How to Navigate Dating When You’re Immunocompromised

Anyone who shames you for protecting your health isn’t worth your time.
Immunocompromised Dating
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Being asked on a date by someone you’re really into can feel euphoric—sometimes to the point that you’re shooting off one cute text screenshot after another to your group chat. When you’re immunocompromised, that giddiness might sometimes coexist with apprehension as you factor in your increased likelihood for infections in certain settings that often come with dating.1 For instance: Is your crush suggesting you meet at a crowded, stuffy bar? Are the concert tickets they bought for an indoor or outdoor show—and will they think you look funny wearing a face mask the whole time? (Just in case: You definitely won’t!) Should you tell them about your health status up front, or just subtly propose you do something else together?

When it comes to letting a new cute person in your life know about your health, “you don’t need to disclose anything you don’t feel comfortable sharing upfront,” Thea Gallagher, PsyD, a clinical assistant professor of psychology at NYU Langone Health, tells SELF. But as you continue to make plans with a new person in your life and consider your safety as you do, “you probably will want to share [that you’re immunocompromised] at some point,” Dr. Gallagher says. Okay—but how?

Every person—and every relationship—is different, but experts say there are a few helpful factors to consider as you find your ideal approach to discussing your health with a potential partner. You’ve got this—so let those butterflies in your stomach come just from excitement!

No matter what: Don’t be ashamed of keeping yourself safe.

As you know: People who are immunocompromised often have a harder time fighting off infections and diseases than people who aren’t. This might make some aspects of typical dating scenarios—say, dining at a restaurant during cold and flu season or meeting a person’s friends in a crowded bar—a bit more complex, since you might not want to risk unnecessary exposure to germs.

Saying no to a potentially unsafe situation means you’re caring for your condition— it doesn’t dictate who you are as a person, or how you feel about your partner. “You should not be ashamed of having a health condition,” Dr. Gallagher says. “Just keep that on the back burner as you navigate this whole thing.”

Start the conversation at whatever point in your relationship feels right to you.

If there are details about your health that need to be factored in right away, like needing to ask your date to wait to get together if they’re recovering from a cold, Dr. Gallagher says it’s best to bring them up early. But you don’t need to divulge all the specifics on the very first date if you’d rather not go there right off the bat. “It isn’t necessary to do a deep dive into specifics about your health status until later on as you get to know the other person and you’re confident that you’d like to continue getting to know them,” Dr. Gallagher says.

If you see things progressing with someone cool, open up when you feel comfortable. You might decide when that is by asking yourself if your life will be better (and safer)—and your new relationship more fulfilling—if the person you’re dating knows your health status, Dr. Gallagher adds. For example: Maybe you know they're an active traveler, so revealing your immunocompromised status could help you plan safe trips together because you’re on the same page about taking necessary precautions.

Set whatever tone feels right when you do have the talk.

When you’re telling someone about your health, you’re in control of establishing the vibe, Dr. Gallagher says. Whatever your situation is, you don’t have to downplay it if you don’t want to—and you also don’t have to treat it like it defines you in full. “If [your health condition] is really impacting you, and it might impact the kind of relationship you want and what you can give, it’s important to say that,” she says. “But if you’re in remission and it’s not life-altering, it’s okay to say that too.”

However you want to tackle it, make sure you’re prioritizing what you really need, rather than trying to put the other person at ease first or worrying about scaring them off. That can backfire later on, Aaron P. Brinen, PsyD, assistant professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, tells SELF. “Many times, we can try to use lighter language or euphemisms to describe the severity. When the partner [goes on to] treat it casually because they don’t grasp the severity, we [may feel] hurt,” he says.

Dr. Gallagher offers this example for how you might introduce the topic: “I wanted to share with you that I have a health condition that puts me at risk for getting sicker than most people if I pick something up. So it can be tricky to go to crowded indoor places or to be around people who are obviously ill.” If you want, you can include the context that you’re not just nixing invites out of nowhere—you might go on to let them know how much you want to hang or how uneasy crowded, cramped spaces make you feel. From there, you can both allow the dialogue, including any questions you might have for each other, to flow.

Go through the specifics of what you can and can’t do.

When you’re immunocompromised, Dr. Gallagher says that you shouldn’t feel bad for being transparent about what a healthy relationship looks like for you. “The more you’re open about your needs, the more you can get them met,” she says. Basically: Being direct with someone you like is a good way to help them be there for you.

Kara Wada, MD, an allergist and immunologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF that communicating how you need to protect yourself might mean explaining some scenarios ahead of time. For instance, if your new partner’s roommate has an infection, you won’t be able to meet up at their place until they’re one hundred percent healthy again, even if they’re taking space from each other and not interacting. Ditto if they are otherwise around others who are sick: You can acknowledge that it’s not realistic to expect someone to isolate themselves from other people if they’re going to be around you, but you can ask them to let you know if they were around someone who was sick before you get together, Dr. Gallagher says.

Dr. Brinen also shares an example you could draw on to illustrate how being immunocompromised plays out on a daily level. You might say, “There are times I get frustrated: We might go to the movies and people are coughing, so I need to leave. But as I’m leaving, I might be upset because I worry I ruined the night for both of us.” Ensuring your partner understands that your choices—and any emotional responses you might have to them—aren’t their fault can help both of you feel more at ease.

Fatigue may also be an issue for you,2 Dr. Wada says. If that’s the case, you might want to bring up how that affects you, too. If you sometimes need to cut plans short because you’re exhausted, let the cutie you’re making them with know that ahead of time

Recognize that not every person you date is going to handle things perfectly—and if they do an actively bad job, you can cut and run.

You might be surprised at how well your crush reacts when you disclose that you’re immunocompromised. Or…you might not. When you have a conversation about your weakened immune system with a date, they might be learning about what that means for the first time, or they might respond with things that are accidentally hurtful, Dr. Wada notes. “So often [people who are immunocompromised] are told, ‘But you look fine,’” she explains. When staying infection-free is a daily struggle, Dr. Wada notes, this can feel incredibly disheartening.

Dr. Gallagher suggests thinking ahead about—and possibly role-playing with family and friends—how you’d respond to health questions your date might have. For example: Does your condition mean you can never attend concerts or dine at crowded indoor restaurants again? (Answer: Maybe yes, maybe not.) When you abruptly leave a date, does that mean you don’t like me? (Answer: I definitely like you!) Any way you can clear up misunderstandings about your condition ahead of time can help—and so can sharing whatever you feel is necessary to get across so they really get you.

If a person isn’t able to understand the severity of your condition or why you wouldn’t want to be in a situation that compromises your health but wants to get there by learning more: You can refer them to credible sources offering information on being immunocompromised, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which cohesively explain many of the particulars. Then you can talk through what they’ve learned and clear up any remaining questions they might have.

A big caveat: Don’t sweat it if you find yourself doing all the work and someone still isn’t getting it, or if they’re rude or dismissive. All the experts we interviewed agree: Feel free to tell them to get lost if those attempts feel futile. You honestly don’t want to date someone who doesn’t respect your health needs, and you deserve someone who will.

Outside of that: Remember that the person you like is inviting you on dates because they’re into you and want to get to know you—and your health is a part of you too. It’s up to you how to let them in, and whether that’s being straightforward on the facts of your health, candid about how being immunocompromised makes you feel, or somewhere in between those two approaches, you’re in control of the convo—and you’re having it because you like where this is going, and it seems like they do too.


  1. American Society for Microbiology Journals, Overview of Infections in the Immunocompromised Host
  2. Frontiers in Immunology, Fatigue, Sleep, and Autoimmune and Related Disorders