Between us Girls – Disabled Dating Advice

As I review the statistics on this blog the most sought after topic and search terms used to bring readers to my site are surprisingly about romance. #Amputee love, disabled love, romance with a disabled person, can a disabled person find love, is dating possible for disabled people, love in a wheelchair, are just a few of the searches on the blog report. Is love really so scarce and seemingly impossible for those of us that do not appear “normal” on a purely physical level? 

Everything around us says it is impossible, I’ve heard a comedian say recently “You are only with your current partner because you believe you can’t do better, if you thought you could be with someone more beautiful, you would!”  The audience roared at this, nodding in agreement and looking at their friends knowingly. Hearing that hurt me so much that I turned the channel immediately, knowing that it was a comment that would stick with me for a long time and make me question my own value and attractiveness. 

There are terms like “trophy wife” and songs about “the way she walks”. Television holds women at a nearly impossible standard of physical appearance and when we are in public and we see which women turn the heads of nearby men all of the aforementioned standards of attraction become concrete. Being a young girl with a disability is hard,and no matter how many people tell you “the right one will find you”, it doesn’t really ease your mind. You don’t measure up to the alleged standard and you know it. 

So I thought I would address a few things disabled girls fret about. There were very few people that I could relate to as a young girl that had found true love and were also disabled, much less any that were willing to speak about it honestly. Many of the women that were married became disabled after the ceremony which left the question in my mind: would someone actually choose to fall in love with an already disabled person? I had several peers scattered throughout the country but what did that tell me?  We were all navigating the same uncharted waters at the same time and to get another teenager to have an honest and vulnerable discussion about such a painful topic in the ‘90s was as likely as meeting The Backstreet Boys. I won’t mention that I am old enough to say this was the era where chat rooms were just forming on the internet and online contact with strangers was a sure way to be kidnapped and slaughtered. (Though my mother always insisted anyone that kidnapped me would bring me back due to my mouthiness in no time.)

It is my desire that this be an open discussion rather than an informational piece that can be read, reviewed, tweaked, and commented on by any man or woman, boy or girl in the disabled dating arena. Perhaps this will open up new questions and topics that you want to discuss. Please feel comfortable enough to comment, email me your questions, present your scenarios, and provide your own experiences for those muddling through romance in the world we live in.

Disabled Dating – A Girl’s Guide

How can I be considered attractive?
In short, I don’t know. The laws of attraction go far beyond my understanding and there are so many things that make up a person’s individual preferences that it is not worth trying to figure out. I can confidently say that I have found people throughout my life that have found me physically attractive. There are others that most definitely did not. I have gone around this topic many times with Rick, my husband, and even he cannot put into words an explanation satisfactory for either of us. (Much less one I believe.)  In the end, it “just is”. The sea of people attracted to us may be a little smaller than it is for the abled-bodied people around us, but it does exist. 

Is someone attracted to me physically or are they just curious?
My answer to this one seems superfluous but I will stand by it: go with your gut instinct. You will know if someone is interested in you as a person or object in the same way as others. Does your disability come up right away before and conversation about you? Does it come up over and again in conversation? If so, likely they are curious or at least lacking capacity to see beyond the physicality in front of them long term. In the same way that sometimes people attract someone only interested in a sexual relationship, you will find that the principle carries over to attraction with a disability. Some people are curious and interested in sexual relations not a relationship but you will quickly become aware of those intentions and can respond accordingly. I personally would not be happy to use my body to satisfy the curiosity of another individual (disabled or not), and I do hope you think enough of yourself to hold the same standard. 

Online Dating – How does that work?

This was a very difficult area for me. I turned a young adult in the age of internet dating being an unexplored frontier. All in all, I personally don’t recommend it. But that opinion is strictly that, opinion and preference. I’ve known people with great success in the online dating arena. They are not disabled people, but they are humans with quirks and individual flaws which is really the same thing. 

