Having Misophonia is not unlike having an allergy to other humans. Would you go on a date knowing for certain that you are ‘allergic’ to this person who you haven’t even met yet? You might be able to suppress your symptoms of Misophonia for the first date, maybe even during the first few, but eventually the person you are dating is going to find out you are keeping a secret. How will this person react? Will they be supportive? Will they mock and reject you, as so many have before? Or perhaps they will try to understand and help, but soon give up and forget?
Wait a moment, that’s right—the general public does understand and appreciate allergies. So too will the person you’re just beginning to date likely appreciate that allergies are real. She (I say ‘she’ because I date women) may have some allergies of her own. She has seen commercials for allergy medication, so she has an association with you. Yet even so, Misophonia barely seems real to her or to others. Since Misophonia sufferers don’t exhibit any tangible symptoms, only severe anxiety and depression, it’s that much more difficult to explain to others that we live with this condition. As opposed to allergies, Misophonia is known to almost no one in the world. When I explain it to people, they often see it as a plea for attention or even something to joke about. Unfortunately, living with Misophonia is essentially a ‘people allergy’. Dating is difficult enough without adding this awful hurdle.
I went on a first date earlier this week. I met (anonymous) on a dating app. She looked a bit too pretty to be talking to me, so I presumed her photos were lying. On the contrary: when I saw her she was stunning, and we hit it off. The first hour at the loud local bar passed as easily as it could. Whenever I got too relaxed, she’d flash a smile with her sparkly brown eyes or touch my arm with her tanned hand, and the butterflies would be all up in my throat. Although I declined to drink with her (as I’ve long since stopped), she seemed genuinely respectful of my decision. We had similar interests and goals, and the conversation never felt stale. Then it was time for the real test: eating. We walked over to a Thai restaurant, laughing the whole way. By the time our food came, I was so famished that I’d almost forgotten about my Misophonia. However, I was promptly reminded when she began slurping her coconut chicken soup as if she were trying to make as much noise as possible. When she tried my noodle dish, she chewed with her mouth wide open. I was let down, knowing that this could never work. You might say, “Just ask her to chew with her mouth closed!” Maybe I will. But I know this relationship will not work. Not only would it be a gigantic favor to ask (it’s rare that someone is able to continuously remember to chew quietly), but how can we begin a relationship when I am already trying to change her?
I may not be explaining this well enough and I don’t expect most people to understand my situation, but it makes sense to me, as it always has. Finally (thanks to the internet) I know I’m not alone. I’d love to meet someone different—someone who was able to refrain from triggering my Misophonia but still able to be everything else I want in a partner. But I realize this may be asking too much, and I don’t see it happening. I’ve got to beat this disorder and then worry about finding love. To do it the other way around seems impossible.
When I was a kid, ‘Misophonia’ was not a word. ‘Internet’ was not, either. I grew up sure I was mentally damaged. I grew up feeling alone and unable to cope. Now, though, I take vast solace in knowing I’m not alone. I feel lucky to be alive during this period when Misophonia is better known, and I wonder at how rough it must have been for all the Misophonia sufferers before me. It also helps that I recently found out that a close friend has Misophonia (she posted something about it on Facebook). I’m grateful for this comfort and I’m also confident that a cure for Misophonia is on the way. Until that day, however, I’ll be single.
In the last twenty years, I’ve dated hundreds of women. I certainly haven’t been intimate with each, but I’ve always gotten to know them on some level, shallow or deep. Every single one of them has triggered me, just as every other person in the world does. I’ve ‘come out’ as a Misophonia sufferer to many of them, almost always with negative results (though there have been exceptions). I’m nearly thirty-six now, and because of Misophonia it’s hard to believe I will ever have a relationship that lasts beyond a few months. I just don’t know how it will be possible—how can I get close to a partner when I’m ‘allergic’ to her?
By O. Jones