Darwin and Marlena's almost three-decades-long marriage is no stranger to health challenges. They’ve gone through kidney failure, multiple transplants, and a brutal ...
Nearly half of Americans think dating has gotten harder in the last ten years.1 So where does that leave someone with kidney failure who is looking for love? Dating is hard enough without the stress of dialysis. Can it even be done?
Yes! Dating on dialysis can absolutely be done.
While chronic illness may make the logistics of dating a little more difficult, you are still capable of loving and deserving of love. Here are six tips to help you find it.
1. Choose supportive partners
What does a supportive partner look like to you? Do they go to appointments with you or ask about them afterward? Do they make dinner after dialysis sessions or make you laugh after a hard day? Make a list of your standards and use them when deciding if a person is right for you. You want someone who closely matches your idea of a supportive partner to build a strong foundation for your relationship.
For Nathan and Candria, a couple who both spent time on dialysis, that strong foundation is what held them together during their most difficult times.
"You find someone that you can trust, and has your best interests at heart–someone who will be honest with you. Candria's always been honest with me," said Nathan. "You also need to find personal reasons to survive and live. You can't be a support to anyone else if you can't do that for yourself."
"We control the illness, it doesn't control us," said Candria. "We do our best to keep their lives as normal as possible. We do a lot of traveling and always have a yearly vacation. We never gave up on our lives or our kids. My goal is to continue living while I'm here. I tell people to try living as much as possible and do the best to enjoy the life you have."
2. Educate your partner
Most people don’t fully understand what kidney disease or dialysis is. Catch them up to speed so they can best understand what you are going through. You don’t have to do it alone, though. NKF has everything they’ll need to get started.
With a little creativity, you can even make these educational moments fun!
You can try:
- Cooking a dialysis-friendly meal together
- Participating in a Kidney Walk
- Seeing how other people live with kidney disease on social media
3. Be open and honest
While you don't need to share your health history on the first date, be prepared to discuss it when you feel comfortable.
Kidney failure doesn't affect everyone the same. It may make it more difficult to have sexual interactions, go on dates, or travel. It may bring on sudden mood swings, require you to cancel on short notice, or play a factor in anxiety and depression. By disclosing this information, your partner will have a better understanding of you and your needs.
Being vulnerable is hard, but it can lead to beautiful relationships like Christine and Michael's. Knowing Christine was on dialysis was what made Michael fall even further in love with her.
"I was a single father and I fell in love with her because of her dedication to her daughter," said Michael. "I was working three jobs, trying my best, and that couldn't compare to taking care of a child while on dialysis."
"When we fell in love, we fell deeply. We have an amazing relationship. When he became my care partner we grew to a level that I didn't think was possible," said Christina. "I trust this man with my life. We have truly become partners in this and I know I'm not alone anymore."
It's important to note that vulnerability doesn’t always lead to this outcome. It may mean realizing the person you're interested in isn’t compatible with you. That’s okay! As the old saying goes, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me as my best.”
In the long run, open communication sets the stage for successful long-term relationships.
4. Plan dates with dialysis in mind
Pay attention to your body and plan dates when you typically feel your best. Save these times for more active and physically demanding activities. Be flexible and have low-key plans for days when you might not feel your best.
Here are 6 unique low-energy dates to try:
- Going on a scenic drive
- Having a movie night at home
- Playing board, card, video, or virtual reality games
- Having a picnic
- Sharing your favorite songs with each other
5. Talk about the future
You and your partner will want to be on the same page before fully committing to one another. Part of this discussion should be about the impact dialysis has on your lives.
Will you seek a kidney transplant? Do you want to or can you safely have children? Is traveling important? By discussing the future, you can work together to create a roadmap that makes the most of it.
For Shelly, knowing that Tim, her husband, was on dialysis wasn’t a dissuading factor in the future they wanted to create together. As long as they were together she was ready to face the more challenging aspects of their journey.
"It has been a long roller coaster ride. Tim has gone through two kidney transplants and three heart surgeries. He lives with chronic pain and other issues resulting from kidney failure. We do our best to not let it control our lives. Instead, we control it. It's not an easy road by any means but it has made us stronger as a couple." Shelly said, "Our lives revolve around our five grandchildren. We love to camp, travel, relax on the patio, and are together as much as we can. We don't let kidney failure and dialysis stop us."
6. Build a community outside of your partner
If possible, create a strong support system beyond your partner. As the relationship progresses, you’ll likely lean heavier and heavier on them. While your partner can be an important part of your care team, extra support will create room for your relationship to flourish.
NKF has many communities waiting for you:
- NKF’s Dialysis Community: A safe and supportive space to share your experiences, ask questions, and get answers.
- Facebook Advocacy Group: Anyone in the United States interested in advocating for kidney health legislation is welcome here.
- La National Kidney Foundation en español: Únase a la conversación y conéctese con otras personas interesadas en aprender más sobre la salud renal. Este grupo es un espacio seguro para compartir su historia y hacer preguntas, ¡y es en español!
- Voices for Kidney Health: Our advocates work to make the U.S. a better place for all people with kidney disease! Join today and effect change while meeting other amazing advocates.
- Facebook Transplant Group: Interested in getting a transplant? Meet others doing the same, living donors, and transplant recipients.
1Brown, Anna. “Nearly Half of U.S. Adults Say Dating Has Gotten Harder for Most People in the Last 10 Years.” Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project, Pew Research Center, 20 Aug. 2020, www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2020/08/20/nearly-half-of-u-s-adults-s...
Shanaha Brown was diagnosed with kidney disease as a child. It wasn't severe, but she grew up frequenting the doctor's office to monitor the condition. For thirty-five...