Given that I’ve lived with chronic migraine for more than a decade, I’ve had the experience of dating a lot of new people while in pain. While first dates can be a minefield for most people, I have the added issue of having to decide how much I should share about my migraine pain and how much information to withhold.
I covered a similar “how much should I share” question when it comes to how I handle my migraine conversations at work, but I find that discussing my illness with a potential partner is different because they’re signing up for a much larger role in my life. And while I can hide my migraine pain from colleagues, it’s much harder to hide my pain from a partner.
The big question
When you go on a first date, do you:
- Share nothing
- Share a little, but not everything
- Share everything
I’ve done all of these things on a first date and I’ve seen pros and cons in each situation. Here’s a look at my thinking around how much, or how little, to share on a first date.
My experience with each sharing approach
My instinct has always been to shy away from sharing my illness with those I’ve dated. On many, many dates, I’ve not mentioned it at all.
In the past, I did this because I didn’t want to scare someone away or seem like I was complaining. I also kept quiet because people often misunderstood my migraine pain and said things that discredited my pain in some way, which upset me. I found that waiting until I felt comfortable to share felt more appropriate.
That said, for me, not sharing feels similar to lying. It’s almost like I’m starting a potential relationship off on the wrong foot because I’m holding back critical information about my life.
Sharing a little
This approach allows me to ease into the conversation and provide a high-level look at the issue without getting into the weeds. It’s the easiest way to inform, and not scare.
The only downfall is that I don’t want to misrepresent the severity of my pain to the person I’m dating. He needs to be aware of what he’s getting into in the long run if we decide to keep dating.
Sharing everything allows me to put all the information out on the table so that there are no surprises down the road. There are good and bad aspects to this situation.
The good: If my chronic pain is a problem for the other person, it’s better that they know the severity of my pain early. This allows me to make sure that we don’t waste each other’s time.
The bad: If I share everything, I run the risk of having someone run away.
What I’ve learned
In this ongoing process of finding the “best” way to share this information with my dates, I’ve learned that each situation is unique. There’s no one right or wrong answer. It depends on the person I’m dating, how I think they’ll respond, and how comfortable I feel sharing at any given moment.
Today, I’ve become quite transparent about my chronic illness both in my private life as well as on social media. When I go on a date with someone new, it’s likely that they already know about my illness based on a simple Instagram search or having spoken with one of my friends.
While that once scared me, I’m totally fine with the situation now. In fact, I welcome it. If merely learning that I have chronic pain scares someone away, then there’s no chance they’d be able to handle being with me during my actual ongoing pain.
Dating with migraine isn’t all bad. There’s actually a certain beauty in this dilemma. I see it when I share this vulnerable, private side to myself and the person across the dinner table genuinely cares to know more. It feels wonderful when someone knows all of the facts and continues to see me beyond my illness. In some instances, I feel even more respected for how I’ve handled my chronic pain.
All in all, I feel fortunate to have come across men who have shown me that they’re all in for the ride and not scared away by my chronic pain. I’m sure that’s not always the case for everyone facing this reality. I recognize and appreciate the men who have made this situation that much easier for me. My hope is that one day I can go on a first date and talk about my migraines as a thing of the past.
For more information on how to manage migraine, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
MIG-US-NP-00104 NOVEMBER 2018