For many people living with a chronic health condition, the dating and hook-up game is unexplored territory often accompanied by dates who don't understand, awkward conversations and inaccessibility to quality sex education and information. So below you'll find my beginner's guide to navigating dating and sex with a chronic health condition:
Depending on your condition and its visibility, it's great to have a gameplan around disclosure. It can be a great way to weed out duds because if someone isn't willing to make accommodations, they're not your person. No doubt, sharing health information or experiences is vulnerable, so give what you feel comfortable and what may be needed to get you both on the same page. For example, letting them know if there's a possibility for you to cancel last minute, if you can't tolerate certain environments or that you can't eat certain foods.
Get clear about what you need for yourself and from them, and make sure you have capacity for their questions. Most importantly, remember that there's more to you than your condition and that there's more to dating than whether or not this person will accept your needs.
Communicate, communicate and communicate. Need I say more?
When it comes to sex, explore what makes you feel good and sexy. With chronic conditions, our bodies can be incredibly medicalised so develop a regular routine that supports and reminds you that your entire body is capable of pleasure, and not just pain or shame.
Challenge your concepts of sex and what's on your sexual menu. Penetration and orgasms are synonymous with sex, but they're not the definition of it. Use practice vs play sessions to figure out enjoyable positions, communication styles or times of the day when you have more energy. Don't be afraid to troubleshoot and explore. Of course, flag with your partner potential or known impacts of medication, pain, etc.
Invest in sex furniture or toys that can make the experience better for you. Wedges or toys like Ziggy from Luddi or the OhNut are designed specifically for those experiencing variations in mobility or painful penetration. There's a whole new world of sex tech and furniture out there, and you'll be surprised what you can find.
You can still have a wonderful and expansive dating and sex life with a chronic health condition insofar as you’re willing and wanting to put in the work to communicate, learn and trial and error along the way and the person you fancy is wanting to ride said rollercoaster with you. Go gently with yourself.