Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford
Dating and Disabilities
Dating along with the other responsibilities of life can be a difficult balancing act. However, when there are physical differences or limitations, navigating new relationships can come with an extra set of concerns. Too often those with disabilities face erroneous assumptions, pity, fear, uncertainty, etc., when attempting to navigate the world of dating. Seeing past one’s physical limitation can be a difficult task for some people, making it hard to connect and establish a relationship. Interestingly, some people actually assume those with disabilities only date others with disabilities. Making an assumption that those with disabilities will be best understood and accepted by those with disabilities as well. We are all unique and different, possessing both strengths and weaknesses. That being said one thing remains true, the heart is something or lack thereof is usually the same no matter the disability or limitation.
One of the biggest challenges or obstacles for people with disabilities when it comes to romance is simply a lack of information about issues such as reproductive rights, sexually transmitted diseases and birth control. It is not uncommon for disabled individuals not to get accurate information about their bodies and sexual health making it more difficult for them to make healthy decisions. Everyone struggles with self-esteem and body image concerns at one point or other in their lives. However, when you combine that with a physical disability fears, frustrations, and low self-esteem can become more pronounced.
Having a strong support system can make a significant impact on the manner in which a disabled person handles rejection and how he or she moves on from the discrimination or rejection. It is important to love yourself and accept what makes you different, rather than pretend that differences do not exist. By acting as if differences do not exist you will never truly know if the feelings you have someone else is shared by the other person. Therefore, speaking freely and honestly is strongly encouraged so the person you are interested in has the opportunity to know you thoroughly. However, those with disabilities are encouraged to disclose gradually and with some discretion. Individuals with disabilities must emphasize their assets, show off what they can do well, what they are proud of.
As a reminder just because you have a disability or are abled differently does not mean you have to settle for everyone and anyone. You have the right to be selective in who you date and who you engage in a relationship with. Those with a disabilities do not have to settle for a non-supportive unfulfilling relationship.