Spooning with a Spoonie: Dating with Diseases?

Alliteration is awesome. (See what I almost did there?)


Okay…so the last blog I talked a little about the “guy,” and I wanted to get into an awkward subject that I didn’t initially intend on discussing but have since decided I want to cover.

My marriage ended a long time ago, but we stayed together for almost three years after I knew it was over because part of me thought we could resurrect it. The verbal and emotional abuse was horrible, and honestly I’m glad I got out. When things officially ended in July, I started talking to the guy I’m currently seeing, but it was a casual and odd meeting. We initially met on Tinder (insert opinion here) but I accidentally deleted him, and ended up reconnecting with him via Craigslist’s “Missed Connections” section. (Yes, I know that sounds creepy. It definitely felt like a Lifetime movie, and not one of the sappy love stories. It was more like, “girl ends up hacked to bits in a garbage bag.”) In any event, he’s not a serial killer, that I know of, so it all worked out.

I had a few flings, because having married my high school sweetheart I hadn’t been with anyone else. Those flings taught me a few tough lessons. The first guy was sweet, but terrible in bed. It was like tearing off a Band-Aid. I fooled around with a younger guy, but didn’t sleep with him. I did, however, get extremely sick afterwards. Then I drove across the country, alone, inciting a terrible flare. Where was I meeting these guys? Tinder. Obviously. I was newly single, and happy that apps existed, because I’m nerdy and socially awkward. I was till emailing “the guy” but I actually liked him, so I didn’t want to meet up with him just yet. My goal was super casual, nobody I could catch feelings for.

When I got to California I met a guy who I thought would be the perfect casual hookup, unfortunately he was such a jerk it didn’t work out for long. Worse? He took the condom off without telling me, and wasn’t careful in certain positions, leaving me with a UTI that turned into a kidney infection Luckily nothing was sexually transmitted, but safe to say I kicked him to the curb after just a few nights of fun. I went to lunch with “the guy,” while sick, but didn’t hear from him for a while so I figured, like most of my dates, he wasn’t actually interested in me.

The third guy was someone who would have made a better friend. At this point I didn’t know Netflix and Chill was a thing, but because I actually asked him to come hang out and watch Netflix and chill…I learned. It’s not that I wouldn’t, in theory, sleep with him again, I just don’t want to jump him the way I do “the guy”. Truth? I had a bad date that night, and then Netflix and Chill guy sort of fell into my evening. Shortly after that I met up with “the Guy” after asking him via text if there was something I did wrong during our lunch. Turned out he was interested but thought I wasn’t. We both have this self doubt thing. I met up with him without intending to sleep with him, but alas, he’s hot, and smells amazing, and yeah things just happen!

This was at the beginning of September, and I haven’t gone out with or slept with anyone else since then. Initially my exclusivity thing was more my preference on sex. I’d been with one person, only, for so long, that I felt like I couldn’t manage juggling sex. Sure, it’d make avoiding feelings easier, and Netflix and Chill guy was still in the picture initially, but ultimately I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Soon after that I realized another added risk of multiple partners, beyond STD’s…regular old illnesses.

Here’s the thing about dating someone with a compromised immune system: you may not get sick, but we will. If I was juggling two men, who were also juggling however many women, who were also juggling however many men…you get the picture…I’m theoretically being exposed to more germs than I can care to even think about. While I take precautions in my day-to-day life, I can’t micromanage the men I sleep with. Still, I found myself wondering just how much I was exposing myself to.

We’ve only been out on one actual date-like scenario, and it was bowling. Now, I love bowling. I wanted to go bowling. I pretty much begged him to go bowling. What I hadn’t realized was how little he’d care about the plethora of germs in a bowling alley. Seriously…pause and think about how many people have shoved their fingers into that bowling ball? Yup. Gross. He refused hand sanitizer, and not wanting to press the issue and be that spoonie, I let it go.

Big mistake. 

We went back to his apartment and jumped right into foreplay and sex. The thing is, there are sexual positions you have to be careful of, too. Everyone has bacteria in their bodies and on their bodies. The problem with a spoonie who is sick a lot, is that we get some nasty bacteria colonizing our guts, or at least we can. In my case, the E.coli in my intestines has been beaten down by years of antibiotics. Now the only strains left are super resistant. I’m a big believer in butts are exit doors only, which is more because I’ve dealt with GI issues, and I don’t like things going up there, but I also don’t like things going near there, because that’s where my kidney infections likely start. When I get stomach bugs involving diarrhea, I 100% of the time, no matter how careful I am, get a UTI and kidney infection.

So, between the dirty bowling balls, and some careless sexual positioning, I find myself with a raging UTI just a few days later. He panics because by this point we’ve stopped using condoms, and I guess maybe he jumped immediately to me having an STD. I had to reassure him that I’m prone to infections, and these happen to be one of the annoying types I get.

