As a disabled person, dreaming of romance can feel like a pipe dream. When my loved ones spend so much energy helping me get from day to day, it sometimes feels greedy to want more for myself than just getting by. But it isn’t greedy to look for love, and forging human connections is not a luxury. If you have inside you a curiosity to meet people, a bravery to step out into the scary world of sex and love and the space in your heart to think about another human being, then you deserve those things. So, if you’re feeling ready to step your toe into the chilly waters of the dating pool, here are some of my tips for taking that brave jump.
Don’t take it Lightly
My most important piece of advice is to err on the side of caution. Online dating is a dangerous world for everybody, but for disabled people there are so many more things we have to think about. Since I suffer from episodic movement difficulties, seizures, aphasia, and spasms, I have to consider whether I trust my date to be with me in those eventualities. I like to have a trusted friend nearby who knows where I am at all times and it’s important to make sure my date knows the possibilities of what could happen to me while we are together.
Communication is your Best Friend
I used to put off telling dates about my disability unless I became symptomatic right in front of them. I thought I was protecting myself from discrimination, but all I was really doing was putting myself in dangerous situations with people who didn’t know what was happening to me. If you tell somebody about your disability and they change their mind about going on a date, then they aren’t the right person for you. It’s as simple as that. Hiding who you are and what you need does nothing but tell yourself that you are not worthy.
Navigating Difficult Conversations
Telling a potential date everything they need to know can be daunting. I used to make jokes of it that just came across as inappropriate and uncomfortable. It was pretty obvious that I wasn’t confident in myself back then, but that’s okay. It’s a journey, and the only way to get comfortable with having conversations like these is to get it wrong (a lot!). When you get it wrong and the world doesn’t cave in on you, the next time will be easier.
It’s also important to remember that your needs are probably quite scary for them too, and that doesn’t mean they are a bad person. Genuinely kind people will be nervous about your safety, so the best thing you can do for them is to be strong, truthful and answer their questions without judgment. When you come to the conversation proud of who you are and interested in who they are, you can’t go too far wrong.
Part of the way I experience FND is extreme fatigue and it’s important not to underestimate the exhaustion of being out of the house in new situations. Make sure you have a good night’s sleep in preparation, know your body and listen to it. After a date you might need a few days to recover completely. Having meals ready and help in place to give you a little extra support as you wind down from the excitement is a great way to make sure you recoup and process the date.
Cancelling, Leaving and Saying No
Sometimes I wake up on date day and my legs aren’t playing ball. Sometimes I’ve been in pain all night and the last thing I want to do is get out of my pyjamas and make small talk. Dating should be fun, and it can only be fun if you’re feeling your best. You don’t have to feel guilty about cancelling a date; even if they took the day off work to meet you, even if they travelled a long way, even if you’re already there and you’ve ordered food. It’s not a contract. You don’t owe them anything but honesty, and you owe yourself the kindness of listening to your heart.
For more tips on getting to know your flirty side, check out my blog at sexloveandfnd.com where I share my epic fails, glorious triumphs, learn about body positivity and share tips for establishing consent across all forms of physical contact. Due to honesty and silliness, it is only suitable for adult readers.