Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What Will Grow

Part 2 of an enlightening essay about dating with disabilities for our current theme of What Will Grow

Dating in full costume: How disability impacts the development of a relationship?
By: Jon Bateman

...I had to accept the fact that I would have to be who I am and put in the effort of dating while simply hoping that a woman one day would make the choice to love me.

This was a hard realization because there was no quick fix and after reading studies that showed 70% of non-disabled people absolutely would not have sex with a person who had a disability[1], I wasn’t confident that my dating pool had many swimmers in it at all. Still, I tried not to let it affect my attitude toward others. At this point, I was 32 and growing increasingly more frustrated. I hated people who would say “one day it will just happen” or “as soon as you stop looking, love will come your way.” Nothing in my life had ever happened without an effort and I certainly couldn’t stop dating if I wanted a relationship so I just rolled my eyes and kept dating both in the online and offline realms.

Then on Jan. 5, 2009 everything changed for me. I had been chatting for just a couple of days with a woman named Lisa whom I had met via an online dating service. We spoke a great deal over a couple of days and even though I never disclosed my disability in my online dating profile, I was quick to explain my entire circumstance to her as we discussed the idea of meeting in person. Lisa didn’t seem to have any reservations about my disability and in fact seemed more intrigued with every detail I shared with her. This was new and while I wasn’t about to lay bets that she would be the one for me, I certainly was pleased that she had a genuine interest in giving me a chance. We talked and soon a first date was set for us to attend a Calgary Flames game together where we could watch my favorite team face off against the Chicago Blackhawks.

“When I became aware of Jon’s physical disability, I knew that I needed to see him as an entire person, as someone complex and different from anyone I had ever met. His confidence assured me that he was his own man and that he could do anything he wanted. I have never blamed or judged Jon for things he cannot change because that is futile and destructive in any relationship. Jon is sensitive, communicative, intelligent and supportive. What more could a girl ask for?” said Lisa.

In the beginning of our relationship, I was concerned that Lisa and I were going to have to have this marathon conversation about all of the impacts of my disability. I was concerned that we would have to analyze everything and hash it all out but the conversations to address my insecurity never had to happen and over time I simply realized that like me she just chose to accept and adapt to the situation as required. That’s what we did and so far it’s an approach that has worked really well for us.

Our first date was more than three years ago, and on Dec. 31, 2011 we made the commitment together to get engaged. It’s an exciting time for both of us and we look forward to planning our wedding as a couple. Looking back, I can see I certainly had reason to be worried about the impacts of my disability on my dating relationships and while I’d love to be able to say that there is a simple solution to the discrimination people with disabilities face, I simply cannot. However, I do believe that loving yourself is the most important part of being able to successfully seek a relationship. Realizing that you have tremendous skills, qualities and loveable traits to offer another person is vital because if you truly believe you are dateable than eventually someone will have to agree with you.

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