Recently, I was asked how I met my husband by another individual with a disability. He was curious how others find partners as people with disabilities because of his own struggles with finding a mate. This is a question that is often asked by people in the disabled community. How do I find love? Will I ever find someone who will love me with my disability? Will I be able to get married without losing my benefits, and if not, will the person want to stay with me? These are questions many in the disabled community ask themselves, and unfortunately, there are no good answers.
You see, until you meet that special someone you will never know the answers to all these questions. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. Throughout my life I have known many other individuals with disabilities in long term relationships. Whether married or not, these people find a way to make it work, as my husband and I have for the last 13 years. I have also known many able-bodied individuals who struggle just as much with finding a long term, loving relationship. Having a disability is only a minor factor when trying to find the right person for you.
So how do you meet that perfect person for you? Well, one thing you need to do is allow yourself to be vulnerable. Don’t fear rejection because if you fear rejection then you will never put yourself out there as a potential mate. Rejection is inevitable, disabled or not. If rejection happens, it just means that was not the right person for you, and keep looking. There is someone out there for you.
Secondly, you need to be up front about yourself and your needs from the beginning. Now, I’m not saying you need to start a new date with discussing all the intimate details of your disability: daily caring needs, etc., but don’t be afraid to share information when asked. Many people, especially able-bodied individuals, are just as curious about “How will this work?” They will have questions, and it is best to answer them as openly and honestly as possible. This establishes some trust between the two of you, and it helps to ease the other individual into the thought of dating someone with a disability.
I have had many friends who have met their mate online. The internet has changed the face of dating for many with disabilities. It helps to break the ice and get some of those awkward feelings out of the way before you meet in person. However, I will caution that there are some people online who are only looking for one thing. If the first question you are asked is, “Can you still have sex”, it’s probably time to move on. Sexual compatibility is an important factor, but not the only factor, and it shouldn’t be the first thing on their mind.
Unfortunately, due to the way our United States government works at this time, some individuals receiving public assistance for income and insurance are unable to marry their significant other because they would lose their income and insurance due to their partner’s income. This does not prohibit you from finding a long term, loving and committed relationship. Many people are more understanding than we give them credit, and are willing to forgo marriage to be with the person they love. However, keep in mind that the SSA can still deem you as “married” even if you aren’t depending on how you preset your relationship. To read more on this, see the SSA law regarding relationship determination with SSI. Regardless, there are ways to manage. any situation when it comes to dating and disabilities.
If you’ve heard of the Dr. Phil episode, “I swiped right on my Quadriplegic Boyfriend”, or had the unfortunate experience of watching that episode, you may be deterred from looking for love as a person with a disability. Since that episode, people with disabilities have spoken out against the message presented. In the episode, Dr. Phil stated that partners cannot be “carers and lovers”. He stated that “100 times out of 100 This won’t work”. A popular online couple, Shane Burcaw and Hannah Aylward, started the hashtag #100outof100.
Shane Burcaw lives with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). He is a successful author and advocate, and he created a non-profit organization called “Laughing at My Nightmare (LAMN)”, which is also the title of one of his books. Hannah is able-bodied, and currently is responsible for all of Shane’s care. They are very open about their relationship on their You Tube channel Squirmy and Grubs, and discuss all the things Hannah does for Shane. They are making their relationship work for them, and so can you! One way to truly help your relationship be successful is showing your unique personality. Shane has a very witty, and funny personality which is what drew Hannah to wanting to explore a relationship. Let your personality shine, and make that the focus of your dating rather than your disability.
Some potential mates aren’t as capable or as willing to be full time caregivers as Hannah. This doesn’t mean you can’t make the relationship work. You can hire aides to take care of your personal needs to take the weight off your partner. Most insurances will cover in home care services. Some choose this solution and some don’t. It just depends on the couple’s needs. If you don’t require full time care then this may not even be an obstacle that you have to worry about.
Either way you choose to make your relationship work, the first step is finding your potential mate. You have to put yourself out there. Actively involve yourself in activities that will allow you to meet people. If you are religious, you can join a church or church groups. You can attend singles meet-ups, volunteer at a local agency you are interested in, or just go out to your favorite local establishments and start up conversations with people. The online option is also available for those who may feel less comfortable meeting new people in public. Either way you choose to start looking, the key is getting yourself out there and communicate with people.
Another important thing to remember is to keep your options open. Don’t limit yourself to a “specific type” of person. If you place limits on who you are willing to date based on size, hair color, eye color, or ability or disability, you are only limiting yourself from potentially meeting your perfect mate. Don’t be afraid to date someone else with a disability either. There is a plethora of relationships between two individuals with disabilities that make it work.
The sky is the limit for you when it comes to meeting your potential forever love. If you still need inspiration about the possibilities, see the blog post, “#100outof100: Let’s Show Our Young Players That People With Disabilities CAN Have Successful Relationships”. This post shows multiple couples in successful relationships involving disabilities.
If you have questions about how marriage could affect your benefits, see the following links for more information.