Valentine’s Day 2022 is upon us.  While I enjoy the sweet taste of chocolate, there is a slightly bitter feeling I have on this holiday. In addition to all the medical complexities that arise from having Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), my love life or idea of it has some complications that I’m going to delve into.

I recently watched the first season of an Amazon Prime series titled As We See It. The comedy/drama follows 3 young adults who navigate everyday life with autism. I felt the show did a masterful job portraying the dating lives of the main characters. One topic I found particularly relatable was the notion of being “normal” in the eyes of the person you meet. The show referenced a term called “passing” when describing the efforts of one character to fit this mold.

I feel people often try to mask anything that society might view as an abnormality, which will turn away others in a social setting. When you have a disease like DMD that is already labeled as rare, I find it especially easy to convince myself that I’m somehow unworthy of having a partner based on generic standards of normalcy. My body has what can seem like a thousand paper cuts because of its physical flaws. This can make me have a sense that I’m broken when I compare myself to others I could potentially date.

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This obsession with physical comparisons has reared its head when I’ve attempted to use dating apps or websites. I’ve been on apps like Facebook Dating, OkCupid, Tinder and briefly tried an account with In each case, I froze when it came to the pivotal step of making the initial contact with a possible date.

My mind would spiral into a plethora of imagined scenarios that could take place if I met anyone. One thing I thought of was how to deal with the stage of meeting someone in person for the first time. I feared that my disability would stick out like a sore thumb and create an air of awkwardness between me and the other individual. Also, I don’t think many people in their 20s are thrilled about the prospect of their parents providing transportation and probably assistance on a date.

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Outside of the virtual dating realm I’ve had troubles when making new acquaintances more traditionally in public. This really started to heat up when I was attending college several years ago. I attribute part of this change to the introduction of a testosterone prescription around when I turned 18. The purpose of this was to increase my levels of the hormone that had been depleted by my steroid medication prednisone. Naturally, that’s going to make an attraction to others more likely.

I made various friends through university functions, such as classes and clubs. On some occasions, I was on the brink of developing feelings for a few of these people. But each time I reached the point it was as if I slammed on the breaks at a red light. I would conjure up a variety of negative outcomes in my mind. This included the belief I would be turned down due to obvious differences in physical condition. Ultimately, I would just remain silent about how I felt.

Another burden on my dating front is a lack of hope for a long-term relationship. In this column, I’ve spoken a few times about the prognosis that says my life expectancy will be drastically shortened by complications from DMD. With this knowledge, I fear anything beyond a brief fling wouldn’t work out. I have thoughts that the stress of my disease progression would be too much for the other person to handle, especially with the caregiving needs that would probably increase.

I realize that dating for anyone is certainly not an exact science. Knowing I’m not alone offers some solace. Also, I have come to accept these quandaries I face more. I feel grateful that I have a few close friends I know really care about me. In this age of virtual correspondence, there are quite a few ways a relationship can look too.

DMD is particularly harmful to the heart muscles. I try not to let myself be defined by this. The same applies to my metaphorical heart.