Dating with Psoriasis
Has psoriasis ever affected you when it comes to dating?
Dating is not a favorite past-time of mine. The first few dates anyway; there are the usual concerns that we all have on a first date- with a sprinkling of extreme psoriasis anxiety.
No one wants to be rejected, but being denied because of something as superficial (and out of my control) as my skin is unacceptable. I, therefore, feared it more than any other reason.
I did do a lot of dating in my twenties, and as someone who has always had psoriasis, I have a lot of flaky first date encounter stories too. I learned a lot about dating, and subsequently through my thirties about learning to be body confident so here are some things that you should consider if you have dating anxiety.
1. It helps if you relax…
The first few dates with now-husband were a disaster. He was so nervous that he made inappropriate jokes, stumbled over his words and told terribly bland stories. His actual personality is the complete opposite. Nerves do bad things to good people. The added stress of feeling like your hiding a big secret and/or being afraid you will get ‘caught out’ for trying to hide your psoriasis will only make this worse and hide your wonderfully awesome personality.
It’s going to look weird, but before your date do something to calm yourself down and get rid of your nervous energy. Try getting there early and doing some deep breathing in the toilets- full-on drama school limb shaking is also productive as long as you’re not meeting a person of the same gender otherwise bumping into them after making brrrrrrrrr and shhhhhh noises repeatedly in the toilet cubicle may make you look more mentally unstable (or be hilariously funny).
2. Practice reading people
When talking to your date, listen to the way they think and talk about other people. You can tell how understanding and compassionate a person is by the way they perceive the actions of other people. If this doesn’t happen naturally, you could seed the conversation by talking about something topical in the news or asking about their thoughts on women using botox. Is your date empathetic and understanding?
If they are a total toolbag, and say mean things or are clearly very superficial then I would be apprehensive about opening up about psoriasis and instead climb out of the bathroom window or ask Alexa to call your mobile phone (of course I’m joking), but cutting your losses now is a real option and you should take it.
3. Own it
This may seem bold but stick with me. I saw a great example of owning it from a psoriasis blogger. Jude was online dating and was so fed up of having to explain her psoriasis to her dates she posted a picture of herself during a flare without make-up onto her online dating profile, so it was clear she had psoriasis covering sections of her face. Guess what? She still had dates and is currently smitten in a long term relationship with a man she met on the site. Most people don’t have an issue with our psoriasis, and these are our people.
If your date notices you have psoriasis, then tell them what it is. This is most likely when it is on your face or hands. Problems tend to arrive when the other person doesn’t understand what it is, and so they lead with emotions of fear and anxiety. The sooner we can dispel those feelings, the sooner we can settle into having a great time.
I prefer to explain that I have an autoimmune condition that targets my skin and highlight it is not infectious. If there is still a glaring concern I explain its similar to eczema (yes it makes me cringe too); most people know what eczema is and it calms people almost instantly.
A good alternative is diverting attention from the question. For example, ‘I have an autoimmune disease that targets my skin, could you pass the water please?’ so the question has been answered, with an easy get out if either person wants to take it.
Sometimes being lighthearted works too- making jokes about being a superhero with quick healing skin, or being distantly related to supermodel Cara Delevingne/Kim Kardashian/another famous psoriasis sufferer that links with your interests can work really well to lift the mood, but only if it feels natural. Practice role-playing how the conversation will go before your date to help the transition to humor feel more natural for you.
A word of warning: Do not start talking in detail about how much you hate your psoriasis or your latest test results. This is for firmly established relationships in my opinion. Let them get to know you as a person first, and then teach them how to live with you and your psoriasis. Talking about your test results for 20 minutes on a first date can be overwhelming.
4. Practice being comfortable being naked
It helps to be comfortable being naked in your own skin before you get naked with someone else.
I recently visited a naked spa in Holland, and to prep, for that, I practised getting increasingly bare in public.
If you’re imagining me trying to buy coffee at Starbucks naked- you need to reign that back in and focus — at least for now — because that is illegal.
There are places where being naked in public is acceptable- and for me, that was the communal changing room at my local gym. Over a period of six weeks I got increasingly naked in the changing rooms, and to my surprise, no one batted an eyelid. No one said anything. Not even staring. It ended up being a great confidence booster.
If you are worried about being rejected by your date, then it may be too soon for an intimate relationship. In my experience, by the time a person is ready to get naked with me, they have already accepted my psoriasis, and I need to get out of my own way. Most of the concerns we have about being naked are our own.
The worst time to explain you have psoriasis is during or after sex. As tempting as it may be to put off telling the other person, last minute is absolutely not the best decision. Even if you don’t plan on seeing that person again, it makes for a more relaxed atmosphere if everyone knows what’s going on and where.
Yes- a few push-ups may help you look a little more buff for about 20 minutes, but in the longer term it gives you what you need for a successful date:
- body confidence,
- mental confidence,
- less stress (so reduced chance of flares)
- something more interesting to say about your hobbies than ‘I like going to see films with my friends and shopping’ (but really that’s binge watching Netflix while eating ice-cream).
6. Speak to your doctor
Sometimes we just need some respite. I took cyclosporin for a while in my twenties because I needed a break from always thinking about my psoriasis. It helped with the inconvenience of dating, but I still found I talked about my psoriasis anyway. Its a massive part of my life so really it didn’t make much difference on that front except I wore shorter skirts.
If you have psoriasis on your face, you may want to use a hydrocortisone cream in the run-up to a first date- just to help with your confidence for those first few sessions together. It’s great to have the choice of when to tell your partner- to remove that anxiety of them asking when we’re not prepared for it.