Dating. One of the many things I’ve had to completely relearn from the ground up since becoming disabled in 2010. Dating while disabled can be one of the most gut wrenching and, at the same time, liberating things a person can go through, at least in my experience. Before my disability I never thought twice about this, and even if I did I didn’t exactly have anyone to confirm or correct whatever preconceived opinions or questions I may have had. Funny enough, I am now that person to many others. So here’s my two cents on the topic based on my experience so far. As always, any questions are welcome. This is a conversation.
Dating was a massive part of my life before the accident. I wasn’t perfect. I definitely made some mistakes but learned from them and in many cases even corrected my mistakes. But all that was turned on its head in 2010. My disability was now reality and for the first time I realised how easy I’d had it. The privilege afforded me by being an able-bodied, athletic, young man was gone and for the first time I thought, “What if I am no longer desirable?”, “What if I never get that look from a woman again?”, “What if my dating life is officially over?”. Obviously none of these were true but that’s were my head was at, and that’s how I now saw the world.
Not long after the accident I started seeing someone. And what really got to me was the fact that my disability, the thing I believe had made me “undateable”, did not put her off, not even a little. By the way, who the heck thought that would be a good name for a TV show about people clearly going on dates? – The Undateables. Goodness me, that was a dumb name. Anyways, I digress. As far as I know, she was all in to begin this journey with me. Now the sick thing about getting such an unexpected, life altering disability, at least in my case, was that for most of the relationship I did not believe she truly loved me. As far as I was concerned she loved the guy she used to know. So I focused on getting her to accept the new me (which was dumb) or worrying she was going to leave at any moment (which was also dumb). I knew I loved her but didn’t know HOW to love her. Whether she felt the same way right to the end I’ll never know, but a couple years in and I ended it. I was single for the first time since becoming disabled.
I slowly realised I had no clue what I’d been doing. And nobody else knew what I should’ve been doing. It’s not like the ins and outs of maintaining a good relationship are taught in school, let alone with disability in the mix. So many blatant issues had come up in the relationship and I either did not see them or my paranoia and obsession took the wheel. People tried pointing out my errors to me but I was impossible to reach because I believed no one could really put themselves in my shoes and guide me from my point of view.
Now it didn’t have to be this way. I should’ve asked for help but there aren’t many open spaces for disabled people to talk about their issues, let alone specifically something as sensitive as relationships while disabled. There isn’t much out there to teach someone how to traverse the dating landscape despite the effects of a disability.
And so began the single years. I did a lot of growing up, soul searching and finding other things to keep my life as full and enriched as possible. In fact I’m still doing all that right now. Thankfully I’ve learned to enjoy myself as I am and not in relation to a partner. I still have a long way to go though. How do I know this? Well, during my year in bed, now fours year single and feeling sorry for myself (due to my illness) I finally decided to try my luck at online dating. At first it felt weird and I was a little anxious but soon relaxed when it went exactly as I expected: no one was interested. . Lol, I exaggerate. I was aware how online dating can be brutal for anyone so I was a bit prepared. I felt I was ready to meet someone who’d want me. Boy was I wrong.
As expected, it was hit and miss for a few weeks, mostly I got no responses but I did end up engaging a few people and a couple conversations even led to friendships but nothing more. Two months in and I’d either make a new friend or never hear from them again… until I did. A girl actually took a liking to me and I didn’t see it coming. We really hit it off, moved our communication off the site to more personal mediums and soon enough I was in a relationship. Someone actually heard everything that came with dating me and wasn’t fazed; saw everything and wasn’t fazed; began to experience everything and still wasn’t fazed. Honestly she has my respect for life. It was euphoric how I could be myself around her without sending her packing like I thought would happen. And I eventually began letting myself just enjoy being in a relationship. But soon after that the cracks started to appear. I’d been so overwhelmed with someone actually loving me despite my disability I didn’t really let the early stages of the relationship run at their natural pace. I rushed so head on into getting to where I wanted to be long term that we both missed some things about each other on the way. We both ended up finding out things (nothing disability related) we weren’t entirely comfortable with or sure we’d wanted. The plug was pulled and it hurt, but was probably for the best. So here I am again, single and still trying to figure out what I should be doing.
Something that really struck me this time around though was how I didn’t see the possibility of this relationship when the signs first started to show. Looking back now it was very obvious to see I was getting her attention in the right ways, even when it was only just a little. I had thought my insecurities and doubts about my self-worth were predominantly a thing of the past. But 1) I didn’t believe or even see this person valued me in that way until it was said outright; 2) when it was made obvious I was still reluctant to accept it; 3) and when I did finally accept it, I got so excited and caught up that I ignored basic common sense and jeopardized the whole thing. I definitely still had/have a long way to go as far as my self-worth and opinions are concerned.
I still don’t have all the answers on what it’s like to date while disabled but I can tell you what I learn through my own experiences. A lot has been made clearer to me though.
- People with disabilities can and do indeed look for love.
- It’s just as tricky as dating without a disability and probably more so, but also just as achievable.
- Not everyone can entertain the idea of dating a disabled person and that’s ok, all hope isn’t lost. The same issues in any relationship can still come up irrespective of disability.
- And very importantly, just like in any relationship, even if the ideal partner is found, you still have to work at getting things right.
Hopefully this gives you some idea what it can be like trying to date while disabled or helps you see your disability doesn’t have to be an obstacle to finding or maintaining a relationship. Me? I’m still taking things one step at a time, knowing I haven’t got much to worry about.