Dating Tips: How to Foster a Healthy Relationship From the Start

Kimberly Zapert avatar

by Kimberly Zapert |

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Living independently with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is possible. So is living with a partner. Both require some thought and adaptation.

Developing and maintaining healthy relationships requires a great deal of work, regardless of physical health. Using a little common sense and vetting your prospects before committing can help you get off to a good start.

Identify desired traits and core values

If you’re seeking a relationship, take some time to figure out which values are most important to you and which traits you would like in a partner. Be reasonable and honest with yourself.

If one of your core values is integrity, then someone who will do “whatever it takes to succeed” may or may not be compatible. Does “whatever it takes” include lying to get what they want? Does it mean that they are a fierce advocate who won’t back down from a challenge? Ask for clarification, and pay attention to both their words and actions.

It’s reasonable to want compassion. Behavior that looks like codependency, however, is unreasonable to expect. It’s also very unhealthy.

You may be willing to overlook some traits, but others might be nonnegotiable. Make a list and keep it in a safe place so you can reference it from time to time. You can stay the course, even when emotions render your judgment unreliable.

Be authentic

For those of us with health issues, it’s important to be our authentic selves. Staying active is good, but don’t put on a brave face and power through an activity when your body is begging you for rest. If you’re unable to be honest, your partner may wonder what changed the first time you don’t push through.

Do you want the other party to have a relationship with you, or the image of the person you wish you were? You are enough just the way you are. Right now. As is. People can take it or leave it. It’s OK if some “leave it,” because that makes room for the people who will “take it” and embrace it.

Be honest about your capabilities and limitations. Don’t sugarcoat anything, but don’t catastrophize, either. Be as matter-of-fact as possible.

Give your partner time to process what you’ve told them, and leave space to hear their questions or concerns. If they don’t believe you, or if they seem to ignore or minimize your issues, walk away. I can’t emphasize this enough: No amount of education will change them, and none of their positive attributes are proper compensation. It’s better to part company sooner rather than later.  

Take the time to observe

When you find someone whose values appear to match yours, and who appears to have the traits you seek in a partner, take some time to determine if your first impression of this person (or their self-description) was correct.

Does his life reflect the values he claims to hold? Did he actually claim to have them, or did you assume he did? Does she really embody the traits she described, or was she just trying to fit in? Or, did you see something in her that you had hoped indicated one thing, but it turned out to be something else?

Respect differences

Just as it’s unfair to expect a prospective partner to change their core values, it’s unfair to yourself to settle for less than what you need in a relationship. If you find that the candidate doesn’t really match what you want, accept the situation for what it is and let them go. It might hurt, but it’s better to end it now than wait until you’ve exhausted yourself trying to make it work. If the relationship becomes unhealthy, you could end up emotionally depleted, in worse physical health, and at a higher risk of health problems as you age.

Beware of ‘too good to be true’

Some people will tell you what they think you want to hear, when in fact, they don’t hold the beliefs they profess, and have no intention of following through on anything they promise. They say what feels good at the time.

There are many reasons someone might pretend to be something they are not. More often than not, relationships with these kinds of people end badly. Pay attention to any gut feelings that arise, and take the necessary time to determine if the person is for real.

Don’t rush into anything!

This is just the beginning

A good start isn’t everything. There’s no relationship “cruise control.” Good relationship skills are a must, even for the most compatible couple.

Do you have advice for maintaining a successful relationship? Would you like to give a shoutout to your special someone? Please share in the comments below.

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Note: Ehlers-Danlos News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ehlers-Danlos News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.

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