Dating with Food Allergies
When you have food allergies dating can be complicated. When a person with food allergies turns to the internet in hopes of figuring out how to be in a relationship, there really is not much out there. The only information available is some basic communication methods and unclear instructions of when kissing is safe.
Consider this post to be a "how to" or a "guide" to dating with food allergies. With six months of experience in a relationship, I will share what I do about my food allergies, my anxiety and how I try to avoid letting them get in the way. It is also important to understand that this is also a learning experience and I am still in the process of figuring out some of these things.
To begin with I am a very open person and I would not care if the entire world knew I had food allergies. Some people may pretend they do not have allergies or wish they did not have allergies in hopes of "just being like everyone else". Until a person accepts their allergies and sees it as a part of their life, they do not fully have self-acceptance which is fundamental in the ability to communicate and care for someone else.
My philosophy is that food allergies are a part of me and I could not imagine my life without them. Everyday could be my last day, therefore I try my best to live everyday like it is my last. I talk about my food allergies and my view on life often because the seriousness of my situation is real and I want to ensure I get my point across: my allergens could kill me.
Just talk and listen:
To get to know any person the first step is usually a conversation. A conversation involves both talking and listening. When talking about my food allergies I try my best to explain myself and my situation clearly. Then I listen to what the other person has to say and I try to understand their perspective on my situation.
How I explain myself and my situation has varied. There has been some instances where I was not clear enough or there was something I should have mentioned sooner. A lot of times my anxiety interfered and I found it easier to not say something when I needed to. This lack of communication and explanation on my part leads to a lot of risk taking and unnecessary stress.
Usually a "first date" seems to mean going out somewhere to eat. So the "first date" we went on, I actually was unsure if it was actually a date. At that time I saw it as we were going out to lunch, which I have done countless times with all different friends. We went for pizza at a pizza place I had never eaten at. I did not call ahead or do any research, most pizza places are safe. (This was kind of dumb on my part, I do not advise this.) I cannot even remember if I mentioned my allergies when getting the pizza or not, all I know is that we got pizza, I lived and I definitely loved every moment with him. After all it is always about the experience, not the food.
Before he asked me to go to lunch with him, we were meeting a few times a week to do schoolwork. I mentioned my allergies countless times and a few times he asked me where I liked to eat. I was unsure how to respond to this question because with this question I tend to freak out. When eating out with anyone I never want to be the problem or always have to pick out the place. Really I can pretty much eat where everyone else can eat except for places with nuts and seafood everywhere.
So I prefer when the other person chooses a restaurant that would interest them and that works with my allergies, as I the person with food allergies do not want to appear as controlling when having to decide a place every time. After all the other person is more likely to judge the restaurant on the food and if the food is not to their liking I don't always want to feel responsible. (This is called me being anxious, I recommend finding a balance by taking turns choosing where to eat.) I do not care as much about the food, as I am more concerned with just surviving and having a good time. I am okay with picking out the restaurant sometimes, but really I rather the other person be happy, which is why many times I have them choose.
What do you eat?:
I do not like this question directed at me and yet I am asked this on a regular basis by all kinds of people. I cannot remember if he exactly asked me this, but he probably did as most people with no experience with food allergies ask. I think a common thought for someone who does not have to worry about what they are eating is that a person with food allergies cannot eat anything, when really that is untrue. Those with allergies can eat food like other people can, they just have to be more careful, do more planning and know what they are putting into their body. Really there is just more thinking involved.
When I am asked to describe what I eat on a regular day I find it difficult because I eat so many things that I think other people eat as well. It's often much easier to explain what I cannot eat, but I think it's hard for some to imagine subtracting out just those foods without thinking that every possible food choice is gone.
