If Your Date Had Bad Breath... Would You Tell Them?
How to Tell Your Date You Had Cancer
Cancer can bring about physical and emotional changes, which can make dating seem like an almost impossible activity. You may fear bringing up your cancer diagnosis with a potential date and wonder how this news may affect their perception of you. Whether you're in remission, undergoing treatment, or just received the diagnosis, cancer does not define you. You still deserve love and intimacy. While it’s normal to have fears about dating, intimacy, and sexuality after cancer, it shouldn’t keep you from dating and finding love.
Utilizing Helpful Resources
Journal or talk through your reasons for wanting to date.Understanding why dating is important to you at this stage in your life will help you explain it to someone else, including your date. This is especially important if you have just received the diagnosis or are in the middle of treatment. While it's completely understandable that you'd want to continue living your normal life, clarifying your motivations is a great first step.
- What made you decide to start dating now?
- If you were dating someone before receiving your diagnosis, what makes you worry about telling them?
- What concerns do you have about sharing your diagnosis?
Use your support network.If you belong to a support group for cancer survivors, ask them how they’ve coped with dating after their diagnosis. Ask them what their experiences have been like, how they’ve disclosed, and when they’ve disclosed. It can be helpful to get advice and feedback from others who have endured similar experiences.
Practice disclosing with a friend.If you’re nervous to disclose your cancer to a date, practice your disclosure ahead of time with someone you trust.While you cannot control someone’s reaction, you can control how you deliver the news. Decide in advance what you’d like to say and how you want to say it.Creating a plan can help to calm your nerves and make you more comfortable in your words.
- Keep it short and simple. It might be overwhelming for your date to get the full story of your cancer diagnosis, treatment, and care. Consider practicing a response no longer than a minute and a half. You can always go into more detail later.
Build your confidence.Having cancer can make you feel less confident than before your diagnosis and dating can be a daunting task. Remind yourself of your positive qualities and what traits you have to offer a potential partner. If you did hobbies before your diagnosis, go back to them or try new ones to start feeling like yourself again.
- Don't let the cancer define you. Focus on your talents, interests, and accomplishments outside of the cancer.
- If you struggle in accepting your body image or have difficulty coping with the emotional impacts of cancer, consider seeing a mental health therapist. You can discuss your feelings, think more positively, and learn how to cope with stress more effectively.
Put yourself in their shoes.Think about what it might be like to receive news that a potential love interest has had cancer. If the person is anxious to get married, start a family, and grow old with a partner, they might feel threatened by the chance of relapse, potential problems with childbearing, or passing cancer on to a child. Remember that these may be valid concerns for someone, and they might respond with these fears.
- While you might feel hurt by their response, remember that everyone is entitled to their own feelings and desires for the future.
- Knowing why you want to start dating now can help you discuss these fears and concerns with them.
Preparing for the Discussion
Decide how you want to bring it up.Some people want to be serious in their disclosure while others want to be more lighthearted about their cancer. You might want to talk about your experience or treatment or show your scars associated with surgeries. If that sounds too stuffy for you, you may want to approach cancer through humor. Whatever you choose, make sure you feel comfortable.
- You might want to have a specific date or time in mind to bring it up, or you might casually mention it in a text. Think about what works best for you.
- For example, you can choose to bring it up on your next date, or bring it up out of the blue.
Consider what you want to say.When bringing up cancer with a date, think about what questions they may have and what you want to disclose. Some possible considerations may include the possibility of recurrence and any physical limitations you have. You may also want to talk about your feelings about dating or starting a relationship.
- You can say, “Cancer hasn’t been easy on me, and I’ve had one recurrence. I’ve been hesitant to date, but I’m feeling healthy now and feel like I’m ready to explore the possibility of love.”
- Depending on where you are in your recovery, be aware of how they may be affected by your treatment. Prepare to discuss their concerns and what you'd expect from them.
Disclosing Your Experience with Cancer
Open the conversation.Cancer doesn’t typically just come up in normal conversation, so it’s likely you’ll need to bring it up. Before having the conversation, think about how you want to talk about it and how you will introduce it. Announce the conversation and talk about your feelings.
- For example, say, “I need to tell you something that’s difficult for me to talk about. I had cancer, and it felt like it was important for you to know this.”
Be honest.By now, you recognize that your cancer affects both you and those around you. Your date has a right to know the truth about your cancer and how it affects you. If your cancer is serious, don’t hide this fact. If your partner chooses to be in a relationship with you, they should know how your cancer may affect their life.
- For example, say, “I had cancer when I was a teenager. I’ve been lucky and have lived cancer-free for seven years now, but I thought you should know.”
- You can also say, “I’m in remission from cancer right now, but I still have regular medical appointments.”
Respond only to what you want to answer.Some people may be full of questions or ask you for lots of details. You should feel comfortable talking about cancer, and if you start to feel uncomfortable, think of a response to show your boundary. For example, you can say, “I’d rather not discuss the details right now” or, “I don’t want to get into the personal details of my health.”
- When you’re disclosing something about your health, remember that you’re in control of what you say and how much you want to tell.
Explain what you bring to the relationship.When you disclose your diagnosis, your date could worry that they'll be forced to take on the role of caretaker. While you want to acknowledge any caregiver activities that they may one day do, make sure that they know that you are wanting a relationship. Tell them how you will enhance their life, reassuring them that you are interested in a romantic partnership.
- Say, "I don't want you to take care of me. My doctors and family are already doing that. I'm interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with you."
- Explain, "While I am tired a lot, I'm still an excellent cook and can play the guitar. All of my friends ask me to play for them, and I'd be happy to give you a private concert."
Talk about sex.If you need to or want to talk about sex, now might be a good time. If cancer has affected you sexually, it’s best to talk about this before becoming sexually intimate with your date. Talking about sex is never easy and there’s never a perfect time to bring it up. Be honest and tell your partner any problems you have. Let them know what you enjoy, what feels good, and what would be best to avoid. Guide your partner to the most pleasurable positions and activities with the least amount of discomfort.
- You might want to have a few small conversations about sex instead of one big one.
- Cancer can sometimes affect sexual functioning and desire. If you struggle with body confidence or sexual problems, consider seeing an expert such as a psychologist, urologist, or gynecologist to address these problems.
Video: Would You Date Someone Less Educated Than You? | Tell My Story
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