To speak or not to speak …

Doomed if you do …


… doomed if you don’t

There is no easy answer when it comes to when or how to tell someone about your disabilities.  You hardly know the person, their character or even if you like them enough your self to let them in to a often personal and private matter.  For most, especially the visibly handicapped, the internet provides a much needed respite.  It allows you the chance to approach a person, without your disability being the first thing they see.  Introducing your self, your personality and what makes you tick becomes so much easier without the looming elephant in the room that dictates the conversation and the persons perception of you.

This raises a new dilemma however as the longer you delay the inevitable, the more you become attached to the person and the harder it gets when rejected.  As it is, for the most part, there’s no common courtesy when it comes to rejection, no dear-john letter to give you an inkling as to just why the person deemed you unworthy of their attentions.  With a disability in play, that can be a serious blow to ones confidence in telling the next person about your situation.  There is a growing trend, not only in the dating scene but in the social media as a whole where by it is all too easy to ‘forget’ a person even exist, break all ties and disappear into the ether.

The fear of rejection now has become a reality for a lot more people than what it used to be in the past due to the often long delay’s between responses.  A five minute conversation can now literally stretch hours or even days and when the topic of the discussion is your disability, it quickly becomes a living nightmare of ‘wait and see’.  If the person doesn’t come back to you, you know they had bolted, yet still, the thought remains in the back of your head that maybe, just maybe, life has intervened and they have had to run off on an errand or deal with a work or family related emergency.

Hi, my name is … and I have …

One way of dealing with this dilemma is of course to just come right out and say it the moment you meet, after all, it has to come out at some point, right?  Why not do it right now and get it out of the way.  If the person bolts then it’s their loss and if they stick around, they know exactly what their getting themselves into.  The biggest upshot being you no longer have to be concerned about how they will react and that all the effort and energy you spent on building the relationship might have been in vane.  If only it were that easy …

It is much easier to deal with and accept a chronic illness or disability if you have been with your partner before it happened, even more so if you are married.  The same could possibly be said, in a way, when first establishing a re pore with someone.  When the first thing the other person sees or knows about you is your disability, it places them in a awkward and almost unfair situation.  Human nature, whether that is in the persons character to actively do so or not, is one of concern for another’s well being.  It has the potential to rob them of the opportunity to think of you as an equal and could instead cause them to think of you as someone in need of help and support.

This can lead to a unhealthy and/or codependent relationship whereby:

  • they feel themselves responsible for your well being, making them more of a parental figure than an equal partner in the relationship.
  • empowers them to have control over your life, ultimately robbing you of your own identity and rights as a person.
  • instills a feeling of guilt and forces them into a role of caregiver, where your well being takes precedence over and above everything else, robbing them of their own identity and rights as a person.


When push comes to shove …

The fact remains however, at some point or another discussion is going to cross a boundary and you face a difficult situation whereby saying nothing, leads to suspicions of far worse things than your disability.  Suspicions which is neither founded nor relevant to you.  Trying to prolong the inevitable, leads to inadvertent lies in order to cover up what you are not quite ready to share as of yet.  Yet revealing the truth, more often than not leads to a full confession as it’s rare that, even smaller issues, can be discussed without it leading to the larger issue at hand.

There is situations, however, where the right choice of words and finessing can help you remain truthful and respectful yet without revealing too much before you and/or the relationship is ready for it.  I am loath to share my own personal experiences on this blog and prefer to keep it objective, leaving the finer details of my disabilities to my other blog Living Disabled, but lets take a simple example:

Them:  I like taking long walks in nature from time to time, how about you?

Not saying anything further is by no means a lie, yet, it gives the wrong impression which could later on have serious repercussions:

Me:  Me too.

( They will expect you to be able to go hiking with them and even though you do enjoy it, long hikes is impossible )

So in stead one can reveal just enough so you remain truthful and in so doing, respectful towards them:

Me:  Me too, but only over short distances.

Them:  Oh, why is that?

Me:  I have problems with my knees.