So how do you spoon with a spoonie? I guess it depends on the spoonie. I would like for “the guy” and I to be exclusive. The reasons are complex, and simple. First off, we’ve been seeing each other casually since the beginning of September, and I’ve been led to believe exclusively on his part since at least early December. He’s hesitant to make it official because he thinks things will change, but the only real change will be that I can relax. Our current agreement is simply that if he sleeps with someone else, we use condoms again, to protect me…but that’s not really the main concern I have.

If he’s sleeping with, or going out with, other women, he’s being exposed to germs that he could then, in theory, bring back to me. Sure, I like him, and the thought of him going on dates (when we don’t even go on dates) or sleeping with, other women, makes me nauseas…but my expectations are totally in check. What we’ve got is casual. It works. I just want to tweak it for my sanity and safety.

Eventually I need to talk to him about a few things, and it’s odd because we’ve had more intimate conversations, but I still struggle. The other night we had brief, but way too detailed, conversation about the IUD I have versus the pill I was on when we first got together, and whether my periods were regular. (Yeah, that question was raised.) I get his fears, a lot of chicks use the pregnancy thing to trap guys, or whatever, but getting pregnant isn’t an option for me. A handful of my drugs carry huge risks, and my neurologist refused to prescribe me Keppra unless I was abstinent or got an IUD. True story. Still, all these conversations circle around sex. My issues are non sexual.

When we go out to grab him some food quickly, he’ll come home and just sit down and eat. When we fool around, there isn’t hand washing before hand, which I recognize as a big risk every single time, yet I say nothing. I took care of him when he was sick, foolishly thinking I could avoid the cold, even though I had just injected my Humira the day before. I rarely get colds, but alas, here I am having spent most of the week in and out of doctor’s offices and the ER. He took care of me when my kidney infection hit, but I worry the more he sees me sick, the more likely he is to see me as sick.

There is a difference between getting sick and being sick chronically

Yes. There is. The things I’ve learned to live with, are truly weird for someone to process. I can’t eat gluten, dairy, alcohol, or anything high in fiber. In fact, I can’t eat more than a handful of food at a time, unless I plan on getting pretty sick to my stomach. I’ve actually had to utter the phrase, “We can go out to eat, or we can have sex, but we can’t do both.” (Not with “the guy” but with my ex.) Last week I spent three nights at “the guy’s” place, and had to worry on the third night because that was when I started feeling sick. I was terrified that I’d truly get ill, and he’d have to wake up and take care of me.

I hate being taken care of.

Yes, you read that correctly. Drop of my supplies, and move along…at least 90% of the time. The other 10% I want to be cuddled until I pass out. It basically hinges on nausea. If I’m nauseas, leave me alone, if I’m not, let’s cuddle. If I’m feverish or super tired, back off….it’s all over the place.

I like “the guy,” but I’m not eager to push things towards a title, or meeting the family, or any of the actual relationship steps, because I’m also me. I know I’m a good person, and that I bring a lot to the table…but I also bring chronic illness to the table, too. It’s hard to reconcile who I am, because most of who I am is amazing, but the rest of it, the stuff I can’t control, often feels like it overshadows the good stuff.

It isn’t like I can say, “Hey, if you’re banging a lot of other chicks, let me know, my immune system can’t handle it during cold and flu season, especially with the stomach bug in circulation,” but then again I haven’t gotten the nerve to say much of anything regarding safety and my health. It shouldn’t be that hard to ask a guy to wash his hands…especially after months of sex, and in depth conversations about birth control. So why is it?

Because I don’t want to be “sick”.

Chronic illness is chronically annoying. You feel different, constantly, because YOU ARE. Yeah, I said it. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it just is. We can pretend that we’re just like everyone else, but at the end of the day there are limitations, medications, and expectations. I have failed to meet expectations in my life many times because of my illness. There is nothing worse than feeling like a failure when the circumstances were beyond your control. I think that’s why I’ve tried to be so clear that nothing else would change if we became exclusive, unless he wanted it to. It would be a conversation if either one of us wanted to change the terms. Plus it wouldn’t have to be permanent. We could try it out, and if it didn’t work, we could figure it out from there. He’s a great guy, and honestly I’d find a way to stuff my feelings, or at least get over them, to keep him in my life as a friend.

The irony is I’m a spoonie, a term he doesn’t know, and he loves to spoon. Every time he asks me to be the big spoon or little spoon I have to smile, but I also pause and think about how much he doesn’t know about my illness. How long can I hide behind acting fine? It’s funny because he’s worried I’m going to want more from him than what we have now, if we become exclusive, and while I liked seeing him three times last week, I also worry that if he decided he wanted more, I couldn’t live up to his expectations.

Funny how we’re both terrified of failing to meet expectations, for our own reasons, and yet what we want seems to be the same!

At some point I need to have the hand hygiene talk I suppose. He’s a science guy, so he’ll get it, but it’s never easy talking about being someone who has a chronic disease, especially with someone you’re casually dating. Having Behcet’s and dating makes me feel like I’m running the same dating marathon everyone else is running, only I’m starting a mile or two behind, and I’ve got my hands tied behind my back.

Spooning with a Spoonie: Dating with Diseases?

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