Categories
Personal Experience

Managing Expectations for Relationships

By: Meredith Ritchie

It is February, the month of love, romance and sexy fun.  For people who are not in relationships, but want to be, February is a month of frustration.

Relationships are seen as the solution to lots of problems; people think that if they were only in a relationship everything would be wonderful.  This is a myth that our media culture loves to perpetuate.  Now nearly everyone, at one point or another has these feelings; people with disabilities can find themselves at a stronger disadvantage.  Part of the issue is isolation, not going or not being able to go out to meet people.  Once you get out of house and start meeting people then what do you do; what are some of the guidelines for relationships.

You have to manage your expectations for (and in) relationships.  This does not mean you have to lower your standards or give up your dreams.  What it means is there is huge advantage in being realistic.    So here are some suggestions for those looking for relationships and those trying to maintain the ones they are in currently.

“Getting a date”

1.) Don’t think that a relationship will solve all (or even some) of your problems.  We are bombarded with the message that all you need to be happy is someone else.  How many movies are there with unhappy people until they meet the “One” and their world turns around.  How many songs, books, plays etc. are there about how “love conquers all” and  “being empty till meeting you”?  Too many to count, and if you think that a relationship will fix every sadness, loneliness, whatever-ness inside of you; you are in for a shock.

2.) No matter what people like to claim, we are all products of the society we are raised in.  No one is completely immune to the influence of those around them.  So think about where your idea of what a relationship is and is not comes from.  Think about real world examples, family, and friends.  Don’t base everything on what you see on television.  I am not saying that you can’t use them as good reference points or to get ideas.   Just keep in mind that what you are seeing is not real, not even reality T.V. (especially reality T.V.)

3.) Don’t go out hunting for a date.  If you go out with a goal of “I am going to meet someone and we are going get together” it is highly unlikely that you will meet someone.  What is likely to happen is you will get discouraged and saddened.  This is counter-productive to building relationships.  The old wisdom about finding something as soon as you stop looking is somewhat true.

4.) Keep in mind what is important to you.  What are your values?  Look for people who share similar values.  Don’t feel that you have to change who you because “it is the only way you will get someone”.   If someone wants you to give up your values so that they feel better being with you, look for someone else.

5.) Don’t discount the idea of finding someone in an unlikely place.  You don’t have to limit your relationship seeking to bars, dating websites, singles cruises, or whatever other place people traditionally look for relationships.  If you discount an entire group of people you may miss out on a truly awesome person.  This is something the disability community knows all too well.  “I would never date a sighted person,” says a blind guy, not knowing if the next sighted person could be the love of his life.  “I don’t ever want to date another person with a disability,” says the woman using a wheelchair, automatically shutting out some awesome people.   The same principle applies to a lot of groups.  The “I will never date . . .fat, Black, White, tall, disabled people, gamers, nerds, jocks, atheists, people on the internet, people who don’t use cell phones . . . whatever.”  Only limits you and you never know someone until you start to talk to them.  If you won’t get to that first step, then you will never know.

heart

So there are five pieces of advice for those of you who want to be in a relationship.    Feel free to use them, or feel free to ignore them.  Some of them may not work for you; some of them may not apply to you.  However they won’t hurt to try.

 

 

 

Categories
Disability

Sex, Censorship and Disability

People with disabilities should have control over their own lives. 

 

Most people agree with this statement.  Practically everyone who works in the disability field feels that self-determination is the key to a successful and independent life.  We encourage learning to travel alone, managing your money, taking charge of your health care, and more.  However as soon as one subject comes up that people with disabilities want to learn more about, there is a scramble to make sure that it is censored.  That subject is…. sex!

silhouette of two people kissing

Those of us with disabilities are no less interested in sex than the general population; We are, often however, less educated about sex.  Often times sex education in schools is left out of special education classrooms.  People who are injured are often not told about the changes in their sex lives in rehab, other than to adjust their expectations, whatever that means!

 

I completed my thesis on sex for people with spinal cord injuries and cerebral palsy.  Here at the IMAGE Center I designed a presentation on sex, dating and disabilities that is accessible, interesting and honest.  The presentation has been well received by consumers and people who work with them.  Caseworkers have told me about consumers who have tried to pay for sex or racked up huge credit card bills on porn sites or have never had a sexual experience or romantic relationship.

 

You would think that organizations that hold themselves out as meeting the needs of adults with disabilities would want to inform their consumers about this extremely important part of life.

But, here at the IMAGE Center we don’t always find this to be true.  Management in some organizations, usually people without disabilities, gets spooked when it comes to talking about sex and dating.  They either cancel the presentation or try to tell us which information we can present—even going so far as to tell us which slides should be eliminated.  And, these are presentations to adults.

 

This ongoing attempt to censor our presentation reeks of paternalism.  People with disabilities, who are all over the age of 18, have every right to make the decisions about what they would like to learn about sex and dating. At the IMAGE Center we believe strongly that adults need this information in order to prevent assault and abuse, and, to live more full and fulfilled lives.

censored
Disabled symbol having sex with a symbol of a person with the word censored stamped over it.

 

People with disabilities have the right to information and if we are serious about promoting independence then we have to acknowledge sex.

 

With nearly universal access to the Internet, people will get information, some useful and a lot not!  The value of my presentation is my information is accurate, accessible and I am willing to answer questions.

Please join me for my presentation at The IMAGE Center for People with Disabilities on June 12th at 6pm.    Click here for more information and to RSVP.

 

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