I remember the first time Allan spoke to me. It was two days before my 21st birthday and the day after I had been out with my sister and some friends for dinner and drinks.
It was during the time when Myspace and emo style selfies were all the rage. My Myspace profile photo was a black and white image of me sipping the cocktail from my birthday night out. The pink umbrella in my drink was the only thing in colour in the photo. How arty, right?
It was that arty photo that caught Allan’s eye and after reading my profile on Myspace, he sent me a message. We instantly clicked and began messaging back and forth, every day for months.
Dating When You Have A disability
Nowadays we live in a world that revolves around social media and living our lives online. So it’s pretty much the norm to meet and date people online these days. With so many dating apps available, I honestly don’t know how people are able to choose which one to use. We’ve probably all heard the horror stories of online dating, but it can also be amazing for so many people.
However, online dating when you have a disability can bring a whole heap of new challenges. I’ve had many disabled and able-bodied friends try dating apps with mixed outcomes. When you are disabled, one of the challenges is the old dilemma of whether to be upfront about your disability from the get-go or not.
Personally, I didn’t have any mention of my disability anywhere on my Myspace profile. Not because I was deliberately trying to hide it from anyone or embarrassed by it. More so because it was primarily a social networking site for music fans, artists and bands. I didn’t see any reason to add that I am a wheelchair user or have Muscular Dystrophy amongst a list of my favourite bands.
Myspace was never a ‘dating site’, but it was where we unexpectedly fell in love.
Is There Ever A Right Time To Reveal You Have A Disability?
At the time, little did I know I was about to meet someone I was going to connect with on a deeper level than our common interest in similar music. The more we got to know each other, the more our feelings grew for one another. Ultimately making it so much harder to tell him about my disability after months of getting to know each other.
There was a huge possibility that once I told him I was in a wheelchair that it would be too much to accept. Would he think I was being sneaky, would he ‘ghost’ me and never want to meet me, let alone speak to me again? It was never my intention to hide my disability and never in a million years did I think I was going to meet someone on Myspace. I didn’t see myself getting a boyfriend or anyone being interested in me that way.
It was incredibly hard for me to bite the bullet and tell Allan, but it was long overdue, but also a massive relief when I did tell him. It was a take it or leave it kind of situation. If he didn’t accept me and my disability, then I knew he wasn’t the one for me.
Once I sent that message explaining I had a disability, the wait for his reply felt like a lifetime, in reality, I didn’t have to wait too long as he got back to me really quickly.
Accepting All Of Me: Disability And All
Initially, my message took Allan a little by surprise. He remembers reading the message and then going downstairs to speak to his mum about it as he had told her all about me throughout the past few months. They both said how difficult it must have been for me to tell him. Even though I had just dropped a massive bombshell on his lap, he was still thinking and putting my feelings first.
To cut a long story short, Allan was absolutely fine about my disability and was in no way “put off” by my wheelchair. He got to know me so much leading up to that point and had deep feelings for me that the wheelchair wasn’t an issue. Of course, he asked questions about my disability, especially as he had never heard of Muscular Dystrophy before.
At the time we lived forty miles apart and because I couldn’t drive we decided he would come to my house for our first ‘date’. This was the first time meeting each other and I remember asking if he wanted something to drink. He wanted a cup of tea, so being the lovely host that I am, I told him he would have to make it himself because I wasn’t physically able to. That’s when the “caring” role began and has never stopped. He has been making his own tea, not to mention all drinks and meals for us both ever seen. Haha.
Do I regret not being upfront about my disability on Myspace? Honestly, no, I don’t.
Do I wish I was more open by telling Allan about my disability much sooner? Of course, I do, but during those months of Allan not knowing about my disability, it allowed us to get to know each other really well by focusing on other things.
Although I don’t regret it, I don’t recommend lying or hiding your disability. If someone can only see your disability and not accept you for who you are then they are not the one for you.
Fast forward thirteen years and we are still very happy and stronger than ever. It wasn’t all plain sailing though.
Disability, Sex & Dating
Being in a relationship with a disabled person in many ways is just like being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t have a disability. At the same time, there are also many challenges (mainly accessibility), but the basics remain the same.
It can also be physically and emotionally demanding being the partner and carer to your other half. Keeping the magic alive while carrying out caring duties such as providing personal care and a million other things, can be a task in itself. Personally, we have learnt to make light of most things Allan has to do for me, whether that’s taking me to the toilet, getting me ready for bed and so on. It’s part of our life and it’s just our ‘normal’.
We’d be lying if we said it was perfect all the time. Of course, it’s not. It’s not possible to be like that 24/7; we are human and it’s natural to experience frustration and that’s okay. Imagine being annoyed at someone then having to ask them to take you to the toilet five minutes later. You learn to quickly get over things.
For our relationship, my disability has allowed us to gain more understanding, patience, consideration and empathy for each other. First of all, he is my boyfriend, but he is also my carer. I believe this has made us stronger, closer and more in tune with each other. He knows exactly what I need without me needing to ask. We do everything young couples do like going to gigs, travelling and generally keeping busy and active.
Changing Attitudes Towards Disability, Sex and Dating
As I’ve already mentioned, I know people who have used dating apps and are disabled. The first question they are usually asked is “can you have sex?”. I’ve never had any experience of using dating apps, so thankfully I’ve never been asked this before, but why is it that able-bodied people assume our disability makes us incapable of having sex?
There is such a massive taboo around disability, sex and dating. We can’t possibly be disabled and sexual. Wrong! Disabled people can have the same feelings, desires and all that good stuff just like everyone else, disability or no disability.
We need to see more disabled bodies in the media, on TV and marketing campaigns to break down these barriers and challenge misconceptions. Maybe then attitudes towards disability, sex and dating will change.
This post is part of the @MDBloggersCrew “After Dark” collab! Check out the links below if you want to read more blog posts about disability, sex and dating.
My Tinder Experience – Ross Lannon
How Online Dating made me feel asexual as a Disabled Woman – Fi Anderson
Valentine’s Special Q & A – Carrie Aimes
Let’s Talk About Sex Baby – Kerry Thompson