My experience of love with a disability

It’s Valentine’s day – the official day of love! Or just another commercialised event to splash out on your other halves!

But for the rest of us singletons, it is just another day. I don’t normally discuss my love life or past relationships but as it is supposed to be a romantic day, I thought now is the time to give you an insight…

My history of love

Following TV presenter Phillip Schofield’s brave decision to announce that he is gay, I’ve decided to share some honest truths too.

“I’m a 26 year old virgin and I’ve never been in a relationship”

There. I’ve said it. In clear bold lettering for the world to read and I’m not ashamed to say it. Some of you may think it is funny. Some of you may feel sorry for me. Some of you may think this is true for all disabled people. Well all of this is wrong. I do not want you to laugh at me, pitty me or patronise me.

The reason I’m still single is because I’ve still not found Mr. Right and most of my life I’ve been focusing on my education and career.

I’ve only had two possible relationships in my life. The first was when I was aged 11 at primary school. I fancied a boy in my class and I asked him out. He said yes but after a week of chasing him around the playground trying to get him to kiss me, he dumped me.

After 10 years of no friends at my mainstream secondary school and no interest in any of the boys at Treloar’s, my next crush occured when I was 21 at my drama group. We were friends for over a year and got on great together. After a long time of consideration, and chickening out, I ended up asking him out over Facebook messenger. I crashed and burned that day. He said he wasn’t interested in me that way and can we just be friends. I was slightly heartbroken but we continued as friends and still have contact on Facebook.

At university, my social life was non-existent so trying to meet anyone there was impossible.

Next I tried a couple of dating websites, which started off with my friend Steph registering me on Plenty of Fish. I was reluctant but ended up giving it a try. Unfortunately nothing happened. I do vaguely remember reading one profile saying he loved Disney films though.

I then registered myself to Disability Match, which I discovered advertised on Disability Horizons. I think I used it for a couple of months then gave in. I either found people I already knew from school and college or people who were just weirdos. I had one guy message me saying we have the same taste in music but he was in his fifties – awkward. Another time, I spoke to a 29 year old guy for a few weeks. We even video chatted a couple of times. It later occurred to me he wasn’t the type for me and we didn’t have much in common. Plus I later found out that he was messaging my friend from school too.

My friend Steph then tried to convince me to apply for the television show The Undateables, where they match disabled people through dating agencies. I did consider it in the past but it appeared they mostly concentrate on people with learning disabilities and autism. Plus I’m not keen on broadcasting my love life on TV. However I world like the idea of signing up to a dating agency maybe one day… watch this space!

Since then I’ve not really bothered trying anything else and just been concentrating on work and other life commitments.

Does my disability effect me dating?

In all honesty, sometimes it does. I don’t want to think my disability can stop me dating and I don’t want the rest of society to think it does too. However, due to my current circumstances and complex needs, my disability has held me back from dating.

Firstly, my only realistic way to find a date is online. Because I have poor vision, I can’t see people so I don’t know what they look like, whether they’re smiling or waving at me, so people in public are less likely to approach me and I can’t approach them because I can’t see them. Whereas online, I can see their photos and read their bios. However, it’s harder to trust people online.

Secondly, when I’m out in public, I totally rely on others to support me driving my chair, reading menus, cutting up food, holding drinks and so on. I wouldn’t want my date to become my carer and feel like they’re looking after me. On the other hand, I don’t particularly want my carer there hearing our entire conversation. And even if my date was also disabled, I wouldn’t feel happy meeting with our carers there.

Moreover, I’m concerned about how I would handle the intermit part of a relationship. Without going into too much detail, I have poor hip and pelvic posture and cannot get my legs apart. I’m sure there are alternative ways but I’m unsure how to approch the subject with my potential other half when the time comes. Plus I feel anxious about getting my carers involved too.

The only other difficulty I may have with dating is not so much to do with my disability, but to do with the fact that I currently work from home. Therefore I don’t get to go out and meet people as much as I could if I was working in a sociable environment.

This is just my personal experience and does not reflect the romantic relationships of all disabled people. I know many disabled people who are in a long term relationship, engaged and married.

My love life in the future

Do I hope to fall in love and live happily ever after? Of course I do but it has to happen at the right time and in the right place.

I don’t have many preferences in a man, as long as he is aged 25-40, likes rock/alternative music, enjoys going to gigs/festivals and accepts my disability, that’s all I need.

Are you a disabled person in a relationship? Have you got any advice on how to get that perfect date? Or are you in a similar position to me and you are struggling to date because of your disability? Share your stories in the comments box or on social media.

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