Dating Someone Else in a Wheelchair Concerned Me. This Changed My Mind.

I understand all too well the joys of dating as a wheelchair user. How people are interested, but then when they realize that, yes, you do need the chair for all or part of your mobility, they’re no longer interested. I was even told by one man that he “wouldn’t want to take care” of me. Well, who asked you to? I’m extremely independent; even if I need an aide for certain things, very little stops me.

I went on a date on September 24, 2011 with a nice, sweet guy. He was funny, charming, smart and adorable, and he even gave me a rose for our initial meeting at lunch. This was a different situation for me, mostly because Frank was a wheelchair user. I’d never dated anyone who also used a power chair. His chair was the same make, model and color as mine, too! We met through a puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence. Frank’s service dog, Bastien, was a black lab/golden cross just like my service dog, Carmel. I always say the dogs hit it off as much as we did.

There are things I learned from dating a man in a chair as opposed to an able-bodied man:

I learned it’s incredible not feeling so alone. When we go out together, we’re a team. When he opens the door for me, it looks like an orchestrated dance! We move around each other and the dogs so well, it’s become almost second nature.

When something went wrong with my chair, he fixed it. My joystick is sensitive and needed extra support. Frank and his brother got the tool box out and repaired it. I thought that was so unique and special. I didn’t need to make an appointment to get the chair fixed. It was done in an hour! He understood being in a chair, so he recognized the importance of my chair working properly.

We get great seats at concerts and ball games!

People tell us how unique our relationship is when they see us out together, how happy they are that we found one another and how we give them hope (in their own relationships).

During the first few months of our dating, I had my concerns. I had uncontrolled seizures at the time, and I’d never had someone else in a chair help me through that scary time. Frank did it beautifully and handled it so well. Since Frank was my first boyfriend in a chair, we were quite the spectacle as we got out of the van. Two service dogs that look similar and the same color chair — people really noticed! I was used to the stares since I was in the chair, but now we were both going through that. We adjusted pretty quickly.

I realized even though Frank couldn’t stand, he could still help me when I needed it. When we go out together, we’re a team. I love the gentleman he is. Even if I could open the door myself, I don’t think he’d let me! I did have to explain to him that this was something new to me, and sometimes I needed a minute to process the feelings of both of us being disabled.  He was sensitive to my feelings and we talked about all of it at length. He helped make my uneasy feelings fade quickly.

Being with Frank is special because of who he is. We share the same Christian values, and we’ve both been through so much, medically. We’ve both had multiple surgeries. Nine months into dating, Frank took me into NYC to a gorgeous restaurant called Del Posto. Once again, he amazed me and showed me something I hadn’t known or experienced before.This five-star establishment’s food, decor and service are things we still talk about three years later. I’d never eaten such extraordinary food. They brought out a chocolate dessert tree, and on a branch was the most beautiful engagement ring!

We will be married two years in October. I sometimes can’t believe how my life has changed from meeting him and all the places we’ve traveled, and how much we laugh and simply understand one another. For years, I didn’t want to date someone else in a chair. I’m so thankful I opened my eyes to see how well we work together and how happy I am that I took a chance and tried dating in a different way.  

It’s amazing what we learn when we keep our minds open.

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