of guys approached us to talk. When asked how we met, I said I met my one friend through the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, as I have Crohn's Disease. His reply was something I will never forget.
He said, "Oh, a friend of mine has Crohn's. That sucks. Well, you better hope you are married in three years because then you are going to have a bag and no one will want you."
No one will want you.
Those words hit harder than anything I have ever heard in my life, and 7 years later, still sting. This also came after a previous relationship where I was told, "I didn't sign up for this" while I lay in the hospital with a flare, extremely vulnerable and sick.
No one will want you.
I didn't sign up for this.
Unfortunately, many Crohn's (or any chronic illness) patients hear these words when looking for their life partner. But, I will make a bold statement and say...THAT'S OK. It is ok that some think we are a burden, or an inconvenience and that they don't want to deal with it. And, you know why? Because it weeds those people out of our lives. It prevents us from finding the wrong people and makes room for the right one.
Just like they don't want to be with a person who has a chronic illness, I don't want to be with a person who resents me.
I remember laying in the hospital bed talking to my gastrointestinal (GI) team about my surgery back in February 2014, and getting extremely upset about what that means for me and my future, and (of course) my scar. My GI must have read my mind because he grabbed my big toe at the end of the hospital bed and said,
"Don't worry. Any guy who cares about that scar isn't worth it."
And he couldn't be more right.
Three weeks after my surgery, I met my husband. While I didn't share the fact that I had Crohn's until after a few dates, he never once minded that I was living with a chronic illness. His response to me telling him was, "Ok. Well, everyone has something." And that was it. It was never an issue. He never worried if it would ruin our plans, make it difficult to have children, be an embarrassment to his family, or prevent us from dining at certain restaurants because of my restricted diet.
I was never a "burden" to him. And that is the type of person I had to find to spend the rest of my life with.
My point is, it is ok for those to think being with someone with a chronic illness is a burden. Just like it is ok for someone not to want to date someone with kids. We all have our preferences, and that is how we end up finding our partners. I think it helps to eliminate those who aren't a good fit for us, as I surely wouldn't want to cause resentment in my relationship just because he thought it was rude to not date me because of my illness.
You don't like my illness? That's ok. Someone else won't mind. Someone else won't call me a burden. He will call me his wife.