Dating with celiac disease can trigger a wide array of emotions and fears. From wondering what or if you should tell the person you’re seeing about your needs, to worrying about how they will react: dating with celiac can be tough.
For me, it was hard navigating the dating scene as I had to do it starting in high school (~10 years ago). Over time, I’ve learned some tips and tricks along the way that I want to share with you.
In this post, we will cover all things romance with celiac disease. From knowing what and how to explain your gluten-free needs, to preventing getting glutened from being intimate to expressing yourself romantically and safely.
Dating with celiac is hard. A survey done by Beyond Celiac discussing the impacts of celiac on dating in celiac adults found that 40% of 600 participants said they were uncomfortable explaining needs to service staff in front of their dates, 30% said they knowingly took risks on dates, and 20% reporting dating as flat-out unenjoyable.
I’m holding space for the challenge of being vulnerable so early on in the dating scene with celiac. I’m holding space for the way celiac makes an already nerve-wracking experience, that much more stressful.
Lastly, I am holding space for any hurtful encounters you may have had along your dating journey. Know that I stand with you. You are not alone.
And I want to use this data to help share with you ways to make dating with celiac disease better.
Because dating with celiac disease can be hard, I want to share with you some tips on how to make it better. From deciding when to disclose your needs, setting boundaries, to keeping yourself safe from gluten, below are my tips for dating with celiac disease.
When dating with celiac disease, my first tip is to sit down and figure out where your comfort level lies with disclosing your gluten-free needs to potential partners. Depending on what you decide, you may start dates off with non-food-related activities instead of diving into a dinner date with a stranger.
For example: if you are comfortable with sharing with your date that you have celiac, you might explain your needs and offer 3 celiac-friendly restaurants you can dine out at together.
But if you aren’t comfortable with sharing that you have celiac disease with your date immediately, then you might invite them to go for a walk, grab a cup of coffee or tea, or some other non-food-related activity.
Keep in mind, depending on who you date and talk to, your comfort level may change. This is normal.
When dating with celiac disease it can be scary to tell your date that you have celiac disease. With a gluten-free diet often being a fad diet, and with a lack of awareness surrounding celiac, it’s normal to worry about how they will react.
As discussed previously, figuring out when you’re comfortable sharing about celiac disease can help you plan less stressful dates until you’re ready to share. Once you’re ready to share, it can be hard to know exactly what to say. Some scripts to spark inspiration are below:
Alternatively, disclosing celiac disease might naturally come up in conversation on one of your non-food-related dates. In this case, pay attention to how your date reacts. Do they seem engaged? Do they seem insensitive? If they are insensitive, is this someone you want to spend the rest of your life with anyways?
So we’ve gotten over the hard part of dating with celiac disease; disclosing that we have celiac to our date. But some might say that disclosing you needs around being intimate might be even harder.
Now, like a lot of cross-contact precautions, we don’t have research that pertains to this point of cross-contact. This is a huge issue across the board with celiac-safety. Most of our recommendations are based on an over-abundance of caution not research. However this is changing.
And while we don’t currently have research specifically on gluten transference when kissing, we do have research proving the transference of other allergenic proteins when kissing.
In fact, a 2006 study on the transference of peanut proteins through saliva found that the allergenic proteins did transfer with saliva mouth to mouth when kissing. While gluten isn’t a peanut protein, it is a complex protein that likely would behave in a similar way.
However, it is important to mention that the amount of peanut proteins found was not even close to an amount of gluten that would trigger a reaction.
So how do you manage this? Well extrapolating the peanut kissing research, kissing and gluten exposure should not generally be a concern. However, your comfort level matters, so if you’re worried about it, you have a few options:
But the question is: how in the world do you tell your date this? I won’t sugarcoat it, it’s going to suck. I recommend being honest about it. Let them know “Because I have celiac, kissing could make me sick if you’ve just eaten gluten, I’ve got a toothbrush & toothpaste you can use if you choose to eat gluten for this reason!”
So we’ve covered the challenges of dating, how to dine out safely with celiac while dating, how to kiss safely with celiac disease, now let’s talk about long-term relationships. When dating long-term there are a couple of things to consider: how you’ll set up your future kitchen together, how you’ll handle family gatherings, and your love languages.
When dating with celiac disease, it is essential both you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to the next step of dating: living together. I say this because if you aren’t on the same page when it comes to living in a dedicated gluten-free home or a shared home, then you might be in for a world of hurt when the day comes to share a kitchen.
For me, when I started dating my partner Kyle, I knew there was no way he’d go gluten-free. And it’s something we talked about often.
Because I knew we’d end up in a shared kitchen, I started teaching him how to keep me safe from cross-contact whenever I could. Which is another reason for talking about this stage of your relationship before it happens. If you know you will be living gluten-free in a shared home, it’s important to start preparing your partner to keep you safe when you finally do move in together.
This might not be as big of a concern if your partner is okay with being gluten-free in your home, but depending on what your needs are, this is important to figure out what their willing to do to support you in the future.
When dating with celiac disease, it is not just about how you’ll share your need with the person you’re dating, but as you progress, you also need to figure out how this will impact your interactions with their friends and family.
Having a discussion on expectations for support in these settings with your partner is essential. For example, when I first started dating Kyle, his family invited me over for dinner. I remember telling his parents I need to be gluten-free for celiac and his father immediately supported me but his mother… didn’t seem to understand.
I remember my boyfriend telling me his mother thought I was a hypochondriac (ouch), and telling him I need him to defend me in those situations. Unfortunately, you’re the stranger when it comes to interacting with your partner’s friends and family. Meaning, your partner will have a lot more respect and sway in convincing them of your needs and you need them to use that influence.
Setting the expectation that you need support from your partner when sharing your gluten-free needs with their friends and family is important. On that same note, making sure they know to let their loved ones know of your gluten-free needs when invited to events is also important.
And again, if they are unwilling to work with you on supporting you, is this someone you really want to spend the rest of your life with? You don’t have to follow all of my suggestions, but I can’t stress enough that support from your partner is essential in a successful relationship and healthy life.
Whether you have celiac disease or you’re dating someone with celiac disease, expressing your love is important to your relationship. While I’m not a romance or relationship expert, I think sharing some celiac-safe ways to express love for your partner may be helpful.
Let’s start by talking about love languages. Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book called “The 5 Love Languages” which proposes that there are 5 ways a person may express or prefer others’ love be expressed.
These languages include acts of service, gift-giving, quality time, words of affirmation, and physical touch. Knowing which you prefer and what your partner prefers can help support your relationship. Below are examples of ways to express the 5 love languages while honoring gluten-free needs:
Dating with celiac disease is possible. I know it feels scary. I know you’ve likely heard or experienced some unkind partners on dates.
And I am holding space for that fear and that pain you’ve had when dating. And I am also hear to tell you that you are worthy of love and your value does not change just because you’re gluten-free when dating.