Just in Time for Valentine’s Day: My Hives...and My Relationships
Valentine’s day is a great time to enjoy the company of your closest loved one, and with it fast approaching, I can’t help but think of my past relationships and how my hives have played a role in all, for better or worse. Spoiler alert: I’m happily married now, but it took many Valentine’s Days to get there. Here are my experiences, in full humility, from the very start.
The ‘I’m not feeling well’ excuse
I was 16 when I had my first breakout, and I had my first girlfriend at 18. She seemed just as shy as I was. We were both entering our first year of University at the same school. I’m sure if she were to tell this story, it would go a whole lot different, but that’s because I never told her about my urticaria. Albeit at the time, I didn’t even know it was chronic spontaneous urticaria myself.
When we started dating, I was seeing a doctor regarding my hives, and the doctor was convinced that allergies had to be the culprit. It had to be something I was eating. Now picture this: Date after date, where I’m afraid to touch almost anything on the menu. Our dates were already few and far between, and when we did get together, I basically just watched her eat. Awkward to say the least.
I’ll always remember the incident that ended our relationship. It was my first girlfriend, and my first time being dumped, so how could I forget? Because I never told her about my hives, whenever I had a breakout, I would simply say, “I'm not feeling well...” or, “I'm sick.”
So, Valentine's Day comes around, and we made plans to go for dinner. Like clockwork, my hives appeared all over my body that morning when I woke up. What was my excuse going to be this time?
“Not feeling well. I'm sick.”
I remember the frustration in her voice, even as she offered to cancel our dinner plans and she just come over and spend time with me. Just to confuse and disappoint her more, I strongly refused. I wasn’t ready to share my hives story with her. The next day, she dumped me... I just didn’t like myself
For my next relationship, I tried a different approach. After the traumatizing experience I had with my first girlfriend, I decided to stay in my comfort zone – behind the screen. I met my next love on an online dating-site, and she lived miles away from me. PERFECT! She can fall in love with my words, stare at my pictures, and never see my hives!
As much as I tried to delay our first real life encounter, after almost a year, she had enough and drove down to meet me in person! While she wanted to help, my hives (and their unknown causes) were confusing for both of us, and there wasn’t much she could do. I broke up with her, because I didn't like myself, and didn't want a good person to be with me.
I left her very confused. It just wasn't going to work out...RELATIONSHIPS weren't going to work out. At the age of 21, I was already feeling hopeless.
It’s not you, it’s me.
When I turned 23 I graduated from University and started a new job in the hotel industry. Feeling excited about life, and thinking my hives had finally disappeared, I gave relationships another try. Maybe the stress of university was the culprit, and now that I graduated, I was free and clear, right?
I reached out to an old high school crush of mine through Facebook. It was a little surreal to have connected with my high school crush (who was 3 years older than me), but it worked! We started dating, and I had no flare ups. Things really were looking up!
But in this relationship, hives weren't the problem. The problem was me… The problem was that I would not dare get intimate with her, because I never really knew if the hives were gone for good. They scared me, and intimacy made me anxious. She was very confused by my actions, or lack thereof, and decided to break things off with me before they got too serious.
I remember feeling like I deserved to get hurt, but also confused with my own body as to why I was such a 'scardy cat'. I knew that if I were to commit, that she would have to know my 'secret', and I would rather sabotage it than face reality.
A year later, I started seeing a girl from work. She was younger than me. My hives were here and there, but she had no idea about them. I initially thought I was ready for a serious relationship with her, but like in the case of my last girlfriend, I felt I had to sabotage the relationship for her sake. I remember thinking, “How can I hold her back from doing what she wants to do because of my condition?” It wasn't fair to her, so I cowardly assumed, and I abandoned our relationship with no real reason.
Letting her in my on my secret
A few years later, I met my 'final' girlfriend Natalie, who would later on become my wife and mother of my child. With Natalie, I came to terms with my condition, and I let her in on my “secret.” There was a time where I was between jobs, living with my parents, covered in hives daily, and she was right there by my side.
She was very interested in my condition, and swore to help me through it. Natalie was, and still is, very supportive and would even come up with “immune boosting” soups that she had discovered on the Internet to help me with my hives! I loved her for that, and to this day, I wonder if my life would’ve unfolded the way it did if had I not told Natalie my secret?
I married Natalie at the age of 30, and had my first son Lincoln a year later.
It can't be easy for Natalie. I still put a guard up and wish to be left alone whenever I have a breakout. I tell her that I'm not myself and to just ignore how I act. I am not much help around the house, and I will often feel useless and inadequate. As the man of the house, I definitely don't feel like I'm carrying my weight at times. But these are some of the struggles we go through, and I'm so thankful I met such a supportive partner in Natalie.
When you’re living with chronic spontaneous urticaria, relationships can make you feel hopeless, resentful, embarrassed and isolated. Those are all of the feelings I felt when I was hiding, or lying about my condition with my partners. The moment I opened up was the moment I began to really live. It was finding that love for myself that made me love another. While I wouldn’t change anything, because it brought me to where I am today, I recognize now that a lot of my relationship challenges were due to my hives, and the way I handled them.