Relationships & Dating with Hepatitis C
For many people, dating is a daunting process. There are websites and apps, friends of friends, blind dates, and lots of trying not to get your hopes up. Perhaps the one nice part about it is that you typically know that everyone who is dating is generally in the same boat of anxiety, worry, and wondering what to wear. For those with hepatitis C, though, this experience can feel both additionally scary and isolating.
When to talk about hepatitis C
Often, people do not know what hepatitis C is or what it means when someone says they have it. Some people choose to post this information in their online dating profile, as they believe it is better to make others aware upfront than to risk becoming interested in someone who leaves when they are told about the hepatitis C. Others feel that this is providing far too much information in advance and, like telling someone about your crazy relative or secret love of silly putty, it is better to share information with someone as the relationship evolves and the situations arise. At some point, however, the connection between two people can reach a point where both know that they are interested in pursuing something more serious than simple drinks or meals together.
Hepatitis C is not considered to be a sexually transmitted disease, so many of the viruses with pamphlets about how to tell your partner do not apply here. Since hepatitis C is transmitted primarily through shared needles or through blood exposure, it is certainly possible for a person to have a relationship without telling the other person or exposing them to the virus, simply by not engaging in sharing needles or in allowing the person to become exposed to your blood. However, sharing a toothbrush or razor can put the person at risk, as can any accidental injuries such as a bloody nose, cut from shaving, or other unexpected incidences.
Some people believe that their hepatitis C diagnosis is no one’s business. Certainly, your medical information is yours alone to share. However, new partners may not always agree with this and some may feel betrayed or lied to if the relationship grows and the person does not share this information. It is important to share only when you feel comfortable and to do so with all of the information ready to discuss.
What to say
For those with hepatitis C for a period of time, the medical information may sound like common knowledge. It is important to remember that you may be telling someone about your diagnosis who has never heard of hepatitis C or who may think it is something very different than it actually is. When you decide to share your diagnosis, be prepared for reactions and questions that may seem offensive or ignorant. Try to remember that you have begun to get to know this person because you found them to be a wonderful person and try to keep in mind that their reaction may come from a place of confusion, lack of knowledge, and worry about you, someone they have begun to care about too.
It can be helpful to share your story with them, rather than just your diagnosis. It may help if they hear how you became infected, if you know this, or what caused you to get tested. They may want to hear about whether they are at risk or whether they have already been exposed to the virus. They may want to know about what is happening in your treatment process, from your medical appointments to whether you are experiencing side effects from your medication. Although they may ask these questions, you can always tell them that you prefer not to answer, however doing so may make it difficult for them to truly understand your experience and what you want them to know. Rather than refusing to answer a question, you may find it better to ask why they are asking, so you can understand what their thoughts are and address them, even if you choose to do so without sharing information you may prefer to keep to yourself.
Final thoughts on relationships with hep C
Overall, choosing to share any medical information can be a scary thought and it should happen when you feel ready to disclose. Nobody wants to alarm someone or scare them away. However, building toward a long-lasting relationship takes risk and trust and working together to share information can be a bonding experience for two people who choose to be open with each other. Working toward a shared goal of understanding and respect can be a great way to continue the newly formed bond between you.1-4
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