Dating & Disability: Introduction to Series

dating and disability

In this series, we hope to feature stories and interviews with couples we know and admire and touch on some situations unique to the couple, other issues may be universal and faced by everyone, irrespective of age, health or geography.

To kick off this series, we have roped in a good friend – Scott DeStephanis – an expert on relationships

to provide an introductory article which we feature below. But first, let us introduce Scott.

Scott DeStephanis is a relationship coach for men and helps men establish and re-establish powerful connections with their partners by removing any emotional barriers to intimacy. When not coaching clients, Scott enjoys reading, going to the gym and most importantly, spending time with his wife. You can check out more about Scott at www.mensrelationshipcoaching.com

Relationships, no matter how you look or what you have to deal with in your life are complicated. In asking to write this piece, I was asked to highlight what things could be different if you were dealing with a disability in your relationship.

I think there are a number of things that could be different, but I think there are also a number of things that would be the same. The dynamic between people doesn’t really change no matter what difficulties or challenges each party has to deal with. So when it comes to the masculine and feminine dynamics between couples, my belief is that things won’t be different regardless of what challenges each party is facing. Fundamentally men are still men and women are still women, and each of us has a masculine and feminine side and the challenges that are presented to us through relating to one another are not unique to anyone.

Whether you are facing a disability or not, if you are in a relationship with another person, you are still going to need to deal with the complexities of a human being.  You will still have to deal with your partner’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and beliefs.  You are going to have to find out what they like, what they don’t like, what turns them on and off, what makes them happy and what makes them sad, what do they think is funny, what makes them angry and the list goes on.

Now that being said, I think that fundamentally if you or your partner has a disability, there are probably a few things in the physical and emotional world that would likely be different than those without.

The first one would be role reversals.  The traditional stereotype of the man being the bread winner and the woman being the one who takes care of the household may not be possible here. I know this is a bit of a traditionalist view point and there are many women out there who are the bread winners in their family, but nonetheless, for a lot of men, being able to support the family is a responsibility they crave and want, and not being able to do that could be a major blow to a lot of men if that’s something that they are unable to do.  Furthermore, it can also be a major issue for a lot of women if it’s something that they don’t desire.  Believe it or not, a lot of women today would still like to have their man be someone who’s bringing home the bacon even with all the steps we’ve taken towards gender equality.

The next one is sex. Sex by itself could be a huge issue whether it’s the actual physical act of being able to perform but also the psychological aspects of it as well.  When you become intimate with someone, you are in essence allowing that person to enter your world.  If you are dealing with a disability, perhaps you aren’t fully comfortable being that vulnerable and open with another person. On top of that, I believe that we have such stigma around people with disabilities having sex in that we almost condition them to be non-sexual.

While doing some research for this article, I found numerous posts and links from people with disabilities talking about how their parents wouldn’t talk to them about sex or don’t want them to engage in sex because they thought it would overly complicate their life. While I can understand that, my belief is that if you are human, you are a sexual creature and to deny anyone the possibility of that is cutting off part of your humanity.

However, I did also look into who was successful in the dating world and I found that the ones who were willing to be open about their disability and own every part of who they are, had the most success with regards to dating.

The last thing to keep in mind during dating is accessibility.  If you are going out with someone, be sure that the place you are going is fully accessible for you and your partner.  A lot of restaurants and other places aren’t the greatest when it comes to being accessible for all people.  As a result, a lot of cool places might be off limits and so checking up on these things could save you some headaches in that regard.

It’s my belief that if you are committed to your relationship, you can make it work no matter what. It will take work no doubt, but every relationship takes work. The one thing I’d recommend is to ask yourself, “what is the work that needs to be done in order to have this relationship work?” If you can ask that question and answer honestly, I believe you will no doubt be successful.

So here’s to you having an awesome relationship!

Ramakrishnan Viswanathan
About Ramakrishnan Viswanathan 20 Articles

I am an Indian immigrant to Canada, in my fifties. I currently live in Toronto. I have a medical condition called Spino Cerebellar Ataxia (SCA) and use a power wheelchair. Worked for 25+ years in 3 different countries, in banking and investments.

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