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So not only do you have to deal with a disability as a young person – you then have it impact every area of your life including dating!
It is something I have had to deal with my whole life as my rheumatoid arthritis was diagnosed at only 15 months. When I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease I was already married, but unfortunately that ended in February 2016 and two months later, two days after my 30th birthday, i then had bowel surgery which resulted in my ileostomy.
I didn’t think that my 30th was a big deal until I went through those first 6 months of 2016. Not only had I turned 30, I had separated from my husband and had a surgery which left me with my ileostomy. Although at the time I was focused on getting back to my 2 children and being healthier for them, I couldn’t help thinking that dating probably wasn’t going to be in my future!
I found dating when I was younger not too difficult. My arthritis was in a pretty good state and did not seem to affect me too badly. My bowel problems had started when I was 8 or 9 but I was yet to be diagnosed with Crohn’s, and it was something I had just got used to dealing with. As I was still living at home, it wasn’t something that any partner had to see or hear much about!
This is something I always say to anyone who is worrying about what to say and when to a potential partner. I always find that being upfront from the beginning, about whatever health problems you are dealing with, is best. I know a lot of people who have had horrible experiences and been left by partners when they have found out about their conditions further down the line. Yes, it is awful, but I think when you are honest from the start, they know exactly what they are dealing with and can decide whether it is for them or not. Living with a disability is difficult and it will impact the life of the person you are with so they need to know that.
That’s not to say that this is easy. Telling people about your disability can be difficult, but there are people out there who can deal with it and are, in fact, quite amazing about it. I met a guy when I was 17, who knew about my problems as he was a friend of my real Dad. He spoke to my Mum in depth about things and wanted to know more from the person who had provided the majority of care throughout my life. He researched and said although I was well at the time, he wanted to be ready to support me should my health go downhill. 17 year old me was pleased but also very blah about it – I was well and enjoying life at the time! Now I look back and really appreciate that!
After my surgery however, was a different story! I was 30 now, a single mum and had a stoma. Used to my illnesses being invisible for the most part, this was a very visible thing on my stomach , not necessarily for the every day, but definitely when it came to dating and sex!
Not able to get out like I used to – most of my friends have children too so it is very rare we can enjoy a night out these days – thoughts turned to internet dating. This has become the way people meet these days and is popular not just for people like me, but for everyone. Internet dating has it’s down sides though – some stories from people I had known definitely shook me up/made me laugh ALOT! I also found this story really relatable on the Guardian website. Emily’s experiences on regular dating apps is not uncommon – there are people who do not have any experience of meeting people with disabilities and that’s without the people who are plain ignorant about it. There are also the fetishists – I have had people contacting me who have seen me wearing splints on my social media posts and asked for more photos, videos and to describe the feeling of having it on etc. Needless to say, they get blocked!
Instead, I found a lot of friendships, and eventually a relationship through internet support groups. I had joined the IBD and ostomy groups about 6 months before my surgery and it really saved me! The information and support I received from people who understood exactly what I was going through was so very helpful.
My first date following surgery was with someone I went to school with. He was a friend on social media, so knew about my recent health problems, and remembered me having arthritis from school. This made it a little easier to start the conversation with him about my health and he asked lots of questions too. I admitted I felt a little self conscious because of my bag but he said it really wouldn’t bother him. It never went past the first date but this experience of being accepted, despite everything I had going on, definitely gave me a boost.
The first person I started dating also had a stoma. This made things much easier when it came to explaining things as he knew all about the bag for starters! Sex was great and there was no issues due to our stomas, which filled me with confidence moving forwards when it ended.
I then met Ste, and the rest they say, is history. 4 years on and we are still together. Ste has an ostomy too, as well as Crohn’s Disease like me, and other health issues, like me! Our relationship hasn’t always been easy but it helps that we can understand what the other is going through when we are not feeling well. I have written a post about sex with an ostomy and also about things you might understand when both you and your partner are chronically ill. Dating someone who has health issues too, can be really comforting and this has led to the rise of disabled dating sites. I have known other couples who have got together online like I have and I think we will all testify to the fact that meeting someone this way can work out amazingly well and it definitely makes that ‘initial ice-breaker chat’ much easier!
As the world becomes more accessible to all, so does the dating world. We understand that disabilities aren’t always visible and doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be in a wheelchair. I want to thank singledisabled.com for sponsoring this post and creating their site with what will make dating easier for those with disabilities in mind – from matching you with people local to you so you don’t need to do a lot of travelling, to finding someone with a similar hearing impairment who also uses sign language like you. With the way this year has gone so far, I cannot imagine what trying to date has been like, but I am sure online dating has become the medium of choice for most!
I think we can all agree that dating is never simple – but things like this really do help make it a bit easier! I hope my experiences will give you some hope for the future! Take care and keep safe,