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Monday, 18 July 2011

Dating and Disabilities

Every now and then I get asked about how having disabilities has affected my dating life.

Dating with Disabilities can be Exhausting


Truth is, I haven't had much of a dating life since the stroke. It took me a long time to get to the point where I had enough energy to even consider dating. Then, living in a small town where most of the young men my age are either already involved in relationships or married, there often doesn't seem to be a lot of options for dating. I date from time to time, but it hasn't resulted in anything serious yet, and the dates are few and far between

I tried online dating and met a couple of very nice men that unfortunately lived too far away to keep the relationship going for long. I'm not sorry I tried it; there were good times, and it was worth investigating.

The Online Dilemma


However. The world of online dating *is* fraught with the perils that you've heard about, ladies (and gentlemen). People lie; some people are perverts; some people are insultingly narrow with their criteria of who they will and won't date. It can be demoralizing. I made some good friends on a dating advice board associated with one of the sites, which made the whole thing worth it. It was on this site but that I became aware of a dilemma unique to online daters with disabilities:

When do you disclose that you have disabilities?

Do you do it right off the bat and take the risk that the other person will reject you because of it? Do you let it ride for a bit and then bring it up? Do you not bring it up at all until the first meeting?

I was surprised to read that the daters without disabilities sometimes have very strong views on this subject. Some have had someone show up on a first date that hasn't previously mentioned a physical disability and have felt negative emotions, ranging from annoyance that they weren't prepared for the shock of an obvious physical disability to feeling terribly deceived. One woman took it very personally; she had found herself, in phone conversations with her match, feeling badly about herself because he sounded like he had his life much more together than she did hers, and then she discovered on their first date that he was missing one hand. It made her very angry, because she felt that he had misrepresented how good his life was, and she resented that he'd made her feel badly about hers.

I tried to follow her logic, but couldn't. I was fairly new to online dating at the time, and thought, "Am I going to encounter this kind of bizarre thinking?" I was a little concerned.

You Decide When the Time to Disclose is Right


But I'd already decided by that time to bring up my disabilities fairly early in the dialogue anyway. Most of my matches were sounding like athletes, and my weak side definitely cuts down on my athletics. There are lots of ways to adapt sports, and I'm willing to try anything once, but I'm not "play to win". It seemed only fair to let athletic matches know this from the very beginning.

Besides, my disabilities are a part of who I am. They're not all of who I am. But they're a part, definitely. It doesn't make sense not to talk about them.

Bottom line, I think that online daters with disabilities should disclose when it's comfortable for them to do so. It's worked for me. And I'm happy to say that all the men that I've dated since acquiring my disabilities have not expressed at all that they've been a problem.

The Importance of Attitude


But I think that's a function of my attitude toward my disabilities as well. If I don't act like they're a big deal, other people are less likely to act like they're a big deal.

Again, that's something that took me a while to learn. But it's worth trying to learn to do about whatever it is about yourself that bothers you.

It's interesting to me that I'm now more self-conscious about my weight than my disabilities, especially when it comes to dating. But that's another story...
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Oh! By the way...my blog is now listed at http://disability.alltop.com/. This means much more awareness for my posts, and I'm really excited that they chose to include me on the page. Go check it out!

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