If you have psoriasis and feel some anxiety around dating, I’d like you to know you’re not alone in these thoughts. I’ve lived with severe psoriasis since I was seven, and used to think I would never find love or be comfortable enough to be intimate with someone. There can be an embarrassing side of psoriasis that those without the disease may not understand: the flaking, itching, bleeding, depression, anxiety, doctors’ appointments, and much more.

Plus, dating can be hard enough without the added complication of managing a disease like psoriasis. You’re already nervous about what to say and do. On top of that, feeling self-conscious that your date may be paying more attention to your visible psoriasis than to you? Not exactly your idea of a romantic evening.

It’s really no surprise then that The National Psoriasis Foundation found that 35 percent of respondents in a survey said they “limited dating or intimate interactions because of their psoriasis.” People living with psoriasis may do this due to a fear of rejection or not being understood. If you’re dating while living with psoriasis, you might ask yourself questions like:

“Who will love me with these plaques or my skin?”

“How will I tell someone about my disease?”

“When should I tell them?”

“What will they think when they see my skin for the first time?”

“Will they still like me?”

I’m here to tell you that romantic intimacy is definitely possible for you. I met my now ex-husband over 10 years ago on the campus of Alabama State University. It was love at first sight. We saw each other, went on our first date the same day, and became inseparable. Although we are now divorced (which had nothing to do with my disease, by the way), I learned some wonderful things from dating and being married while having psoriasis.

This article isn’t only meant for someone with psoriasis, but may also help a spouse or partner of someone who has the disease. Here’s what I learned.

It was about our third date and I was trying to decide how I was going to “come out the closet” about my disease. I didn’t want to do one of those awkward sit-down talks, so I needed to figure out a way to naturally introduce it into conversation.

Luckily in the early phase of dating, people usually ask each other a lot of questions. This helps them become better acquainted. I decided I was going to casually mention psoriasis through one of our early Q&A sessions.

At one point on that date, he asked me something like, “If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?” I told him I would change the fact that I have psoriasis. Next, I explained what it was and how it made me feel. This was a great way to open up the dialogue about psoriasis, which he had never heard of before meeting me. I could also gauge his comfort level with my disease. He asked me additional questions, but in a tone of caring curiosity. After this I became more comfortable with him.

Some people who have psoriasis wear clothes that completely camouflage their disease. Due to my psoriasis, I never wore clothes that exposed my skin. It took me a really long time to show my then-boyfriend my legs and arms.

The very first time he saw my skin was during a movie day at his house. I came over in my normal long-sleeved shirt and pants. He told me I had nothing to be ashamed of and asked me to go change and put on one of his short-sleeved shirts, which I reluctantly did. When I came out, I remember standing there awkwardly and thinking, “Here I am, this is me.” He kissed me up and down my arm and told me he liked me with or without the psoriasis. Slowly but surely, he and I were building trust when it came to my disease.

Eventually, he and I became intimate, and oddly enough he still hadn’t seen my skin. I giggle thinking about it now because the fact that I trusted him enough to become one with him, but not to show my skin seems silly.

Eventually, he saw my entire self — and not just my skin, but also all the other issues I faced due to my psoriasis. He was a witness to my depression, stress, anxiety, doctors’ appointments, flare-ups, and much more. We became one in more ways than I had ever imagined we would. Although he didn’t have psoriasis, he dealt with all the challenges that came with it because he loved me.

Although my ex and I are no longer together, with the help of meditation and counseling we’ve been able to remain friends. Through all the ups and downs of our relationship, I learned one beautiful thing from our failed marriage: I can be loved and accepted by someone wholeheartedly with my psoriasis. That was once something I felt was impossible. Despite the other issues he and I had, my psoriasis was never one of them. He never, not once, used my disease against me when he became angry. To him, my psoriasis was non-existent. He appreciated the essence of me, which wasn’t determined by my disease.

If you’re scared about never finding the love of your life due to your psoriasis, let me assure you that you that you can — and you will. You may encounter some clueless duds while dating, but those experiences will help catapult you closer to the person who’s meant to be in your life. The person who’s right for you will love and appreciate every part of you, including your psoriasis.

Now that I’m divorced, some of those old concerns have come back. But as I reflect, I realize that if I found love and acceptance once before, I can surely find it again. The most beautiful thing I learned from my ex is that love is most definitely more than skin-deep.