Relationships & Sex

What I have learnt about being in a relationship with a disability

Relationships can be hard work, for everyone, disabled or not. But being disabled can bring other dimensions to a relationship, both good and bad. It can also teach you many things about the other person and yourself. Hear from one reader, Fiona, about what she has learnt from being in a loving relationship.

My name is Fiona and I am 26 years old and have Hemiplegia, which affects my mobility on one side of my body.

I met my boyfriend in January this year through a mutual friend. The friend came to me first saying that he wanted to play match-maker with a great guy he knows. I thought about it and decided, ‘what the hell, let’s give it a go’.

After being given his number, we texted for a while and then decided on a date to meet. As soon as he smiled at me I melted into a gooey puddle of crush.

Texting him had sparked some feelings before the date, but actually seeing him and getting to talk properly for a couple of hours solidified my impression – I was right to be on this date. I knew then that he was going to be a very special person in my life.

We ended up having four dates in a week and progressed rather quickly to an official relationship. I knew after just four or five dates that I love him. But it took a little longer to actually say it.

We’ve done a lot of sight-seeing together, and it was on a hill in a forest park, sitting cuddled together and looking at the magnificent view, that I decided to tell him. I was scared. I asked myself, ‘how on earth did I truly love someone a few dates in?’

But he is good for me and I feel adored and fully accepted. Hell, I knew early on that he would do anything to make life easier for me so long as it’s realistic.

We’re now living together and have done so for a few months. He puts me first, in a number of ways. I honestly could not feel more loved, listened to, respected, supported and protected. We are very happy.

What I have learnt

We’ve learned many things together. For one, I’ve taught him about Hemiplegia, including what I’m doing to help myself and what he can do to support me.

I’ve also learned to discuss my emotions more. He can tell when something is wrong with me, but I have grown up feeling the need to squish down my feelings and hurts and ignore them.

Generally speaking, we’re learning what we need separately, in terms of having our own space and hobbies. so that we can work best as a couple. This includes discovering what is good for us, what doesn’t work and anything new to try in the bedroom. Communication is key, as with any couple, but especially for me so that I don’t injure myself.

Unfortunately, my finding love and pushing for independence has led to my being rejected by some of my family. But I have my boyfriend and his family have accepted me wholeheartedly. We also have a wonderful group of friends together who give us great support.

Disability might hamper your ability to do something or prevent you from doing something altogether. But everyone deserves love and there is someone out there for you – ‘able’ or not. There will be someone who will love you as you are – if that’s what you desire.

  1. Learn to love yourself and feel as confident as you can about yourself. People come and go, but being who you are is the most important.
  2. Being disabled does not define who you can date. I’ve seen people question if it’s socially acceptable to date ‘able’ people if you are ‘disabled’. That is like asking whether white people can date Indian/African etc people. All that matters is that you both have feelings for each other. Love finds you.
  3. Be open and honest with each other. Have those talks about what is and isn’t possible for you and work out other activities/things you can do – whether that’s sexual activity or not. Never be afraid to ask for assistance or say that’s not good for you and you’d prefer this instead.
  4. If they’re jumping the gun a bit, tell them. Conversely, if they’re hesitant to go further and you want to, tell them. They may just be nervous, but that’s okay.
  5. If he offers to carry you for a while because the cold is getting into your bones, let him. It’s great! This is obviously specific to me, I have to admit. But allowing your partner to help you in any way they can is fine to do – it’s not a sign of weakness. If they love you and want to help, let them.

By Fiona

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