Dealing with unfounded fears about dating someone in a wheelchair
He’s a wonderful man and I like him a lot, but I have serious fears of dating someone who is confined to a wheelchair.
I don’t want to be insensitive, but I’m really concerned about our sex life, and how my social life broadly will be affected.
This is a summary of one of about 20 relationship advice questions we receive every week from readers of our various platforms, including this column.
Since we seldom offer our views on this subject, we decided to take the opportunity.
It’s understandable why someone would have this concern, even in 2020.
Being anxious about how you relate to someone confined to a wheelchair is a genuine concern.
It says nothing about people in wheelchairs, but a lot about your genuineness to connect with someone in a physical condition you’ve never dealt with in your love life.
Dating any individual isn’t easy.
Dating someone with a physical disability comes with its own set of issues.
Many people are apprehensive about talking openly about entering into a romantic relationship with a person who has a disability.
Understandably, this is mostly due to people not wanting to be seen or come across as politically incorrect and insensitive.
It is totally justifiable to have anxieties about entering into such a relationship.
You’ll have to have the mental fortitude and wisdom to handle such a relationship.
In the course of our daily work as relationship coaches, we come across numerous relationships like this.
Moreover, we, ourselves have a family member living with a physical disability.
To answer the question, it really is your choice.
However, there are a couple of things our physically disabled cousin taught us when it comes to dating.
Treat him normally and don’t assume he can’t navigate through life in his condition.
He will welcome genuine interest and you respecting his agency to share his own feelings, experiences and dreams.
Trust him to tell you what’s good for him and what he needs.
One of the biggest frustrations we hear able-bodied partners express to people living with disabilities is that they did what they thought was something considerate and compassionate, only to have their disabled partner respond with bewilderment, sadness or even anger.
A good bit of relationship advice for everyone, no matter who or where, is to just ask what someone needs instead of assuming you already know.
Don’t tell him what he should or shouldn’t be doing, eating or drinking. He already knows.
He does need to let his hair down every now and then, and even eat dairy or gluten.
He needs to go out alone sometimes, without you worried he may be run over by a car.
He’s as independent and stubborn as you are.
If he needs your help, trust him to ask for it.
Stop trying to think for, and pity him as though you know what it is like to be in his condition.
Just because he can’t be on the dance-floor, doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to go to the party.
If you get this one point, you would have averted half your frustration and potential conflicts.
We deal with cases like this often, and find that the able-bodied partner is in fact more concerned about their own image and peer perceptions.
The question is, are you comfortable being seen in social spaces like parties with your physically disabled partner?
Like any partner, he wants to be incorporated as part of your life on all levels, and you need to learn to do things as a couple.
If he’s physically or mentally up to it, he’ll be there.
But if he doesn’t want to be there, that’s fine too.
It’s not an end-all if he doesn’t want to see your friend who makes wheelchair jokes or the aunt who squats down to talk to him on eye level like he’s a child.
Your sex life will be just fine. Why wouldn’t it be?
Are you planning to stop communicating what you both need and want?
Are you going to not reciprocate or gloss over his needs and wants?
Those are deal-breakers and intimacy-killers even between abled-bodied individuals.
Chances are it’s going to bring down the mood if you’re not both enjoying it.
Yes, some people with disabilities have special considerations that they’ll want — or not want — to let you in on. But that’s part of the communication process we’re referring to.
In conclusion, the fears and anxieties of entering into a relationship with a person who has a physical disability can be quite disempowering.
We sometimes forget we may begin a relationship as able-bodied partners, but later one of us could be confined to a wheelchair due to an accident. What will you do then?
Don’t deny yourself a potentially awesome relationship because of unfounded anxieties.
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