The Love Series – Part 2: Dating with a Disability

Hello! It’s me – I am BACK with the next instalment of The Love Series. Hallelujah!

A quick recap! What with February being host to St Valentine and his glorious day of love, (or a Consumerist Nightmare depending on what level Scrooge you’re at), I am doing a month of love and relationships.  Not only will I be sharing The Impossible Dream of A TINDER WEDDING, but what with the world being kind of a SHIT SHOW right now, so I intend to sprinkle multiple stories of hope, inclusivity and love as far and wide as possible. What treats we have in store!

Today, I am speaking with Chloe about her experiences of dating with a disability. This is something incredibly close to my heart as I, too, have a disability / chronic pain condition (you can read about it here if you so wish… maybe after you’ve read this… not that I want to tell you what to do or anything…) Anyway! – I have found my health has had a huge impact on my mindset and approach to dating, so I was personally very interested to hear about Chloe’s experiences as well.

Secret (spoiler) time – I love EVERY SINGLE Q&A I have done: but this has got to be one of my absolute faves! I just feel so happy with it – it’s fucking REAL, and the world could do with a bit more of that, if you ask me!

And so, without further ado, please welcome the glorious Chloe.

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Firstly, and without wanting to pry, could you tell me a little bit about your disability?

So, when I was 16 I had an accident in where I broke my neck – ouch I know 🙂 – this resulted in me being paralysed from the chest down, medically tetraplegic. Everyone with such an injury is different, but for me I have some core balance and limited arm movement, my hands are pretty useless and I have no movement in my legs. As well as this I have many other medical stuffs that come with the paralysis and side effects of medications.

I hear you… I often think the craziest thing about spinal injuries is how they seem to have the ability to affect sooo many things – such complex injuries.  

So how much do you think that your health has had an impact on your relationship history?

It’s a little difficult to answer this one, I was young when I had my accident and had only had one really significant relationship. I’d say it impacted in that after my accident it was so far removed from my mind, that it wasn’t until the last few years that I even tried. For the most part because I did just needed to get better – physically and mentally.

Yes – it becomes your lowest priority at the beginning. Although I do vividly remember lying in a hospital bed thinking about how no man would ever want to hold my hand again… which is really sad to think about now!

Do you think your health condition has affected your confidence when it comes to dating and relationships? For me personally, it’s had a huge impact on my confidence so I’m really interested to hear how it affects you?

Massively!! In quite a few ways actually.

Firstly, because it took me a long time to not only adjust to the new me, but to be comfortable and happy as the ‘me’ now. My body sat differently, worked differently, looked different, my medication affected by skin, clothes fitted differently … it was difficult and took time to finally feel good about myself.  But even though *I’m* good with me, I just think boys see all those differences.

I have this constant nagging in my head that no one could possibly fancy me – they see the wheelchair and that’s it.

I then have this automatic default that my disability is just too much for people, like why would anyone willing enter into this?

I’m always overly concerned that when I read people’s online dating profiles and think ‘we are like perfect in every way’ but then it says ‘I want someone to travel the world with’, so I just move on because it ain’t going to happen.

Chloe… OMG THIS IS MY MIND!!! I do this all the time! I’ll be sifting through a profile, see a man who seems funny and great, then see he likes outdoor activities or travelling and just swipe no! There are so many guys I don’t even give a chance to because I’ve already decided they won’t be able to cope with it! Or I go along chatting and then bottle actually meeting up with them. It’s probably bad… but I think in a way it’s a coping mechanism, because I’m afraid of rejection. We both just need chilled dudes who love a tv show or a board game and won’t feel like they’re missing out! WHERE ARE THEY?! 

So, are you currently in a relationship?

Nope I’m very much dating though 🙂

Woop! Glad to hear it! Have you tried online dating before?

Yes for around 18 months now properly – I’ve used mostly Plenty of Fish and OkCupid and then match.com for a month!

Love it! What’s your approach to communicating your health issues – do you tell people before you meet them about or do you wait until the date?

I think I’ve done everything when it comes to this.

