Dating and Illness…The Ultimate Game of Truth or Dare

Exactly how honest should you be when you first begin dating someone? How many dates should you have before some of the “tough truths” are shared? Two dates or three? Or, as some experts say, perhaps you should be completely honest right up front.

No false illusions – both parties are clear about who they are and what they want right from the start. Other experts tell you to keep the mystery going for quite a while. You don’t want share too much of the “serious” (aka neurotic) stuff and scare off the other person. Others even state that, “getting to know each other over time is half the joy of dating.”


There are hundreds, nay, thousands of books and articles dealing with just these kinds of questions. There are answers everywhere. So why, no many how many years you have spent in the dating world, do you still feel like you are 15 years old and are unsure of what you should do, no matter what your age?

Dating can be like truth or dare: the game that sends shivers down the spines of adolescents and young adults. Do you select “truth” and answer the question proposed hoping it’s not too personal (like that ever happens) or do you go for the dare, praying that you won’t have to do anything too embarrassing (this game was safer before caller ID and instant messaging)? Do you answer the question honestly, hoping that this date will continue, or she’ll/he’ll call you for another, or do you go for the dare…perhaps avoiding the question or the truth for just a little longer?

Perhaps you don’t share right away that you continuously buy new underwear, sheets and towels to avoid having to do laundry more than every four weeks (Is laundry phobia in the DSM IV?), or that you get up in the middle of the night to get a snack which you proceed to eat in bed, or that there were quite a few dates that you don’t remember (a few too many margaritas) but you know they didn’t end well?

That’s the easy stuff to decide when to share. Right? What about the more “serious truths”? When do you bring up that you have suffered from a major illness that though unlikely at this time, may occur again? Or what if it’s a chronic disease which sometimes takes over your life?

Dating becomes about sharing some important truths about who you are without shame or embarrassment. Owning your story!

So what happens when you throw a serious illness, such as cancer into the dating mix? Do you go for the truth or opt for the dare? Or are they the same thing?
OK, I dare you to admit to your date:
• That you’re a single person of a certain age still (or returning to) the dating world
• That your weight, your looks (fill in the insecurity) is an issue
• That you’re a cancer survivor/deal with a chronic illness/have a physical disability

Pretty tough truths to share with a date. Which one is the hardest to share with someone? For many people, the last one is admitting to having an illness or disability.
So when do you share that truth? What will the other person’s reaction be to you? Will they be frightened, curious or pretend they did not hear you?

For years, people wouldn’t even say the word “cancer” out loud and to admit to a potential suitor of either sex that you had cancer, even though you had beaten it, was just not done. It was too scary for people to understand – wasn’t it contagious? What if it came back? Do people want to marry someone who could become sick again? What about sex?
Never mind that anyone can become sick at any time!

How about other physical challenges? When do you disclose those to someone?
So my clients say that they’re told to be proud to be a survivor/thriver. They’re not ashamed or embarrassed to talk about it. It’s now part of their life narrative. But so many still are challenged about when to bring these subjects up to a potential suitor? Ideally, perhaps on that second date (if it’s going well) or whenever it feels right. If the first few dates go well, then the Lucky Date is quickly going to come face to face with some body scars, “survivor/war souvenirs” that are bound to bring up some questions. Or maybe it’s the first meeting when you enter the room and some things are more visible?

Some people say that why waste their time if the other person is going to have a negative reaction later, better to do it upfront before your time and heart are invested.
What happens when they disclose something to you of this nature? How will you react?
There is no rule . . . no script . . . no true guiding principles to go by other than, this is all about you and how you deal and feel about you! It’s not going to be easy, as dating never really is or more generally, being vulnerable never is, but you put yourself out there and you try.

If the other person (or if that person is you) reacts with anxiety at first, or even “runs” away a bit, but returns to ask you more, then maybe you do give yourself and that other person a second chance. Because life can be scary and we never know how much we pry, or what assumptions we have been holding on to that are false.

So, you’re a cancer survivor/thriver, someone who faces illness or physical challenges head on and you want a relationship. Those are some of your truths.
As for your weight . . . well let’s just say, some mystery is a good thing!