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!


A Tender Proposal for Valentine’s Day

For Valentine’s Day: A Tender Proposal for a Touchy Subject
The right to be touched, the right to love and be loved, the right to be viewed as a person with sexual, sensual and intimacy desires and needs—sounds basic, right? Sure, it’s not in the Constitution or any legal or governing document, but I wonder, should it be?

Too often, our society perpetuates a host of myths surrounding sexuality, sensuality and intimacy, and we buy into them! “Sex is easy…sex should be spontaneous…your sensual feelings never change…you shouldn’t talk about your needs.”

Or how about: “Sex is only for the able-bodied…Those challenged by disabilities and chronic and life-altering illnesses don’t desire sex, love or a partnership…They have a hard enough time just dealing with everyday life.”

You get the idea. These myths can strike at the very heart of who you are. They influence how you see yourself, your sense of self, your self-esteem and how you conduct your life. Worst of all, they silence voices, the ones that say, “Here I am, ready to be held, desiring to be touched and interested in love.”

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I am here to say: Enough with these myths! It’s time for a change. Voices need to be heard, changes need to be made, and yes, everyone has the right to be touched by loving hands.

So what do you do about it? Well, you start the conversation. You educate. You show and tell the world the truth. You do it through the media, through writing, through your voice. YOU DO IT BY EXAMPLE!

One place they’re “doing it,” if you will, is in England. It’s ironic that in 1776, we fought a war to free ourselves from the oppression forced upon us by the English monarchy. We created our own laws, our own government and the most powerful of documents, the U.S. Constitution containing the Bill of Rights.

But where can we find a document or program that begins to recognize the rights of the disabled or chronically ill to be thought of as sexual beings? How do we begin to honor these kinds of sexuality, sensuality and intimacy rights?
Perhaps this is not a matter for our government but for individuals, groups and organizations who need to speak out and step up the process of change.

In England, changes are being made publicly that affect the intimate lives of individuals challenged by illness and disability.

Susan James Donaldson, in her January 10, 2013 article on, introduced the world to a woman (an ex-madam) in England ”who is investing $100,000 in a fully staffed, nonprofit brothel facility to serve those with physical and intellectual challenges, both men and women, gay and straight (she is already working with sex workers to provide services to this population). This woman envisions a sexual health center that would be handicapped-equipped, with transportation provided for clients who need it, as well as other services.”

Perhaps we’re not ready for this type of facility, yet. After all, the only state where brothels are legal is Nevada. And prostitution remains an incredibly controversial subject. There are those who support sex workers’ rights, while others feel this occupation demeans those who participate in it. That’s not what we’re here to debate.

What I’m here to do is to remind people that sexuality is a part of life, and though some have special needs that must be addressed for them to experience physical connection, these needs are nothing to be ashamed of or dismissed; they should be honored.

There are many wonderful people here in the U.S., professionals and non-professionals, who do incredible work everyday to better the lives of millions of individuals living with disabilities and illness, including helping them to feel the connection of touch. Together, we need to continue the fight for the cause, even though this remains in some circles a touchy subject.

More needs to be done, and on this Valentine’s Day, let it start with you. So embrace your sexuality and sensuous side. Most of all, believe you are entitled…you deserve to be touched, desired and to have love and intimacy in your life. We all do.

Eva Margot Kant, LCSW, is a speaker, educator and clinician in private practice; her website is:
For more, you can attend Ms. Kant’s lecture “Sex Takes Two But Starts with You,” on 2/7/13 at 7 pm, at the JCC, New York, NY. Or join her webinar, “Sexuality and Intimacy for Couples with Disabilities,” through United Spinal Association, on 2/14/13 at 3 pm.
Originally published 2/6/13;