In my experience I did find that it is much easier for someone to be brazen, crude, or hurtful from behind the screen of a device than in person. Because of that, and the hurt of rejection, I learned to share within the first or second chat with someone that I am an amputee and cancer survivor. Being up front seemed to be the best option for me and prevented embarrassment later. Often I would give qualifiers as well – explaining how “normal” I still considered myself or would give examples of the activities I perform better than any two-legged counterpart. In my thirties now, I don’t think I would give any qualifiers. Here is my situation, I’m disabled, and your situation is likely children, a divorce, etc.

If they just get to know me they will find me attractive!

No, they won’t. I’m no advocate of fatal attraction or love at first sight, but I can confidently say that if someone hesitates beyond a normal measure of consideration about dating you because of your disability then you need to run (or hop, or hobble, or wheel) away. FAST. 

Sometimes it can be almost a challenge when you find someone that you like and are interested in to make them see you for a “normal” person. I’ve been there in wanting to date someone and befriending them so that they got to know me. We’ve all heard that racism is overcome with education, so the same thing should apply, yes? Well, when I pursued this avenue several times the man eventually would date me, but in the end I learned that prejudice is not always overcome with education in the arena of love. If the first reaction of a person is to not date you because of physical status, don’t try. Eventually the truth will come out and both of you will end up hurt. There are too many people out there that will be attracted to you and want to be with you for you to get tied up in making someone your project to work on or educate. 

How will I be intimate with my disability?

Excellent question. Intimacy, like in every relationship, finds a way that works for both partners. Everyone has preferences, likes and dislikes, and vulnerabilities in intimacy. Every set of partners has an intimate relationship which is unique and tailored specifically to them. Every set of partners has certain physical obstacles to overcome. Intimacy with a disability, limb loss in my case, is the same. Limb loss has not affected that area of our marriage at all, even with the rigorous questioning I’ve put my husband through! 

One thing that does make a difference is willingness and confidence. Be confident to try different things with your partner and find lots of things that work for the two of you. Marriage is a lifetime and make intimacy part of that adventure! It is not as “weird” for your partner as you imagine. There are times I am extremely self-conscious of my own body image, particularly in light of my disability. But you know what? The most beautiful and perfect women that I know have shared with me the very same insecurities! 

What if they get tired of my problems and leave me?
That is always an option for either party in a relationship. In my own case I sat down with my husband after only a few weeks of dating and painted the most grim picture that I could possibly conjure up about my future. I gave him an “out” before we really got “in”volved. Doing this gave me peace of mind to know that he would not be blindsided by any problems that I have and if he does leave me someday I know that I gave him all the tools that I could and his choice does not bear on me at all. There are no guarantees in relationships. 

There is a lot of baggage that comes with being in a relationship with someone with a disability. There are times my husband probably wants to just run away and be “normal”! Because of this I do tell all young girls to be sure they truly know someone before committing to a long-term relationship with them. Whoever your partner is, he/she needs to be selfless, patient, and eager to assist you in every matter. If they are reluctant at the beginning of a relationship – it won’t get better with time and added pressures of daily life.

Is “sexy” even an option?

You can be as sexy as you feel comfortable. I’m convinced that “sexy” is an aura and exuberance in presence, not an appearance. Take the time to try on different clothing that you feel accentuates your best qualities and pick something that you will feel confident in, assured that you look good. Sexy can be like a hot pair of high heels: it’s all in the walk! 
That is the “right” answer. If you ask me honestly, however to answer about myself I would say no it is an option.

I don’t ever seem to attract the right kind of people…

My disability helped weed out the people really interested vs shallow

I think I struggled less with figuring out who was shallow than a lot of my friends. Shallow men typically avoided me, or treated me with reluctant regard. This provided a pretty clear indicator to me of what to expect around certain types of men, and I never really was left wondering if someone was interested in me or not. 

On the other hand, my disability did attract a lot of people that were freeloaders. The overwhelming assumption was that because of my disability I would have medical drugs/pain medicine to share. Another assumption was that I should consider myself lucky to land any man and would do whatever was asked of me to keep them around. Neither was true and neither worked with me thanks to the self-worth instilled in me as a child.

What are Amputee Devotees?

