Dating for people on disability
My partner and I, for example, spend a lot of time talking about the way disabled people who use mobility aids are treated.
She doesn’t know what it’s like to get on a crowded train with a cane and find that everyone is staring at her, but she’s willing to listen to how that feels for me.
“I told him during our first date that I was dealing with some health issues and he could either come along for the ride, or not,” says Lizz Schumer, a writer from New York City who has fibromyalgia, about the man who is now her husband.
When you’re a disabled person and your partner isn’t (or even if they are, but you don’t have the same disability), it often involves a lot of educating and emotional labor on the disabled person’s part.
What’s really critical is that she listens uncritically and believes me; if I tell her I’m extremely fatigued even after sleeping for twelve hours, she doesn’t ask me how that’s possible (because the answer is, of course, that I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and autism), she asks me how she can support me.
Non-disabled partners need to be understanding in a variety of situations, whether it’s in accessibility planning or navigating life together in an unaccommodating world.
Andrew Gurza, the host of Disability After Dark, a podcast about sexuality and disability, finds this happens to him often when it comes to date planning.
With my partner, I try to describe what I’m feeling; I might say that I’m in a lot of pain, but it’s mainly my upper body and walking is fine. Lizz explains, “If I’m having a high pain/fatigue day and don’t feel up to something (whether that’s a planned outing or just household responsibilities), it doesn’t help Nick support me if I don’t share that with him.It’s essential that our partners listen, believe us, empathize, and support us in whatever ways we need; that’s what non-disabled people in romantic relationships expect, and it shouldn’t be any different for someone with a disability.Alaina Leary is an editor, social media manager, and activist living in Boston, Massachusetts.“Although he’s encouraging in all things, he never questions how I’m feeling on a certain day, whether my pain or exhaustion can be ignored, or whether I’d be capable of more if I pushed harder,” Vix Jensen-Collins, a writer, activist, and creator with cerebral palsy, says about her husband.
It sounds simple, but many non-disabled people aren’t willing to actively listen when disabled people are talking about our experiences.
It’s invaluable to me when my partner is willing to adapt in similar ways.