Them:  Oh, do you have a sports injury?

Now panic at this stage, can make you respond rashly.  This however is where the internet plays in your favor, you can take your time to formulate an appropriate response.  When in a face to face discussion however, the natural instinct is to answer right away as you fear that hesitation can sound alarm bells so you end up blurting out too much, especially when you just want the pressure to be over with.  Not that you are trying to deceive them, by no means but saying too much too soon can often result in overwhelming them and destroying the possibility of allowing them to get to know you as a person:

Me:  No, just bad knees.

as apposed to:

Me:  I have a health condition that affects my joints.

( Which of course leads to the situation spiraling out of control as I am sure you can guess at the next question as it is only natural … )

When life gets in the way of living …

Some situations and questions, unfortunately, are unavoidable and usually the most painful of stumbling blocks to the disabled.  To make matters worse, it is usually one of the first couple of questions/queries that come up at the onset of a relationship and most of the time means the premature death as well.  We do not and can not fit into the neat little boxes that society expects us to, it just isn’t possible.  The saddest part of it being that it is social rules, norms and boundaries, not natural ones.  It is possible to live outside these boundaries and not burn up in a ball of hell fire, yet it is drummed into each and every person since childhood.  How do you ask someone to defy what they were taught, to change their perspective and make a paradyme shift.

Speaking for my self, I like to think that most disabled see a deeper meaning into love and relationships other than the here and now, other than the physical capabilities or socially accepted definition of a relationship.  We as disabled, already know about these factors long before entering into a relationship, yet one could argue that the majority of long standing relationships can weather the storm of sudden disability, why? simple, they love each other for who they are and not for what they are capable of.  Yet these qualities is almost impossible to find at the onset of a relationship.

You are at a catch twenty two when thinking about speaking up or staying silent about your disability.  When you speak up, you run the risk of fostering a unhealthy relationship if you do so too soon, that is if they decide to stick around to begin with.  Staying silent, leaves you open to undeserved social stigma and stereotyping due to your lifestyle, living arrangements and/or employment situation.  Somewhere in between there is a middle road, a narrow band of twenty percent of the dating community, within which you have a even smaller band of less than a percentage within which to find compatibility.

Living with a disability is easy, we do it everyday and some do so with little to no help from others.  Finding someone willing to make but one or two ‘minor’ concessions, willing to forego the social embargo against us … there in lies the challenge …

~ LM ~



Introduction to disabled dating …

Someone once told me,
“You can help wipe out genetic disorders, don’t have kids.”

To which I responded with a smile,
“Sure, as soon as you help wipe out ignorance.”

I‘m in the thick of things, so to speak, when it comes to dating with a dis … correction, with disabilities.  It’s a frustrating and at times anger inducing process for us.  We can’t be judged under the same criteria as everyone else.  It just doesn’t work that way.  The more I stroll down this road, however, the more I realize just how little thought people actually give to what love really means.  The common criteria seems to all be the same.  People look for what they want in the right here and right now.  Looks fade … and faster than most like to acknowledge.  Activities that you like to do today, is not going to be possible further down the road and lets not even get into asking for someone who is “loving” … I surely hope no one is looking for a wife beater as a husband.

Getting back to the topic at hand.  I am not here to school the masses on how to treat the disabled, as nice as it would be to be able to do that, I’m not that delusional … I hope my shrink is reading this.   Neither am I here to ask the whole world to hold my hand as I cry “woe is me” over the challenges of my day to day life, that I will leave for a different blog.  What I am attempting to do, is to explore the depths of the challenges that I as a disabled person face in my quest to find the love of my life and to chronicle the pitfalls, revelations and possibilities.  I hope in the process, my insights may assist those in the disabled community, raise awareness of the difficulties we face in the quest to find happiness and maybe even receive some insights and/or sage advice from any who happen to read this.  For now however, a brief introduction to the dilemma should suffice.

Sorry, you can’t walk so I’m not interested”

Well, I’m not interested in someone that has the pain threshold of a two year old.

