Dating as a Disabled Person
For the second time in a row, this Valentine’s Day, I am in a relationship.
We have been dating for just over two years now and I still can’t believe it. I can’t stop thinking about my younger self, either. If you happen to have read any of my work before, you’ll know that making it this far has been a whole journey, which has required conscious effort every day to maintain.
Not only is my heart (slowly) learning to feel safe within the vulnerability, but it has been public knowledge that I’m a lesbian for about 3 years now, too. The idea that I have allowed myself this happiness is still a wild concept.
Life is never quite that simple, though, is it?
I have always dreamed of loving someone and being loved in return. It’s all I have ever wanted, in its purest form, whilst simultaneously grappling with the internalised ableism that led me to believe these emotions weren’t meant for disabled people.
When my non-disabled friends started dating in our early teens, I had many gentle conversations with my mum about the possibility of having to watch them (and everyone else) get married one day, without necessarily ever experiencing romance for myself. This was enough to leave me ugly crying in coffee shops, as you can imagine. I mean, there was nothing about my situation that I could change, yet it caused so many people to be uninterested before we had even held a conversation.
The worst and most painful part, however, came when I began to understand their reaction. My care needs can sometimes be quite intimate and personal, which leaves the question: why would anybody voluntarily sign up for that?
Well, friends, I have the answer: I spent the earliest days of my relationship frantically texting my best friend with things like “She is being so nice to me and I don’t know how to handle it”.
After a year or two of healing, I know that this was because I didn’t feel deserving. But guess what? Disabled people make the most beautiful partners. We are multifaceted, complex human beings, just like everyone else. We have so much to offer those around us that exist outside of our disability. Most importantly, we deserve the opportunity to showcase that to the world.
Also, contrary to popular belief, our care needs will never be too much. If someone truly loves you, these things are immaterial. Routine. Natural. It adds another depth to our connections that other people will never truly be able to grasp.
I spent so long feeling sad about my dating life (or lack thereof), that I forgot to prepare for anything good.
It’s not always pretty, no matter what the idealistic films tell us. There are terrifying parts, too. The messages that led up to this moment were (and are) loud, you know? So, my brain is constantly asking questions such as “How did this happen?” and “How could anyone even find me attractive?”
With help from my friends and my partner, I have come to realise that understanding it isn’t important, my only job is to embrace it. Deep breaths.
Finding this love and support isn’t easy, as my younger self knows all too well. There is no denying that the world can be an especially cruel place for disabled people trying to date. I have spent enough time having conversations with the community to know that this is a pretty universal experience, which hurts my heart whenever I think about it.
Whilst it would be impossible for me to undo this pain simply through writing, I do want to offer a reminder: if someone chooses not to date you because you’re disabled, they are absolutely not the kind of person you need in your life, anyway. You are worth so much more.
I have faith that you will find your person someday. In the meantime, this Valentine’s Day, take yourself on a date. I think you’re pretty cool.
PS: there are still so many of these lessons that I’m learning and unlearning. As I said, it’s a conscious effort every day. There is no overnight fix for that, unfortunately, but I can promise that it’ll be worthwhile. Don’t give up on yourself.