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Navigating relationships as a male with Cerebral Palsy

JakeJones_98JakeJones_98 Member Posts: 8 Courageous
edited February 2020 in Guest blogs

Jake is a 21-year-old sports journalist who has lived in both Dubai and England. He discusses how he navigated his teenage years, sex education and having a relationship.

As a teenage male living with Cerebral Palsy (CP) and Epilepsy I have always contemplated how my disability would affect me both sexually and when in a relationship. The thought of a relationship appeared completely alien, with me constantly wondering how on earth anyone would find me attractive. I was the same as most of my peers, puberty hit me, and I began to find girls attractive and I was going through changes which are perfectly normal.

Man and a woman are facing away from the camera, with the woman resting her head on his shoulder

My sex education

It was a challenge growing up. I saw others experiencing things I thought were completely out of reach, such as teen relationships or first kisses, and it was difficult to accept. I was faced with continuous doubt about whether I would experience any of this. I also never knew how to approach the subject of girls and sex with my parents and would only occasionally discuss it with my uncle and cousin. Other than that, I kept my doubts and insecurities to myself. I consider myself to be very open about my CP and Epilepsy and I’m more than happy to talk about it. However, when it comes to things such as sex or relationships, I tend to avoid such conversations.

From the ages of 9-16 years I lived in Dubai. With the United Arab Emirates being a Muslim country, it made the changes I was going through, such as puberty, a bit more challenging. For instance, sex education in my British curriculum secondary school consisted of an anagram, a crossword and a wordsearch. I never actually considered how different this was to my peers in England. This became apparent when I first encountered a condom as an 18-year-old during freshers’ week at university, to everyone else it seemed normal.

My mum bought me a book when I was around 13 years old called Living with a Willy. As the title indicates, it goes into the changes that occur around that age, as well as other things to do with puberty. I’m pretty sure it’s in my bedroom somewhere hidden among the books I’ve read over the years. Although the book was useful in explaining certain elements of what was happening to me, it never gave me the whole picture.

The start of relationships

We moved back to the UK in 2014 and I once again became the newbie at school. I had the challenge of settling into a cohort of students aged between 16-17 years who had been together since they started in Year 7. My induction day and the first few weeks passed by relatively quickly and I seemed to make a good group of friends.

However, I was made aware of a girl who had told others that she was interested in me. This came as a shock as she was a beautiful girl, I never would have suspected that she’d be interested. I didn’t see myself as good looking and I thought the disability would put her off. This was due to being rejected by many girls who I had asked out previously. I was extremely apprehensive and nervous, as well as not knowing how I would mention my disability. After spending time with her at lunchtimes, I got to know her more and I thought things were going well. Shortly after, I found out she was now in a relationship with someone else in our year, this really hurt and affected my confidence.

The impact my disability has

Due to being self-conscious about my disability and my looks in general I was always nervous around girls and was generally quite shy, which is very different to my normal demeanour. So much so, I had begun to count the number of girls I had asked out. The fact that none of them had said yes really affected my self-esteem and led me to believe it was because of my disability.

In the past I have tried online dating with little success. I often struggled to communicate how my disability affects me, both physically and mentally. It’s hard to explain to someone who has never met me compared with someone who sees me often. I also struggled with the reactions I got when revealing my disability over text. Because I never got to the stage of meeting someone in person, it made it difficult to gauge their true reaction.   

I currently have a girlfriend who sees me for who I am, without being defined by my disability. If my experiences have taught me anything it is that the saying ‘you are not defined by your disability’ is even more so relatable to sex and relationships as it is to anything else.       

Have you experienced barriers when mentioning your disability? How have you found dating? Let us know in the comments below!

Replies

  • jadealyssajadealyssa Member Posts: 63 Courageous
    Hi @JakeJones_98

    Really found reading your post interesting and very insightful.
    Although I do not have an experience to share I do have a son who has CP and often worry about his future and what he may have to encounter.

