A Man’s View – Choosing to Fall in Love with a Disabled Woman
After posting my article titled “Romance Based on (Dis)Ability” I had a few requests to hear about romance from a man’s perspective. My audience wants to hear what goes through a man’s head in regards to romance with a disabled woman. Well, this article is just that. I have submitted questions to three men in three different scenarios. Knowing not everyone is a writer and wanting to keep the authenticity of it being “in their own words” I have decided that a traditional Q&A will be best. This week I am going to publish my husband’s Q&A. The angle/scenario that he is coming from is “Choosing to Fall in Love with a Disabled Woman”.
How has your love changed as you transitioned from dating women without disabilities to being married to one with a disability?
Rick – My respect has grown greater [for disabled women] because of Ashly’s willingness, drive, and her love for me. My patience has improved because I respect her. She appreciates me, and putting her needs first has taught me patience. Overall, my outlook on marriage has improved and marriage seems easier. I have never dated any other disabled person so I don’t know about being married to them instead but in being married to Ashly she enjoys the little things. She is easy to make laugh, things don’t drag her down easy, and she can cope with things much better than other women. We don’t have “jobs” in this marriage we work together and that makes ours stronger than other relationships. Ashly tries so hard I can’t ever say “I can’t” around her she does more than any woman with two legs I’ve met.
Do you ever feel frustrated with having to be in the role of caretaker? Explain…
Rick -Yes, sometimes. Like when I have to drop what I am doing to meet Ashly’s demands. She thinks they need done “right now” and it is hard to drop what I feel is important to do what she wants. She can be pretty demanding sometimes and we both have priority items that need [to be] completed, and when they are both equally important it can be frustrating since I am only one person. I feel so much that if I could just take on my wife’s problems it would make her life so much better. Ashly has so much potential and tries so hard, I just can’t be both places at once. I have to learn to put my own needs aside sometimes.
After being married for 5 years do you feel dating an abled woman vs being married to a disabled one affects the core of a relationship?
Rick -Yes, but in a great way. Our core is so much stronger than most marriages because you know that you must work together in order to make life work. In my family there was no core to our relationships so I didn’t come with a good skill set to give to Ashly. We have had to create our own and couples that are married much longer than Ashly and I seem to have a lot of blank spaces. I know ours will only get better no matter what people say.
Men are created to build and fix things. As a man how do you deal with and handle being unable to “fix” your wife’s disability?
Rick -Not being able to fix the disability is very hard. It is crazy knowing I can’t do anything. For example, imagine being [very] young again and wanting to help your dad and he tells you you’re not allowed, that you’re too little, only grown ups can help…take that feeling times 100 and that’s how I feel. Take the same feeling times 1,000,000 and that’s how Ashly feels. I handle it as best I can by fixing the things that I can like helping her when she is physically hurt, planning our schedules ahead of time, canceling plans if she needs that, arranging the house to help her get what she needs, holding her when she is struggling. A big part of this isn’t just her physical health but also mental. It wears her down mentally and emotionally so some days it can be like juggling.
Do you get bored with not being able to do more physical activities (i.e. hiking, dancing, walking far, etc.) together?
Rick -Not bored just sad because Ashly is able to do anything she wants she just may not enjoy the more physical things. If anything it makes our marriage stronger. We enjoy the little things in life (talking, playing games, and working in the yard)…how many wives get truly excited to work outside in the yard? Ashly does and I get to enjoy that about her every day, what a blessing.
Does attraction change with physical deformities?
Rick -I don’t understand this question; it bothers me. I’m attracted to my wife and I don’t get why a leg would change anything? I’m short but that doesn’t change whether or not I am an attractive person. Attraction is based on what? Like God’s love for us, I don’t feel like love sees any physical deformities, but even before I fell in love with her I was attracted to her when I would see her at her apartment or walking to her car. At first physical intimacy did make me wonder about how I would handle this and what I would need to do to make the experience enjoyable for her. I had never been with a disabled woman so I was a little nervous too. But I let Ashly take the lead and found quickly that there was nothing different in the end at all.
