Dating can prove to be an awkward experience for anyone. For people with a disability, that feeling of awkwardness can be intensified, partly because of inaccurate assumptions about people in the disability community.
Jessica Cox, born without arms, says that the biggest obstacle she faced in the dating scene was finding someone that could realize all of her others traits and not just her physical appearance. "Everyone, to a certain extent, experiences that judgment or insecurity while dating," she says, "but … I wanted someone to like me for who I am, not for wanting to take care of me or someone who felt sorry for me or someone who saw me as an inspiring superhuman." Jessica eventually found someone that accepted every part of her.
Jessica and other experts wanted to share some guidance to others in the dating world by sharing these helpful tips:
Sexual health is an important topic to learn about before being intimate with another person. Get informed about reproductive rights, sexually transmitted diseases, and contraceptives by doing your own research or confiding in a trusted someone.
Fear of rejection is another common feeling when dating that can be intensified for a person with a disability. So, before becoming an active member of the dating scene, make sure you have someone you can lean on when times get tough. You can find support in family and friends, or maybe even a strong social media network.
Be Aware and Safe
Safety is important to remember when meeting people. Be aware that not everyone has good intentions. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s important to trust your instinct. Turn to your support system for help.
Emphasize Your Assets
We all have different personality traits that make us unique. It’s beneficial to focus on those positive traits when putting yourself out there in hopes of finding that special someone.
Auti Angel, a paraplegic dancer, found love by being true to herself. She mentions that prospective partners didn’t expect her to be a dancer, but when dancing, people saw past her wheelchair and saw her true self.
"Before entering the dating world, do a self-reflection and see what it is that's your best quality personality-wise and character-wise.”
When is it appropriate to disclose your disability? Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and researcher at University of Michigan, says that a person should slowly reveal information to their prospective partner over a period of time.
"As you feel more trust, as you feel more comfortable with that person … you gradually reveal more parts or information about yourself," she says. "It makes you more exciting too."
But disclosing a disability comes down to how and when you are comfortable. "I'm always one that encourages talking about disabilities as freely as you would any part of yourself because it's nothing to hide, it's nothing to be ashamed of,” says Julie Lynn Williams, an associate professor in Wright State University's School of Professional Psychology who studies disability issues.
Have faith that you will meet that amazing person who is just right for you. Finding that person will take time. It’s important to not rush the process and settle for a situation that doesn’t necessarily bring out the best version of yourself. Auti Angel’s advice is, "[Don't] have that lack of faith that someone will say, 'Oh it's so rare you find someone so nice,” referencing her husband, "I married an amazing man," she says, "and he married an amazing woman."
Are you single? Hopefully these tips can assist you in navigating the dating scene. Share them to help others as well!