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6 Things to Know About Dating Someone With a Disability

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Let’s face it: dating life can be difficult. Whether it’s because you’re busy, unsatisfied with dating, or even someone with a disability, dating and finding the right person can be challenging.

However, dating somebody with a disability is a topic that is often overlooked. Whether it’s a hidden disability or a physical disability, dating someone with a disability often seems to be overlooked or used as “inspiration porn” — someone who uses their love life to gain a social media presence or some sort of gratification for taking someone with a disability out on a date, to prom or the like.

I want to go over six small things I feel everyone should know about dating someone with a disability, whether your significant other is someone living with a disability, if you plan on dating someone with a disability, or you just want to open your mind to the culture behind disability.

1) Please do not assume we are delicate — we want to go on adventurous dates too!

Honestly, I can’t really tell you how many first dates I have planned where I wanted to do something like go on a hiking adventure, go to a music festival, or even do something like dinner and a movie, but I’ve gotten responses like “Won’t that be too much for your legs?” Or “You won’t be able to walk that far, will you?”

As an adult who is self-sufficient and willing to tell you when something will not work out, I can tell you a lot of us love to go on normal dates, just like anyone else! Whether it’s hiking, a concert, a movie, or even something like driving over to come visit you, many people with disabilities are more than happy to let you know if we cannot do something, if we are tired of walking and worn out halfway through the date or just need a five minute break from walking around the mall. We would want you to tell us if you were unable to do something, or felt unsafe doing something. We want you to be just as comfortable being with us as we are with you! If you have a date planned with someone who has a disability, you can ask to go over their limitations (if any) with them while you’re on the date. If the person feels comfortable, they will let you know what they can and cannot do. If not, let them tell you as the date goes on.

2) Show us you’re willing to learn about our disability, or even advocate for our rights.

Something a lot of people do not understand about dating someone with a disability is that we usually want you to ask questions about our disability. If you are choosing to date us, we want you to accept and love us just as we are — this includes wanting to learn about what our lives with disabilities are like, what our personal life is like aside from the disability, and wanting to advocate for our rights.

A while ago, I had been in a relationship with someone who said they were all for advocating for the rights of disabled people, happy to show off our relationship, and willing to learn about my spina bifida, but then turned around and said “the way you talk about your disability and personify it as your whole being is unattractive.” Well, I hate to break it to anyone that has this mindset, but we live with a disability! Of course many of us are going to talk about it, spread awareness about it, and answer any questions people may have publicly. Just like we accept your able body, we want you to accept ours with our disabilities and differences, whether we are having a good day or bad day — and ask what you could do to help the community as a whole. We embrace open-mindedness.

3) We do not want you to feel different dating us.

This somewhat ties into the first point, but we do not want you to feel different dating us! We want to make our relationships as healthy as possible. This includes holding both parties accountable for our actions, allowing us to live normal lives, like going to work, cooking dinner, taking the dog for walks, etc. We do not expect you to treat us any differently than someone else when it comes to being held accountable in relationships, expecting the best from us, and always pushing for the best for the relationship. We want to give and learn just as much as anyone else in a normal relationship would.

4) We may need help with some things, and that’s OK.

I often feel like people with disabilities are too afraid to ask for help in a relationship, whether it be walking up a mountain on a hiking trip, helping us pick something up and carry it, or even helping us make dinner because we’ve had a rough day and are not feeling the best. Just as you want help with things, we may ask too. If you do not know how to help with what we are asking, we can teach you along the way!

Able-bodied people will sometimes overthink and freak out about things like this. “What if we cannot do the things every other couple is doing?” “What if our whole relationship is like this?” “What if we can’t have any intimacy in our relationship?” Please realize, we do not want these things just as much as you do not! We may need help with certain things, but we do not want you to think helping us is going to be constant for the rest of the relationship, or that we will hold you back. We may not always be able to do everything you want to do, but that’s OK. A person with a healthy view on relationships is not going to stop you from doing something just because they physically can’t. The more you’re willing and able to help us, the more we’ll probably want to do!

5) Last but not least — intimacy is just as normal for us as it is anyone else.

A giant misconception about dating someone with a disability is that there will be no intimacy in your relationship, which is completely false in most cases. Unless you are falling out of love, have no emotional or physical attraction to the person, or you are again overthinking, there is no reason why your intimate life should be non-existent. We want to experience everything when it comes to being with someone, and this includes in the bedroom!

Sure, we may have our boundaries of what we want or do not want (vanilla or non-vanilla) and can and cannot do, but this is normal in any relationship. We want to explore what is possible and what we like or do not like just as much as you, and if the attraction is there, why not learn together? We want to push the relationship to a new level, not bring it down because one person (or both) have misconceptions about sexual practices with someone that has a disability. We want to let you know if we need a change in what is going on, just as we want you to let us know if there needs to be a change.

We want to be with you just as much as you want to be with us. We want you to see our strengths, and help us overcome our weaknesses just as much as you want us to do the same for you. We will be willing to do anything for you in a relationship, if you do the same for us.

Originally published: September 8, 2018
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