I have been asked by several readers to discuss the topic of dating and Parkinson’s disease. I think it is helpful to start by thinking back to when we all first began dating.
Most of us remember well the awkwardness and insecurity the dating process produced during our early adolescence. From the multiple doubts about the possibility the person will say no to the worries that there will be nothing to talk about, dating was an anxiety-provoking experience for many young men and women. It strikes me that Parkinson’s brings back many of those fears we all shared.
Many individuals who acquire PD early in life are single. They may have been enjoying exciting careers, experimenting with life, looking for the perfect relationship or emerging from the least perfect relationship imaginable. The sudden emergence of PD can make being alone particularly frightening. All of us manage stress better when we are supported by a loving partner. The need to find that support can be a powerful drive, one that can cause a person to lose sight of why we date.
Fundamentally, dating is about spending time with a person you find interesting, getting to know them better, and enjoying their company. Dating can be the first step in a blossoming relationship but more importantly, it is an enjoyable interaction with another. It is social recreation, a need each person carries deeply within. The problem many people face occurs when fear, fueling hope for enduring relationship, over rides the immediate enjoyment of simple fun. Hope becomes particularly potent when we add PD into the equation. It can influence how a person responds to a dating situation well before one even materializes.
It might cause us to ask, “Who would date a person who has Parkinson’s?” If the purpose of the date is to interact with and get to know another, then the answer is clear- potentially anyone. Your neurological status has nothing to do with pleasant conversation, a friendly cup of coffee, a nice meal, or the quality of a movie seen together. Too many people pull themselves from these simple pleasures because they become preoccupied with the “Who would” dating question. Their anxiety builds, sometimes so deeply that they avoid the possibility of two adults simply enjoying one another’s company. It may lead them to consider only men and women who also have PD as dating partners.
For individuals with PD, men and women still blessed with intact health are viable dating partners. Men and women with chronic, debilitating illness are as well. And gender roles should never be a deciding factor if one really wants to spend time with another.
Keep in mind-It’s just a date.