You’ve cleared the dating hurdle and are now in a committed relationship. This is the “honeymoon” faze where I bet you are using plenty of pet names, cuddling, and taking so many pictures that you are blowing up your friends Facebook feeds.
Don’t lie, I know you would!
Every love song reminds you of them and things seem perfect. It is going good for now and you should enjoy it because before you know it, that pesky “disability” thing is going to wedge its way in again.
I can picture it now….
I am out in public with my super cute, abled, boyfriend. Maybe we are out on a date, or just out shopping, or running errands. We will be holding hands and smiling at each other, minding our own business, when suddenly someone approaches. They look between the both of us and smile cautiously before turning to my boyfriend to say:
“It’s so nice of you to be her caretaker. That is wonderful of you!” My hand tightens around his, fire rising to my face. He looks back to me before responding.
“Actually, I am her boyfriend and I am very lucky.”
The stranger appears embarrassed, confused, and flabbergasted.
“Oh… well… um,” they will mutter some excuse of an apology then make a quick but painful exit.
CP, you know what really makes being in a relationship hard when I’ve got you riding shotgun the whole time?
When abled people can’t comprehend that, yes, this attractive, abled person is in fact my boyfriend.
Many still don’t understand how a relationship between a disabled person and an abled person could possibly work. Some even find it completely wrong and disturbing for the disabled to date abled people, or for them to date at all!
Suddenly, I am thrown back into the same whirlwind of questions.
How could you be in a relationship?
What would you be able to offer?
Who would be attracted to you?
Why not date someone who is disabled?
But isn’t he more of a caretaker than a boyfriend?
It’s like I can never escape it, CP! I am constantly having to explain and justify my relationships and my decision not to date within the disabled community.
Sometimes I feel more like a broken record than a person with a disability.
Honestly, it is very heartbreaking and damaging.
CP, you hear these questions repeated over and over and suddenly they become….
How can I be in a relationship?
This relationship can’t be real.
What can I possibly have to offer?
They are more a caretaker than a boyfriend.
Who is going to find me attractive?
My disability is not attractive.
Now I am feeling completely worthless and insecure while I second guess everything in my life. Now I am crying to my boyfriend and he has to and reassure me that yes, I am worthy. Yes, I am attractive. Yes, this relationship is real. It will take a while but, eventually, I will calm down and realize the truth all over again.
At least until the next “incident.”
And while he is staying up all night comforting me and listening to me cry, his heart will break because he can reassure me a thousand times, but he cannot erase all the ableism in the world and he cannot make my disability go away.
He can only help me to realize that I am deserving enough of this relationship.
If I am being honest, being in a disabled-abled relationship means that you do things a little different than others but, that doesn’t make the relationship any less meaningful.
So what’s it like being with someone who is disabled?
Well, it depends on the person and the disability, but it is just like any other relationship.
You hold hands.
You stay up all night texting.
Your heart skips a beat when you think of their smile.
You learn all their favorite things.
The only difference is that learning about me and my body also means that they learn about you.
Hi, I am really happy to see you, please ignore my involuntary shaking.
I kicked you? No, I am not mad, that’s just my muscle tone.
LOL, that joke was really funny! Ooops, I just drooled a little bit.
I also have this thing called a startle reflex.
Spazzing, it’s ok.
Kind of like meet the parents, or meet the child, except it’s more like meet the disability!
CP, this is my boyfriend.
Boyfriend, this is CP.
We are kind of a package deal.
CP, I know you make things in life a little difficult and different, but are things really as bad as people make it seem?
Think about it….
I have CP so my boyfriend helps me carry things and open doors.
But when boyfriends open doors and carry bags for their abled girlfriends, it’s called being a gentlemen.
Why is it ok to do these things as a gentlemen, but as soon as it’s to help someone with a disability it is seen as a burden?
Because one is a choice and one is a need?
Wake up! You should WANT to do these things for people whether they have a disability or not. It’s polite and shows you care, and does it really impact your life that drastically?
Seriously, try being the disabled one in a relationship first.
The truth is, there is nothing special about this situation. If I wasn’t in a relationship, I would find a way to carry my own things and open my own doors. What do you think I did before I was in a relationship?
But I do appreciate the help, and I will expect my partner to offer that help if I need it.
Now, I am not going to lie and say that having CP is always easy, because it’s not. And I am not going to say that CP will never put stress on a relationship, or cause a few disagreements, but what relationship doesn’t have a few minor issues here and there?
But why does that make my relationship troubles any different than the typical relationship?
Because abled people believe that a disability is an unfortunate burden?
CP, when people think a disability is some embarrassing flaw, they tend to regard any future boyfriend of mine as “Someone very special” or even a hero!
I can hear them now…..
“Oh, she’s your girlfriend? Wow! You are such a strong person to deal with this every day. It is wonderful of you to love her… you are such an inspiration to everyone!”
Ugh! Inspiration barf!
There is nothing special or inspirational about my relationships!
The only difference in my relationships is that one of us has CP and the other one doesn’t!
There is nothing heroic about my boyfriend behaving like a decent human being and treating me like I am equal.
Yes, I applaud him for not being an able-minded idiot, but he is not some badass superman that swoops down and rescues me from my “unfortunate fate.”
He is human and so am I.
People think that being in a disabled-abled relationship is so different from a “normal” relationship, but I am about to show you the truth.
In a disabled relationship you may have to carry bags and open doors.
In an abled relationship you open doors and call it gentlemen behavior.
In a disabled relationship you may have to help your partner into a car.
In an abled relationship you’d call this a caring act.
In a disabled relationship you may have to assist your partner with eating.
In an abled relationship you feed your partner and call it romantic.
In a disabled relationship you may have to assist your partner in the shower.
In an abled relationship you shower with your partner and call it sexy.
Not all these things necessarily happen in every disabled-abled relationship, but it’s important to realize that while you may need to help your partner with some of these daily things, they happen in every other relationship as well. The only difference is your point of view. So maybe you should change the way you think…
Your partner needs help eating?
Make it a romantic dinner for two, maybe add some flirty eye contact!
Your partner needs you to carry something heavy?
Remember it is polite to help. I am sure they will thank you. You may even earn yourself a kiss.
Your partner needs help in the shower?
Join them and explore your intimacy! Who doesn’t like a sexy, steamy, shower for two?
But remember, in these situations, your partner never “owes” you anything for your help! If you need to be rewarded for good behavior, than you are not mature enough for this relationship!
CP, being in a disabled-abled relationship is nothing special. It is not unheard of, or wrong. It is not inspirational and it does not make anyone a hero. It is just like a “normal” relationship. It is unique to the individuals and has its ups and downs. It should be loving and caring and, despite what others think, not focus on the needs of the persons disability. No two people are exactly alike, just like no two relationships are exactly alike. A disability is not a flaw and is not a burden. It is a unique characteristic of the person you love.
Relationships are difficult.
Whether you have a disability or not.