    I'm sorry to hear that your self esteem was affected and that you felt at one stage that people turned your down due to your disability. It's thier lost not yours ,I always say that some people can be ignorant to disability and are fast to make judgements. It's always been a worry of mine that my son will have to endure this in his life.

    All I can say to you is that I'm so pleased that you have finally found someone who accepts you for you because you are as good as anyone else. Just because you have a disability doesn't mean that you dont deserve love and acceptance as much as any one else.🙂

    Those people who probably judged you because of it are of a very closed mind and it's a shame because there isnt enough awarness to make people understand and be able to have better knowledge but all that we can do is try our best to continue to raise awareness so that as the generations go on that there isnt as much stigma about it.

    You are definitely not defined by your disability. You are your own person and you are a wonderful person and can be anything you put your mind to. Always hold your head high!👍

    I wish you all the happiness in the world and continue yo think and see positive.❤
     Always here for any support.
    Thank you for writing this as I know it must have been took alot of strength 
    Best wishes always 
    Jade 
  • April2018momApril2018mom Member - under moderation Posts: 2,882 Member - under moderation
    I love your blog Jake! 

    Online dating is not my thing either. 
  • Richard_ScopeRichard_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,619 Scope community team
    edited February 2020
    Thanks, @JakeJones_98
    It must have been tough going through your bodily changes in such a conservative environment. I think a lot is down to personality type too
    Scope
    Specialist Information Officer - Cerebral Palsy

    Want to tell us about your experience on the community? Talk to our chatbot and let us know. 
  • TopkittenTopkitten Member Posts: 1,263 Pioneering
    Nice for you to have shared this @JakeJones_98 and, although it may not make things better, do be aware that almost everyone with a disability finds sex and relationships challenging. I suppose most of it comes down to our disliking our self-image and even though my disability is invisible it still affects my self-image.

    Unfortunately I have discovered over the years that many disabled people are more likely to suffer abuse both physical and mental and that disabled people are more likely to be abusers than healthy people. Ofc this is a generalization but from the many disabled I have talked to it does seem to be the case. I remember being friends with a much younger lady with CP and Epilepsy who thought that my behavior should be considered as being in love with her simply because i acted as a gentleman and good friend and she had never been treated in that way by disabled men before. In fact she had been in 3 or 4 abusive relationships and she regarded that as normal.

    It is hard to be self-confidant when disabled and many many healthy people have the same problem. Few men are naturally self-confidant and most women find that trait particularly attractive, though heaven knows why.

    However, never question someone's motives if they find you attractive, just accept it and try to find out more about them and let them find out about you too. Be open and share because that is the only way to generate sufficient trust to have a long-term relationship. It can backfire (it has on me) in that you can be taken advantage of easier but that is better than not being open and finding all relationships fail quickly. As the saying goes, "It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all".

    TK
    "I'm on the wrong side of heaven and the righteous side of hell" - from Wrong side of heaven by Five Finger Death Punch.
  • AilsAils Community champion Posts: 2,268 Disability Gamechanger
    A really good post, @JakeJones_98 and so glad to hear you have found a lady who loves you for you.  I wish you both every happiness.  :smile:
    Winner of the Scope New Volunteer Award 2019.   :)
  • JakeJones_98JakeJones_98 Member Posts: 8 Courageous
    Thank you all for your kind words. It took a lot to get it all out but I’m so glad I did as it allowed me to open up and made me realise how lucky I am to have the girlfriend that I do who loves me for who I am 
  • WestHam06WestHam06 Community champion, Scope Volunteer Posts: 1,144 Pioneering
    Hi @JakeJones_98
                                    Thank you for sharing your insightful post. Really pleased to hear you have found someone who loves you for who you are. I wish you the best of luck for the future. Thank you. 
  • Richard_ScopeRichard_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,619 Scope community team
    @JakeJones_98 your girlfriend is lucky to have you too!
    Scope
    Specialist Information Officer - Cerebral Palsy

    Want to tell us about your experience on the community? Talk to our chatbot and let us know. 
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