Anne was 18 years old when she became a paraplegic in a vehicle accident, and she's sharing her experiences with seeking out love and intimacy over the last 40 years of her life.
After her injury, Anne recalls her doctor advising her to check herself into a nursing home so as to not be a burden on her family. Thankfully, Anne didn’t follow this advice.
“No way was I going to allow myself to be shut away from life. I wanted an education, a career, adventure, love, and sex. But in the climate that prevailed at the time, people were shocked that I dared to hope for romance and physical intimacy.”
Anne admits that she struggled with feelings of inadequacy, especially as a female when there’s so much societal pressure to meet a standard of beauty. But even through her struggles, Anne was able to make meaningful connections as a young adult. And she credits good communication as being the catalyst for the healthy relationships she encountered.
Ten years after her injury, Anne married, and together, she and her husband made their relationship and their household work.
“Together our lives were better, easier than they were apart. He cut the lawn and did the laundry. I grocery shopped, cooked and paid the bills. We built our dream house. And people told me all the time what a saint he was for marrying me. Which was so insulting, suggesting that I brought nothing to the table. And yet, I felt lucky, as if I had been pulled off the seconds shelf.
Anne’s marriage eventually ended in divorce. But not because of her disability – a notion that most people at the time thought would be the end of a relationship.
Dating started up again for Anne again while in her 40s, and with it returned her insecurities about beauty and body image. “My peer group hadn’t shed the negative messages about disabilities that we were all taught as children,” shares Anne.
For the last 15 or so years, Anne has continued to date, and while she’s once again had a few meaningful relationships, she is still in pursuit of the one relationship to top them all. And this time around, she’s noticed a difference in her peer group – now in their 50s and 60s. “I’m pretty optimistic about my chances because, as I age, my peers are starting to experience physical deficits of their own,” she shares. “They worry a lot about their own bodies and attractiveness and my issues are less foreign to them. They are learning for themselves that they still want and need love no matter what they look like, how old they are or how their bodies fail them.”
And Anne says that once the barrier is broken, once able-bodied individuals move past the fear of dating someone in a wheelchair, that’s when the true connections happen.
“All it takes to remove that fear is self-awareness and a conversation with the person who is different. Just normal conversation. It will become quickly apparent how regular the other person is, how much you have in common with him or her, how their hopes, dreams and needs mirror your own.”
Check out this video of Anne as she discusses common questions she's gotten over the years about living life on wheels.
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