I started by not mentioning on my profile at all, I’d then wait after a few messages to see if a conversation was going to pursue and then I’d mention it. It always felt very strange having to kind of announce it to people. I would then either have a instant, no thanks or no reply, sometimes the conversations would continue but it’d soon peter out. This sort of instant rejection because of my disability I really started to find disheartening, and I know it’s a lot and it’d be a shock, but the message was ‘before I was okay but now I’m not..’ It’s difficult to face that. 

I now have on my profile that I’m a wheelchair user and when it comes to questions I’m pretty open and honest – to an extent – but some people just don’t have boundaries. For me, I find and feel that the more they are aware of my disability and the implications it has on my life, the least likely they are to freak out

It’s interesting to hear your take on this. I struggle because I’m not a wheelchair user and I don’t have any mobility aids so my disability is largely invisible. So it always feel like a big ticking time bomb down to the moment where I REVEAL MY DEEP SECRET. Which can put a weird vibe onto the date!

What do you think about shows like The Undateables? (spoiler, I am not a fan!)

I’m very up and down with stuff like this. In one sense I don’t mind them in that it shows a glimpse of dating with a disability. But that’s it, it is just a glimpse, because they give it the TV gloss, which is fine it is a tv show so I get it, but the reality of dating with a disability can be difficult and complicated. But I also think it creates this kinda ‘good for them’, or a condescending, sympathetic ‘aww’ response which drives me crazy.

TOTALLY!! Also I worry it reinforces the idea that disabled people somehow aren’t worthy of dating or love – that we are intrinsically ‘undateable’ – which is WACK!

Okay, next question – I remember when I first became disabled, my sister said to me ‘this will be like your instant asshole detector’ in the way that I would know much sooner whether someone is a nice person – do you think that rings true to you?

I think I thought that before I started dating too.

But in reality, not really!  I think that’s another thought created by a lack of self confidence. Like I can be pretty fit, sometimes, in the right light, so even arseholes can fancy me too! (Hahaha oh god yes me too!!)  

I still get the ‘let’s bang’ messages, the odd encounter with those that see disability as a fetish and the guys that after telling me all is good – then bail the night before we are meant to meet, with either no explanation or “it’s too much.”

I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s not nice – I understand that for some people it would be a lot and a relationship with me would mean altering many things and mean some things would no longer be possible, and I don’t think that doesn’t make them a nice person if they don’t want that.

Yes I think I agree.  Also – I have a habit where if I think someone is amazing, I often walk away because I think I’m doing them a favour. Like I wouldn’t want someone amazing to have to make any sacrifices so I just ‘fall on my sword’.

Do you ever think that having a disability sometimes benefits relationships – in terms of building intimacy and trust? I find I have to bare my soul a little more quickly than I normally would like to!

I couldn’t say relationships yet, I’m yet to get there – but dating I think yes.

The best date I’ve been on so far was with someone I was more open with than probably some friends. By the time we met I felt entirely comfortable with them and I hadn’t had that before.

It took all the anxiety away I guess, I now worry when I feel they don’t know enough, that it’s going to get to a point and it will be too much!

There’s more conversation on a deeper more personal level quite quickly though – an openness that may take others a while to achieve.

Yes I totally agree. I think that’s why I’ve become such a interested, quizzical person – I just cut the bullshit and go straight for the deep questions!! Right, that’s enough of me being nosy today. Thank you SO much for answering my questions – readers, you can follow Chloe here on Insta – chloeelizabeth91 or Twitter here – @Cloebeth91 – obviously I recommend you do BOTH! xoxo

Thanks for reading guys! To see more of me, follow me on Twitter @susieblues or on Instagram @susiebluesyy 

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One thought on “The Love Series – Part 2: Dating with a Disability

  1. Chloe you are the most amazing and strong person I know, and ok it’s from your step grandmother so I’m biased! But reading this interview and hearing your replies makes me think you could do an awful lot for disabilities, helping people, talking or writing articles about it. You are very eloquent, very intelligent and I think the world is missing out on your wisdom. Only yesterday in the car on the way for Fence I was listening to a jockey who had a bad fall and is paralyzed. He was talking about the change of life he has had. I think you could do an awful lot to help people with what you’ve been through. And I hope you meet the love of your life too!!!! Lots love Di xxxxx

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