How do you feel your relationship is special before God and honoring to Him?
Rick -I feel that a lot of people think we may not be equal. I feel like we are because we pull together. Like the mules that work the field, one must always lead and take the first step. Sometimes I take that first step and lead in certain areas of our marriage and in other areas she takes the first step and leads. But in the end we are pulling the same load and we are right there together. I feel like our marriage imitates Jesus and the church because we are forced to work closer than others and we have to get along on a much baser level than most couples.
How do you feel society and “model bodies” create an unhealthy standard of what love/physical attraction really is?
Rick -I have always despised the way society tells men what is attractive leaving no room for what they might see. Models are fake, they are not real. Real life women have flaws and they eat and have curves and there is beauty in that. Real women are beautiful. Just like an antique is beautiful because of the flaws it shows (scratches, dents, etc.) and is valued on those things I feel the same little imperfections make women beautiful. Knowing what I know now about the depth and character of a disabled woman I see these women as rare. They have so much more love in their hearts than I have ever seen in any able- bodied woman (not that it isn’t there just that it is so intense). You could put my wife in the room with any model and I would choose my wife every time because she outshines in a way that I can’t explain. I guess I feel you are never deformed because God has formed you.
What would you say to a young disabled and single girl who may feel love will not ever find her?
Rick -Find a church if you don’t already belong to one. Pray and follow your heart to what God tells you. Love will find you; you never find love [being] alone. You will know when God has brought you your guardian angel; that is what he will have to be for you, guarding your heart and [guarding] his love for you because the world judges. When that man comes you will know and know God is right there. Don’t let your disability determine your relationship. Don’t be fooled by the fakes (there will be men who say they want to take care of you and make your life better, just like people pretend to be the Messiah), know your God, know your heart, and always believe love WILL find you.
How would you define romance? Do you feel it is still possible being married to a woman with a disability?
Rick -Romance is not just about sex it is about the time you spend together. Time spent talking, laughing, sharing special moments together, going for walks. To define romance is endless because if everything you do is out of love then you are being romantic. Yes it is possible to be romantic with Ashly, I think she has a hard time seeing that I’m being romantic but it is possible. I do have to work on my skills, coming from a broken home my whole life I will say it has been a challenge.
Are you ever ashamed in public when people stare at your spouse in a bad way because of her disability?
Rick -No, not ashamed of Ashly, I’m ashamed of the people that do stare in a bad way. HOW DARE people think in that way? It happens a lot more than what people might think, a lot more. Ashly sees it all the time but she doesn’t think about it as much. I see them the whole time and every time I’m staring right back until we make eye contact and then I keep staring until the person puts their head down. I know that may not be right but like everyone else, I’m not perfect. The person usually figures out why I’m doing it but I try not to get verbal due to Ashly’s request (she is embarrassed just wanting it to all go away). It does make me angry and ashamed [of them]. To notice and look away is one thing but the way some people treat her is wrong. For me, I think of when Jesus saw the woman caught in adultery and drew the line in the sand in front of her to protect her. I see people staring at her and want to say, “If you are flawless cast the first stone”.
Do you ever feel she is holding you back?
Rick -Never, Ashly is a well motivated woman she can do anything she wants to do. I have the blessing to see an inspiration in her every day. The only way Ashly holds me back is from doing something stupid.
How do you feel about people staring at your spouse? A lot of our society models after a “trophy wife” mentality that sets up women to be objectified or lusted/coveted after when looked at. Being with a disabled wife the looks of envy turn to looks of pity…how do you see that in your mind?
Rick -Define trophy wife? My idea of a trophy wife is based on what she can do with what she has to work with. Ashly is a trophy and if other people can’t see that then that is not my problem. In my eyes, my wife is beautiful, sexy, and fun. Society’s idea of a trophy wife and mine are two different worlds.
