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When do you tell a potential partner about your rare illness?

My now-husband and I were together when I learned I had a chronic illness - a rare blood disorder - 13 years ago. (I'll never forget how hard he held my hand as we sat in the waiting room before my bone marrow aspiration, or how he went out and bought me a pair of flannel pajama bottoms to lounge around in on those days when I was waiting for the results and feeling weepy and scared.) I never had to deal with telling a potential mate that I had a disease, but I can't imagine it would be easy. Which is why I found this first-person piece on the The Global Gene Projects' website of interest. There, a guest blogger shares her own experience and offers advice from an expert:

One of the biggest questions in regard to this topic, at least for me, was how long into the relationship should a rare disease patient approach the topic of disease and diagnosis? (I had a feeling that [the therapist's] answer wouldn’t be “well just ambush them with it on the first date and see how it goes.”)

Instead [Dawn Wiggins, a licensed family and marriage therapist] replied, “When to discuss your health diagnosis and related issues with someone you are dating depends on what the expectations are for the relationship. If it is a casual dating relationship there is less burden or urgency to disclose early in the relationship. If there is a risk that your disease and symptoms could impact the time you are spending together, you may need to disclose. If your relationship is more serious and there is an expectation of a longer term commitment, it is important to be honest sooner than later.”

Previously: Broken: A poem about coming to grips with chronic disease

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