However if we flip this question around and I was asking my partner what he has eaten, suddenly this has a new meaning. In order to kiss my partner I have to know what he has eaten during the entire day or at least the past eight hours. In my attempt to figure out how long allergens can linger, eight hours was the "magic number" where the allergens should not be present anymore. If he says he has eaten my allergen we do not kiss, but many times he does not even know what he has eaten which also results in no kissing. This is my trust in him that he is truthful about what he has eaten or when he just does not even know. What is scary is that he could easily lie to me about what he has eaten which could lead to a potential allergic reaction and even death.
Plan to Kiss:
The first part of planning to kiss on the mouth is ensuring my partner has not eaten any of my allergens in the past eight hours. It is also recommended for the person to eat an allergen free meal and brush their teeth within that eight hour window. The allergen free meal is usually more reasonable, however there are many extra tooth brushes available at my house if he wants to brush his teeth as well. Also the kind of chap stick he uses is important because there are many unsafe kinds which I am allergic to. The only brand I know for sure that is safe is the ChapStick brand.
When kissing just on the cheek we do not follow any of these rules, which is a little risky on my part as there have been a few times where after he kissed me on the cheek I got a little hive or rash on my cheek. Sometimes when I kiss him on the cheek I have also got a little hive or rash on my lip. It has only happened a few times and I do not really see it to be too much of a problem. (This is also kind of dumb and I recommend not taking this risk.)
Perhaps part of the reason I am less strict with the cheek kissing is because I tend to feel a little guilty about the rules for kissing on the mouth. Like it is my fault that kissing is sometimes not a choice. There were some days where he ate absolutely nothing and starved himself to just kiss me and I told him not to do that. Someone should not just eat anything for the allergic person, that to me seems as if they are not even trying to find something safe to eat or maybe they do not know how to and that I feel is a fair question for them to ask to me. I am open to explaining how allergies work and how to read ingredient lists. The other person should also be open to learning and working towards understanding how to eat safely.
Eating at their House:
I have some friends who will send me the ingredients of everything they are serving at their house ahead of time to ensure it is free of my allergens. Those friends who try to keep me safe by showing their efforts in checking labels and being careful are the ones I am most thankful for. Knowing that there is an equal effort in attempt to get me safe food to eat and that the other person realizes the importance to reach out to me to double check everything ahead of time really helps me not have so much anxiety when going to eat at their home.
I have only eaten at his house a few times and every time I have been extremely nervous. Eating at someone's house with someone's homemade food is usually a big "do not do that" in the food allergy world. (However allergies should not stop us from doing anything, so take the risk if you feel comfortable.) Perhaps I was not clear enough or maybe he just did not understand, but I did not know anything about what we were eating ahead of time when I went to his house. In fact I did not know exactly what we were eating until it was time for dinner. I knew his parents had a list of my allergens, but it is still terrifying to not know what we were eating and entrusting in these people who I was only really meeting for the first time to feed me.
Your Allergens vs. You:
Hopefully in a relationship, you are more important than food. I believe that if you in a good relationship with a caring partner, that they will not have to be in a constant battle of choosing whether to eat your allergens or not when they know they will be spending time with you. By choosing to not eat your allergens, this shows how much they care, are willing to keep you safe and are considerate about you. Of course it would be unreasonable for an allergic person to expect the other person to give up these foods completely, but on days planned together, it would seem reasonable for the other person to not eat your allergens. If they do choose to eat your allergens on days you see them, it may feel like the other person is choosing food over you.
If this problem occurs, like it did with my partner and I, it is important to talk to your partner about it. With everything, having communication and finding a balance has been very important. It has not been all easy, it is a learning experience, as there is not much advice out there for dating with food allergies. When a partner is new to food allergies, there is a lot involved and it may feel overwhelming at first, but with a good partner, they should be willing to learn and work with it to the point eventually where the food allergies should not feel like a hassle or an extra stress.
If you are a person with food allergies interested in starting a relationship or in a relationship and have any questions, comments, advice, or anything at all to say, please comment or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to continue to share my experiences in the dating world with all of you, so you all feel able to go there, find love and have fun. Special thanks to my partner, who with permission allowed me to write about him.