Are there times when your wife seems to emotionally disconnect and isolate from you for whatever reason (low confidence, pain, etc.)? How do you help her to reconnect to you?
Rick -Ashly does disconnect emotionally and when she does she tends to get mean and lash out. It’s a challenge to not get mean back, and I fail, I’m human. We do butt heads and then one of us steps back and sees the bigger picture of what is happening beyond the words or frustration. I know sometimes I have to butt heads with her just to see what is going on [underneath it all]. I do still push her in these situations even if it causes more anger to help her to reconnect and express what is causing her to pull away from me and even from herself.
What would you say to a young disabled girl to help build good self-esteem and self-image?
Rick -Build a good relationship with Jesus and network with a church to see how people of God are. Build your morals off of the bible; it’s a challenge, but a true reward. Make friends not only with women in a church but men as well and see how different the standards are from the rest of the world. Guys don’t have to be perfect to date them, when Ashly started dating me I was not a very promising fellow. But when dating a guy make sure that he knows about your relationship with Jesus and accepts your faith and plans to keep growing in his.
Do you ever feel that your spouse loves and appreciates you more because of her disability and all you do for her?
Rick -Yes, I do. Ashly lets me know all the time which is nice because I do have a hard time, like I do things for other people (not just Ashly) and they never seem to appreciate it. It is an issue of my own I have to work on. Disability or not, men should help their wives with everything because working together is so much more rewarding than having “his job, her job”. I learned this in being married to Ashly. Men like to feel rewarded for the things that they do and I feel very appreciated every day.
Is it difficult to transition from the role of caretaker to the role of romantic interest?
Rick -At first it was but I found I can’t be a care taker then be romantic. I learned I need to mix the two roles together so that the little things I do for her because of her disability wind up being special bonds we share together. It works so well. Ashly and I have seen another couple with the same issue we have and they are so happy and have been married over fifty years this way.
How can you be attracted to someone that obviously looks so different on the outside?
Rick -I personally do not think this should even be a question. Why is society so focused on attraction only being on the body being a whole?
Is there any particular scripture or time that God has spoken to you throughout your relationship and helped to guide you into the married couple you are now?
Rick -I believe God has helped me see how Ashly truly needs help. Something most people that have been around her whole life choose not to see. Physically, emotionally, and mentally she needs help. Physically – setting the house up for Ashly. Emotionally – opening my heart and arms to her when she just needs to be held. Mentally – she does dissociate so I always am asking her how she feels and what she needs to stay [in the] present. I wonder if other men do the same for their wives? We all have certain needs from our spouse and they may not look the same as ours but they are there regardless and I challenge other men to look beyond the surface and work to meet those needs.
Inevitably, when caretaking for someone you will be in their personal space and step on their toes. Then what?
Rick -You dance. Just go with the beat of the drum and soon enough you will get in rhythm with each other.
Ashly’s Father asked you, “Do you know what you are getting into marrying a girl that is not normal?” when you asked for permission to marry her. What do you think about that?
Rick -I thought I knew what I was getting into but I learned quickly that I really didn’t know. What I saw was the need for Ashly to have a protector and a good man in her life. I knew I would die trying to provide that for her. Looking back I wouldn’t have let her marry me at that time because I really didn’t have anything in my own life together like Ashly needed. We struggled a bit because of that. But with her by my side I was able to pull myself together and become the provider and protector I wanted to be for her. I didn’t come to this marriage table with a whole lot of skills from my past or my family so we really had to learn together how to be healthy, take care of each other, and I’ve never been happier.
Anything else you would like to say or add?
Rick -Love God, Love your Spouse, and always know that your wife is right….(haha)
*If you have questions of your own for Rick comment below and he will be happy to answer them!
**Keep in tune with Crutchprints.com because in the near future I will be posting one last article keeping with this theme titled “A Man’s View – Temporary Disabilities”.