Disability and Relationships: Answering Questions, Busting Myths
Continuing our sex and relationships theme, today we have a post about disability and relationships and the questions and myths around this. The content may not be suitable for younger members.
Relationships: they can be a very complex thing. I don’t
believe they’re an easy subject for anyone
to navigate. From explosive, emotion-fuelled fireworks upon the first
meeting, to the deepest, darkest bouts of heartache, relationships –
particularly ones between you and a partner – can be some of the best, or
worst, features of the human experience.
I’ve been quite fortunate to have several relationships. I’ve also experienced my fair share of heartache. But – despite this – I have found myself faced with some rather insensitive questions relating to relationships when one – or more – of the individuals are disabled.
I’d be lying if I said disability doesn’t complicate relationships. As with many things, disability has the potential to make things a little trickier. For instance, my partner is able-bodied. On the weekends, he has the energy to go on long walks, or endure busy days out. For me, on the other hand, I’m almost always far-too fatigued from the working week to do much more than go out for dinner, do the obligatory household chores and watch some rubbishy television.
But, apart from being a little sleep-and-pain-filled than most, the time I spend with my partner is just as fulfilling and rewarding as for anybody else. In the spirit of illustrating this, I’m going to bust some disability-related relationship myths. And yes, I really have been asked these questions, sometimes multiple times.
You have a boyfriend/girlfriend [delete as appropriate]? Don’t they mind you being disabled?
Well, no. Because they’re a decent, non-ableist human being. And, whilst we’re on the subject, I think I’m a pretty good girlfriend, actually. Disabled individuals deserve love and support just like anybody else.
But you’re disabled. Don’t you think your boyfriend could do better?
Yes, I have had people say this to me. I’m never really sure what they expect me to say in response. This is just so incredibly insensitive: why would cerebral palsy make me any less attractive? This is one of those questions that is so incredibly harmful. We internalise these thoughts, and it takes time to undo them. I am just as worthy as the next person; I just wish I’d have realised this sooner and stopped listening to people when they said this sort of thing.
Can you...you know...be physical with each other?
Funnily enough, disability doesn’t erase those sorts of feelings. And besides, what’s it to you?
So your boyfriend must be disabled, too?
No...there isn’t a rule that states that disabled individuals must partner up with other disabled individuals. If it happens, it happens. And – shock horror – disabled individuals are just as diverse and beautiful as everyone else. There’s this awful idea that disability negates beauty, which of course, isn’t true at all. I’m really fed up of hearing questions like this because it masks so many ableist views. And – most importantly – why does it matter?
You’re going on a date: are you going to tell them you’re disabled?
I see this question so much on online support groups and forums. It shouldn’t really matter if somebody is disabled; f you like them, you like them. I’m usually upfront about my disabilities. I am proud of who I am, and know my disabilities are just another wonderful facet of my individuality. Asking somebody this is like saying ‘shouldn’t you warn them?’. It’s our choice to tell others: and, in my opinion, if an individual doesn’t like me – disabilities and all – I’m far, far better off without them.
So, there you go. A snapshot of some of the rude, ridiculous questions I’ve come up against when considering relationships and disability. It’s hard to believe that in 2017 we’re up against such ableist, intolerable views. If you’ve ever fallen foul of asking some of these questions, I’d like you to take the time to think about what it is you are saying. Considering that the disabled population is the largest minority group globally, isn’t it time we challenged these views and began to be more sensitive when discussing such issues? Relationships – with all of their ups and downs – happen whoever you are. And they’re wonderful, disability or otherwise.
Have you been asked awkward questions about your relationship? How do you respond to them? How does it make you feel? Share your experiences with us now.