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Once old enough to date, “I always tried to make my allergy my problem.” She would check to make sure that date night restaurants could prepare nut-free fare or sometimes eat in advance if she didn’t think a night out would include allergy-safe snacks. Then, after three months of seeing each other, he said he couldn’t be her boyfriend because of her food allergies.
As she and the blue-eyed guy started going out, she learned that his sister and mother both had food allergies. “I don’t want to worry all the time,” he told her – words that hurt her deeply.
“A lot of the people on the website that connect don’t have the same food allergies,” says Matty Thomas, one of the founders of Singles with Food Allergies.
She explains that what brings the site’s users together is a mutual understanding of necessities like label reading and restaurant precautions.
The 26-year-old notes that at parties or at bars, if he was flirting with a girl and she leaned in for a kiss, he had to turn away.
“It was hard because some will take it the wrong way and think you’re not into them,” says Brennan, an exercise therapist who lives near Toronto, Canada.
“Dating is hard for everyone, and when you have food allergies it adds another layer,” says social worker and food allergy counselor Samara Carroll.He met his current girlfriend through friends and during their first date, he asked her to share a personal “fun fact,” knowing that she would then ask him the same question – and he had his food allergy answer ready.“I like to bring it up as a conversation piece early on rather than just mentioning it, because then you can educate without overwhelming the person,” he says.“All you need to do is look for it, and if you don’t see it, then you can create it.” She stresses that when discussing food allergies, it’s important to do so clearly and confidently – and in her experience, her date typically responds by asking what he can do to keep her safe.Brennan offers a good example of casually introducing the food allergy subject in a way that gets it out there, without making it seem daunting.
Whether it’s online or in real life, Carroll – who is allergic to peanuts and shellfish – encourages clients to embrace their allergies as part of their identity, rather than viewing them as baggage.