Like anything, there are sexual preferences and fetishes that are geared towards amputees. I am not saying that people should not be attracted to amputees in a physical way, in that case I guess my own husband would be guilty of a fetish! Here I am discussing the predatory individuals that use perverse and aggressive behavior. 

I did not learn about this until my mid-teens. There were men (and presumably women) that would follow amputee conferences and prey on the disabled. I had quite a difficult time understanding how another human being could use the pain and suffering of a limb loss or other disability to gratify themselves sexually. 

Being warned that this existed really helped me with online dating, where predators would often sniff out disabled women. It helped to curb the shock of being offered pornography positions, and made me very leery of anyone asking “stump-related” questions. It gave me a few street smart tactics to avoid the wandering touch of those men at amputee conferences as well. 

What do I do if this happens?

If you end up inadvertently under the attention of a predator it is not the end of the world. Even I unknowingly ended up on a few dates with a devotee at one point. I figured out the truth quickly after rather aggressive attempts at physical contact with my stump, and brought the whole thing to a startling stop. My advice is to be wise and take precautions when dating. Women are vulnerable as it is, but disabled people are even more vulnerable physically. Date in public and get to know the person first. If there is an obsession or if you find the conversation seems to circle back around to your limb loss all the time then remain on guard. Remember, you are a person with a mind and interests and a life to discuss. You wouldn’t spend a whole date discussing his loss of hair, would you?

Will I always feel indebted to my partner because they are sacrificing so much to be with me?

One thing I really want to stress to anyone considering dating and seeking romance is to embrace your capability and look at the relationship as a combining of abilities. There are things that your partner will help you with or do for you because he/she has the ability to do that easier than you do. Likewise, you will find that you have capabilities to do some things to help your partner or do for your partner that he/she may not be able to do or may not do well. When you take the focus off of what you do NOT bring to the relationship and re-frame it in the light of truth, you see how a marriage really is a partnership. In my relationship with my husband carries the laundry down the steps and does it, then carries it up to a designated place where I fold and put it away for us. I pay the bills and manage all of the paperwork for our household. He brings food from the freezer in the basement and I cook and serve it before he cleans the table off and I do the dishes. I always shower first so I don’t slip and he listens to me play the piano for him to relax. Becoming a team and assisting one another in your different areas of need brings equality and strengthens the bond of romance between you.

My mom used to say to me “everyone can do something”. I couldn’t always do the hard work that my family was doing like a day of hay baling, but I could make sandwiches and drinks to take to them in the field. Find where there is a hole, and fill it. That way neither of you is perceived in the relationship as a victim or a caretaker. 

If it is a two way street why do other people act like my partner is doing me a favor by staying with me?

In public I am told time and again how lucky I am that my husband loves me and stays with me when so many others would walk out. People assume because I am the disabled one and I am the one they see in a scooter in public or on crutches that he is my caretaker. Nothing could be farther from the truth! (I often want to scream at them “He moved in with ME when we got married!”)  My mother is a bit more diplomatic in this arena and is quick to step in responding “I think he is very lucky to have her, she has been very good to him.” 

Should I just try to date only disabled people?

In real life negative and negative don’t always equal a positive. I think everyone approaches this question differently. A lot of disabled people I know have dated both and strictly view ability as indifferent. For me, I did not want to date disabled people. I felt that I would need help and with two insurance problems, two people both on the wrong side of the health tracks together would not make for a very stress free relationship. That was my own opinion and you will have to make yours. There are some great arguments for the empathy and understanding that one disabled partner can bring to another. 

At the end of the day the best advice I have is to forget what society, social media, culture, television, magazines, and doctors tell you about yourself. You are as likable as you want to be, you are as attractive as you want to be, and you are as engaging as you want to be. Cultivate your interests and your hobbies, find things you are passionate about, pursue them, and allow the opportunity for romance to find you. And when it does, do not settle. Disability is such a small part of a relationship. Instead, focus on kindness, selflessness, empathy, caring, and above all, a belief in Jesus and his sovereignty over life. 


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