Dating with a Disability: Part 2

Dating with a Disability: Part 2
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dating


Second in a series. Read the first here.

It’s no mystery that romantic relationships take effort. They’re not always full of sunshine and flowers. They require good communication, patience, trust, and understanding. That’s not easy even for the regular able-bodied couple. If you or your partner happens to have a disability, this can bring about an entirely different set of difficulties. In this two-part series, I am sharing my experiences about dating with a disability. Last week, I went into detail about the hardships of navigating online dating.

In today’s column, I will talk about my relationship with my boyfriend, Will, and the challenges that we’ve faced and overcome together.

Leah and Will. (Courtesy of Leah Leilani)
Last December, I decided to make a profile on a dating app called Plenty of Fish. After hearing good things about it, I wanted to try my luck. In the month that I had been on the site, I talked to more than a few guys, but none of them was a hit. That was until one guy, in particular, sent me a message. His profile said his name was William, but it didn’t reveal anything about his personality or interests. There was only one picture of him, and it was blurry. He seemed sketchy, so I didn’t answer him back.
In his next message, he wrote: “this is your one and only chance to get to know me.” Quickly, I decided to take the opportunity and see where things went. Over the next couple of weeks, I would occasionally drop hints about my disease. Alas, he never persisted in asking me questions. One day, out of the blue, he sent me a text and asked if I would like to meet him at a restaurant by the beach for dinner. I answered by saying yes and that I would be the girl in the decorated wheelchair. It was four days after Christmas, and my chair was still decked out in tinsel. He had just learned that the girl he’d been talking to for weeks was disabled. I thought there was no way he’d want to meet me now. However, he surprised me when he said he’d see me at the restaurant at 5 o’clock.
For our third date, we decided to go to a local bowling alley. Now, I know what you’re thinking. That bowling and wheelchairs don’t exactly go together. Well, most bowling alleys have a contraption that acts like a ramp for the ball. I called the bowling alley beforehand to reserve one just for us. As the date went along, Will got better and better about picking up the ball and moving the ramp for me. We even playfully strategized about how best to position the ramp to roll a strike. As we crossed the street to a frozen yogurt place, Will started to ask me about the specifics of my disease. He wondered aloud that if I exerted all the strength in my arm, would it affect the energy in the rest of my body. I giggled and gave a definite “yes.”
As the last five months have flown by, our relationship has grown and blossomed. We’ve been able to navigate the obstacles that have come our way. I have those obstacles to thank for making us stronger together. If I’ve had a particularly energy-depleting week, he knows that I will have to rest. We are both perfectly fine with staying inside and cuddling up to watch Netflix. Sometimes, I am so tired that I am unable to go out to get something to eat. In these instances, I am grateful when Will offers to bring me food. Recently, he has learned which medications I take, so now he can arrange them for me when I need them. At first, I was opposed to the idea of my boyfriend also being my caretaker. I worried that my life would get too complicated for him and he’d become more of a caretaker and less of a lover. Now I realize that it brings us closer and I cherish the fact that he wants to help.
It is not impossible to find someone who loves you and sees past your ailments. Someone who wants you so much that they will go through the motions with you.
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