Dating someone with an illness

I read a letter on Love Letters about a woman who was dating while dealing with a chronic illness. I found myself reading most of the comments since I have a similar inquiry. I do not have a chronic illness, but I did marry someone with one. The marriage did not work for reasons not at all related to his illness. (It's possible his behavior was influenced by his illness.)

After some time, I started dating again. My new relationship is great. The person I am with is kind, honest, hard-working, and respectful. This person thinks of me on a regular basis. Like the woman from the letter about a chronic illness, this new person in my life suffers from chronic pain. A pain caused by a surgery to save his life for a disease he no longer has. Other than this chronic pain, which sometimes limits him, this person is perfectly healthy and wonderful. He, like the former letter writer, also fears that he will be a burden to anyone that wants to spend their lives with him. Like many of the comments I read, I told this person that the illness is not who he is but just a part of him, and that he should not deprive himself of the opportunity of having someone love him just as he is.

However, I find myself feeling guilty, because although I did not end my last relationship because of the illness, I do believe I "dodged a bullet." I saved myself years of struggle and pain from what this illness would have caused the person I loved. Now I am with someone else who is suffering. I find myself going back and forth, wondering if I can take this on and make this choice again. The choice to love someone with a difficult future ahead. Would I rationally choose this for myself? Again?

We would all like to choose the best possible mate in all aspects for ourselves. But sometimes people enter your life for unexplainable reasons. I guess my questions is: I do not want to choose struggles in my future – no one willingly looks for struggles and pain. But like many of the commenters said, I believe that this person's pain does not define him. There is so much more to him than this, so much more that I admire and love. How do I reconcile both wanting to walk away for the possibility of a "simpler" future and wanting to stay with this person?

– A difficult choice


Everything in your letter tells me that you're all in for this relationship, and that despite your concerns, his company is worth the effort. Like you said, sometimes people enter your life and all you can do is be with them. Even your last line makes it clear you want to stay with this person.

You mention the option of a simpler future, but most long-term relationships involve great complications. Every human is a mix of things. Some are very healthy but are not so honest and kind. Some are have children that must come first. Dating involves figuring out your own deal-breakers. You're allowed to stay in this relationship and see how it feels over time.

Also know that therapy might help you make peace with your last relationship. Maybe you've already been, but if not, please consider some help. If you talk about what happened in your marriage and how the chronic illness affected your life, you might find it easier to enjoy the relationship you're in now.

– Meredith

Readers? Should the letter writer bail for a simpler relationship? Is this about the marriage?