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 ~