Lets face it, dating is not easy, for anyone. I hear you say, “Yeah but that chick has men falling at her feet.” Oh don’t you fret my friend, she has her obstacles just like anyone else. The big difference unfortunately between her and the stunner next to her, is she is not in a wheel-chair. That being the simplest example I could come up with, but think about it. There are most definitely still men who would fall over their feet to ‘hook up’ with the disabled girl but by how much do you think her options are reduced? Fifty percent? maybe seventy? She will find love, eventually, but like with everything in life when you are disabled, you have to work twice as hard at getting what you want. What the guy who rejected her don’t realize is that her disability makes her twice as committed, strong of heart and more likely to stick with you through troubled times than the able-bodied looker next to her.

You don’t look disabled, why do you use a handicap spot!”

Well you don’t look like an idiot, so why are you acting like one …

Believe it or not, but the problem is compounded for those of us who have physical disabilities but are still able bodied despite it. We look normal, we act normal but there are significant challenges in our lives. Because we look normal, we get that second look that the lady in the wheel chair didn’t get and this might have you thinking, “Hold on, that actually sounds like a win rather than a loss”.  I wish that was the case.  Everything’s coming up roses until it has gone past the phase of “get to know each others hobbies, interests and aspirations”. By now your a bit more comfortable and have unlocked the gates to your heart but then, the real life questions starts to flow and you have no choice but to reveal your disability in all it’s mortifying glory. We start falling through the cracks into unwarranted stereotypes and being dismissed based on preconceptions about how we came to be in our current state of affairs. So revisit your previous question and ask your self, which hurts more. To be ignored straight up or to open up to someone just to have them kick you to the curb like a stray dog.

You have a mental disorder?  Get away psycho!”

You don’t have one?  Go away retard …

Psychological disorders are one of the most difficult things to cop up to.  No one want’s to get categorized into one of the hundreds and hundreds of stereotypes out there.  One advantage, is it’s easier to hide than any of the other a fore mentioned scenarios, you’d think …  Hiding your mental health problems can cause even worse ramifications than outing it.  Everything in your life is connected to it and at some point or another, it is going to filter through and you will end up stuck with a stereotype as they won’t realize it’s due to an illness.  On the other hand, outing your self might still get you the exact same result but at least, you have some semblance of a chance … that is, if the person doesn’t just bolt on you the moment you do.

The biggest tragedy of all is that most don’t realize the reality of some of these conditions.  There are conditions out there that, as much as it debilitates you and make you an outcast in the eyes of society, it has the peculiar side effect of blessing the person with almost prodigy like skills and talents.  The sad truth is of course that most of the time the person is so debilitated that they can’t take advantage of these skills and talents but let me tell you, the best medication for these conditions is none other than love and affection.  On their own, the person can’t function and in a relationship it can be hell on a partner … “Hang on now, I thought you just said it helps ?” only if their partner know about that little nugget.  They need active support and encouragement to spread their wings.  Most have built up a fear of trying to use their talents and skills due to the conditions propensity to lead the person to loose control.  If they don’t have someone there to stop them from flying too high, they burn up in the sun.  Manage to do just that little bit for your partner and you will be astonished at the returns.

That’s harsh, I’ll read up on it.  Lets see how things go.”

Um, one more thing …

So now we come to my level …  I have both a physical disability, although I am able-bodied, and a psychological disorder.  Oh, and one more thing, my physical disability at times moves into the realm of the lady in the wheelchair.  The challenges seems insurmountable at times and whether I will ever find a happy and fulfilling relationship, I don’t know … and maybe I don’t want to know.  Human beings are not made to be alone.  The only real fulfillment, is in the arms of a loved one.

So, in closing, let me just say this.  If ever you have a question, an insight or an experience to share or even a writing prompt if you’d like, I welcome it with open arms.  The wisest man is not the one who knows all, it’s the one who knows he can never know it all and the only way to grow is through knowledge shared.

~ LM ~