Love Letters: Dating With a Sick Parent

There are still seats left for the June 30 talk/party with Susanna Fogel, who just made the movie "Life Partners" with Adam Brody. Susanna also co-writes "Chasing Life," the ABC Family show that's based in Boston. The night comes with a drink, popcorn, fun clips, and Sarah Rodman. You can sign up here.

Hi Meredith,

I moved back to Boston about eight months ago to be closer to my family, particularly my father who is suffering from cancer. Since I moved back, I've been online dating and also actively trying to meet guys when I'm out. I'll be 33 next month, and I'm feeling a lot of pressure to settle down and meet the right person sooner rather than later.

Just recently, we found out that my dad's time with us is limited because his chemotherapy isn't working. While we are all heartbroken, my Dad is adamant that he wants us all to go on with our lives during the time that he has left, and to live life as normally as possible. He wants me to continue to be social, date, and enjoy my life, so I have been trying to do that while still finding time to spend with him.

Just recently, I went on a great date with a guy who I met online. After our second date was going really well (or so I thought), I decided that "full and fair disclosure" was the best course of action, and let him know what was going on in my life. I thought that it would be better for him to know what was going on and make an informed decision about whether to keep seeing me, rather than hold back and then have to let him know what was going on after I/we possibly became more attached. Well, despite having what I thought was a great date, he told me last night that although he thinks I'm great, he doesn't think that we are compatible for a relationship. Now, maybe this had nothing to do with what I told him, but I think it may have at least played a part.

So I guess my question is: In the scheme of the "getting to know you" dates, how soon is too soon to disclose this information?

– Not Sure in Boston

I remember being on a date years ago, when my mom was in the middle of treatment. I had made a decision not to talk about my mom's illness because it was a first date and cancer talk is a bummer, and really, it was none of the guy's business. But because of my self-censorship, the date felt dishonest -- because 98 percent of my brain was focused on my mom at the time.
I'm telling you this because I never quite figured out how to date during my mom's treatment. I have some perspective now that she's gone, but I still struggle with disclosure. It's difficult not to say, "My mom died last year and sometimes I just watch old episodes of 'Moonlighting' and cry."

My advice is to bring it up without a big speech. Don't make it a serious, "I have to tell you something" talk. You can even admit that you don’t know how to share the information. You can say, "I don’t know how to bring this up or characterize it on a date, but my dad is sick and that's a big part of my life right now."

For the record, I don’t think that your dad disclosure was the reason that your second date didn't lead to a third. It might have helped the guy make a decision that he was going to make anyway, but I can't imagine that he did a 180 based on the information.

Also know that there's no pressure to do everything at once. It's lovely that your dad wants you to go on with your normal life right now, but things aren't normal anymore. Your priorities have shifted. It's OK to give yourself a break, even if you're 33 and want a partner. Sometimes it's just impossible to multi-task.

Readers? Should she be dating? Should she make this a big disclosure? What happened with that second date? How would you want to be told about this kind of thing?

– Meredith