When should I tell my dates about my chronic illness?

Seeking updates for the holiday. If you're a former letter writer, tell us what happened. Send your update with "update" in the subject line to meredith.goldstein@globe.com.

Dear Meredith,

I'm in my 50s and have just ended a multi-year relationship. In recent years, I have developed some chronic health issues (fatigue, chemical and other sensitivities) that impact my ability to travel and spend time in some public places/homes. It's like an invisible – and inconsistent – handicap. I have a healthy attitude about my situation, and I believe I can be a wonderful partner for someone who understands, and who has some quiet shared interests (and who doesn't wear cologne or use scented candles, etc.). My health was not the reason this last relationship ended. But I'm wondering how to approach dating and would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

How should I frame my situation and how much do I share up front? I don't want the initial connection to be all about my illness. I also don't want to waste much time for either of us. If I don't make it clear in, say, an online profile, then after how many dates or at what stage in the connection should I share some of my limitations (and why)? (I don't imagine you can give me an exact number here, but can you give any guidelines for timing? Am I missing any other important considerations?

Dating at 50+ feels like a whole different ballgame, not to mention that I've never done any online dating before. I don't have many opportunities to meet people the old-fashioned way these days, but am wondering whether online dating is even a realistic option for me. If you do recommend online dating, what websites (versus apps) would you recommend for a woman my age who would rather use a computer rather than a phone? Are there any sites I should steer clear of?

– In a Strange New Land


App/online dating profiles do not have to read like disclosure statements. They're supposed to be teasers – short previews of what people are all about. Consider what you'd share during a first conversation at a bar or party. That's the kind of information you might want to put on a dating site.

You can list all of the things you can do and do enjoy (day trips? food? movies? books?). You can say you love cozy nights in. Leave the rest for organic conversations. Also remember you are a full package; there are some people who will be wonderful about your chronic health issue but won't be a good match for other reasons. Chemistry is about so many different things.

You can bypass some bad matches by focusing on profile pictures. If a person has chosen to share five photos of mountain hikes, you know what they're all about. Think about how your own photos can telegraph how you want to spend your time.

Conversations about health, priorities, and lifestyle can happen in very organic ways – the same way they do in friendship. If a new co-worker, for instance, asked if you like traveling, you'd probably say something like, "Yes, but I have to be careful because of my sensitivities." And then you'd move on from there. That's how it would work on a date.

The process has changed a lot over the years. Apps have made it a lot easier, but more overwhelming. You can swipe on dozens of faces in a minute. It's that much easier to move on to the next thing, for better and worse. I can't recommend a specific site or app; you should try one or two and see how you engage with the platforms. But I do recommend setting a time limit on the experience. That's the big problem these days – people feeling like dating is a full-time job because they can always be looking. Set a timer (a half hour a day?) so you don't hit a wall.

– Meredith

Readers? Tips? Thoughts on this kind of conversation?