A Different Perspective: On Love

Today's post comes from my friend K who has O.I. type III and is generally known as a fellow rabble rousing 20something. She shares some thoughts with us on the subject of love, dating, and all that jazz... 

Dating, relationships, sex, disability: circle the word that does not belong. This is a trick question, put down your pencils.

Not all, but many, secretly or not so secretly hold the assumption that being disabled means you are never going to be able to, or have the opportunity to be in a relationship. Some who hold this assumption are our able-bodied peers who I must say are stereotyping; this is an unavoidable difficulty that we as members of the disability community face everyday. On the other hand, an equally disillusioned group that is by far more depressing to learn is in existence...is the portion of the disabled community that believes in this myth themselves.

I must admit that I am no expert on this topic but it is one I feel very strongly about. I believe that everyone deserves to  feel what it is like to care for someone, and to be cared for in the way that only lovers can. This is why through my experiences as a member of the community and my observations in regards to this topic - I want to attempt to give some advice to those who are hesitant about diving into the dating scene.

1. Define yourself in YOUR own terms.
We can't just jump right up to the bar and start making idle chitchat with the first potential mate we see (although with enough long island iced teas - Sandy has been known to do this), we need to first lay some groundwork. A lot of people with disabilities lack a very important thing when it comes to sparking romance, and that is confidence. In order to build such confidence you need to really know and be able to project a strong sense of self. This includes a core set of values, beliefs, and ideas about yourself and others that you truly believe in - that will ultimately help you to pick a potential interest from the crowd. Getting a better understanding of ourselves may not always reveal the ideal partner in our minds, but it will give us more self-confidence and self-respect as we navigate confusing relationships. Honestly, it may even help to get out a pencil and paper and start mapping out your SELF.
Another area of your self that is important to make note of is your sexual health. While many readers may already dread going to the doctor and asking yet a thousand other questions - it is to be expected. The more questions we ask (to the right people), the more comfortable we can be as sexual individuals. Whether it's a pediatric healthcare provider, or one specializing in adolescent medicine, or an adult primary care provider - all medical professionals are knowledgeable in these areas and can help maintain our own sexual health as well as those of our partner(s). 

2. Be yourSELF! 
Once you have outlined who you are, you need to own it. This should not be too difficult if in fact you have been true to yourself, and have really faced yourself as an individual. Truthfully, at least in my case, I have always had a ghost of an idea of who I really wanted to be and show to the world - but it was the fear of others' judgment that kept it at bay. This may be the hardest part of the process, but it is also crucial and without showing your true self, I would fear that you will never be completely satisfied in any of your future relationships, friends, family, or otherwise.

3. Expectations: Have none.
To this day I still surprise myself on a regular basis with who I am attracted to, who is attracted to me and the way things just work out sometimes. I would say that it is healthy to have an idea or strong inclination towards a certain type of person; in fact it's impossible not to but frankly if you are really in the market for a good experience, you should keep an open mind (and eyes!) to a host of different opportunities.

4.  Instant Satisfaction  
There is a large possibility that once you learn to navigate this new, confusing, often steamy world you are going to be tempted by situations that might initially seem satisfying - but are actually red flags in the face of future emotions. For example, hooking up. If hooking up becomes a habit, in the way where there are no other commitments being made outside of the physical - we may run the risk of getting someone's feelings crushed. However it is also just as likely that hooking up can remain purely physical with no emotions, this is why some have given it the phrase "hooking up" vs. "love making." Unfortunately, disabled and able-bodied people alike, are going to go through phases where they undoubtedly make decisions they readily know will end in heartbreak. Many times there is no logical or 'feel good' reason behind this behavior, it is just something they need to do to say they have done it. Deciding when or if we should participate in these situations is up to each individual; it's one of those finicky "you'll know when you'll know" moments.

5. Don't settle!
This is my final piece of advice, I would like to stress that it is also the one piece of advice I BEG readers to follow. It also happens to be the most controversial piece of advice I have. If you now find yourself in a relationship that you are in primarily because you think you can do no better, please think again. It is likely that you have not yet taken the journey of finding yourself (which admittedly, I am still on and I think is an ongoing process). In the best case this could be a journey that both of you can go on and will eventually make you a stronger couple. In the worst case scenario, you will find that you are actually not compatible with your partner at all and will need to end it - and start the journey fresh, now a wiser person.

This is in no way a guarantee that you will find someone, nor is it a step-by-step process but rather guidelines to be kept in mind at your own pace. With billions of people in the world, there is love out there for you in all shapes, abilities, and sizes. 

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