From the FPA Young Patients Committee
The dating world, in general, can be a bit daunting for anyone. Putting yourself out there can be a vulnerable step and can even be a bit intimidating for some. When you have chronic illness, specifically facial pain, the challenges may seem more complex, and a young patient who wants to date may feel more reluctant to venture into the dating world for fear of these challenges. But everyone that wants to experience the dating world should feel that they can. Facial pain does not have to be the deciding factor on whether you date or not.
Dating can bring up feelings of vulnerability for many with facial pain and finding answers for some of the questions that are more unique to those with facial pain may be difficult. While there is information out there about facial pain, we found that there wasn’t a lot on how to navigate the dating world as a facial pain patient.
The following questions and answers are things we learned as facial pain patients in the dating world:
Dating is Possible with Facial Pain
First off, regardless of facial pain, you are no less of a human, no less worthy of experiencing joy, fun, love, and adventure while dating. You deserve wonderful things. Facial pain doesn’t change that.
When Do I Tell Someone About My Facial Pain?
One of the biggest questions many patients with facial pain face is when to share about their condition. Our answer to this: there is no wrong time to share about your pain. Each person with facial pain is their own individual, and it comes down to what makes you feel comfortable and is the right decision for you. Some may feel comfortable with disclosing up front that they have a health condition; some may feel they want to wait until further down the line. Others may be comfortable telling someone that they have a health condition but not disclose the exact nature of their condition. And those are ALL more than all right. What might be comfortable for one patient with facial pain may not be for another, and that is completely okay. You have autonomy over your own self and that includes when and whether you tell a potential date about your health condition and medical history.
If you do decide to tell your date about your condition, having information about your condition on hand can be helpful for someone who is not familiar with your diagnosis. The Facial Pain Association (FPA) is a great place to start with that information! We also advocate for letting each person know that face pain is not always textbook. No one knows about your face pain more than you. So, while sharing resources is incredibly helpful for future partners, sharing your unique experiences will enlighten a person who does not understand exactly what the journey of facial pain looks like.
What If a Potential Date Suggests an Outing that Triggers My Facial Pain?
When it comes to facial pain, each patient has their own triggers. As mentioned before, facial pain isn’t always textbook. So, what might trigger one’s pain may not trigger another’s pain. If you are able to know your triggers, then we suggest this rule of thumb: What do you want to get out of your date? If you experience pain (or an increase in pain), can you come back from that pain? It’s about trying to be in the moment. If your triggers are, for example, the wind, choosing an indoor activity would most likely be a better date option than an outdoor outing. Or, if eating is a trigger, skipping a dinner date might be a better idea. It’s also okay for you to offer an alternative type of date! This can reduce the unneeded nervousness of worrying about a particular trigger occurring (or increasing your pain), and you can enjoy the date!
What If I Suddenly Need to End the Date Sooner than Planned Due to Pain? Can I Do That?
You can absolutely end a date, any time, for whatever reason, including your health! Having a plan tends to make those of us with facial pain feel more comfortable. In general, when going on a date, it is helpful to have a safety plan in place. For example, we let a trusted friend or family member know where we are going, when we will be at our date location, and transportation plans for getting to and returning from the date. That plan can also help when it comes to our health.
If you need to end the date sooner rather than later, having that option prepared in advance will help. If you are unable to drive, have a plan in place for getting home, whether that be a trusted individual on standby to pick you up or using a transportation app. Have your “In Case of an Emergency” contact information handy, including lists of medications, allergies, and health conditions. Have on hand anything that you normally would have on you when venturing out in public that helps your face pain and allows you to be more comfortable. If this includes emergency medication, keep in mind for those of legal age, if you have consumed alcohol on your date, some medications can’t be taken safely. Also, remember some medications’ side effects may impair you.
Going on a date should be a fun experience, so having a plan for your facial pain can give you the chance to lean into the fun! We know that chronic pain can be difficult to predict, so open communication with those you trust (your “In Case of Emergency” go-to people) is always important. Let those around you help you plan so you can focus on living your life!
What If Someone is No Longer Interested When Finding Out About My Health Condition?
For some, hearing that someone has a health condition may be unexpected, and they may not be sure how to correctly or properly respond. Unfortunately, some may also respond unkindly. Knowing that this may occur can help better prepare you. Something to try and keep in mind, regardless of someone’s response to your condition, is that you deserve love and happiness. Their response does not reflect your value as a person, a partner, or a potential date. If someone can’t see the beautiful person you are on the inside and out, they are missing out.
What About Kissing with Facial Pain?
This may also be a common concern amongst those with face pain. Many forms of facial pain can be triggered by touching the face, including kissing. This may be hard to navigate and even cause some anxiety. The key is communication. When you feel it is the best time to have a conversation about your worries, concerns, and boundaries, communicating to your date/partner that this is something you worry about and may cause you to experience pain may help. Also, practicing consent and communicating to your partner to practice asking if you want your face touched, or if you want to share a kiss beforehand leaves the decision up to you. It gives you more control of your health.
A beautiful thing is that intimacy can look like many different things. Kissing may be a common demonstration of attraction or love, but intimacy can be expressed in many other ways, such as holding hands or gazing into your date/partner’s eyes. Intimacy doesn’t always have to look the same way for everyone. Find ways that work for you!
The reality is having face pain is tough. Having face pain as a young patient is its own type of tough. We know. When we thought about trying to date, we scoured the internet, looking for anything we could find on how to date while having facial pain, and really couldn’t find answers. If you, too, are wanting to experience dating, hopefully, these tips help make you feel more comfortable and confident navigating the dating world while having facial pain. Remember, you are a wonderful, beautiful human! Facial pain doesn’t change that. You got this! Happy dating!