“I think you fall in love with someone for who they are and how great they are… but I think the choice after a long period of time is to keep loving someone.”
Relationship Status: Single (Was in a seven year relationship)
What is love?
For me, love is you like someone so much that you can’t see your day or your life without them. And this person’s really cool, even if they are really annoying sometimes. I remember when I was first in love with my ex was because I was just hanging out with my best friend and I said “I really love him.” From then you know your life is—you do what you do—but they’re important. When you love someone you strive to put their happiness above yours, but in my experience it’s a mutual happiness—you have each other’s backs, you build a life together in whatever way that means in that time of life. Love is all of the hearts and flowers bullshit, but it’s commitment. I’m gonna spend my time and life with this person and see how far we get.
So you dated Matt* for basically seven years. That’s a long time. Why did it end?
I have a disability and his parents… I don’t know specifically if their culture has anything to do with it, they could just be people who don’t take well to disabilities or people who are different. His family was the final point we couldn’t get over.
How is it dating as someone with a disability?
Some people would say it doesn’t make a difference, some people would say it makes all the difference. Some of my friends will not date anyone else who is disabled. Some of my friends have never dated an able bodied person. I have done both. It is challenging. I never really thought about it either way, for me it was very much about the person. It reminds me of something very similar my friends who are bisexual say it’s about the person and you see what happens when you meet them, and that’s how I’ve approached it as well.
I dated Matt [who is able bodied] and it was challenging but also fantastic in a lot of ways. In high school I was bullied so it never really seemed like that was going to work out with teenage boys understanding someone who was different. But Matt never really cared. In fact he seemed to think it made me stronger and a better person, for having gone through those struggles. But his parents making it very difficult—and saying mean things about me all the time, and making crazy assumptions—really got to me.
That’s why the next two people I dated, unintentionally, but I thought would be better, had Cerebral Palsy the exact same as me. With the first one, we just wanted different things. The second one, ultimately we did want different things, but also dating someone with a disability presented different challenges that I hadn’t anticipated. He cared a lot that both of us were disabled. He was concerned that the two of us together created too much of a spectacle.
Is there something, as a disabled person dating, you think you’d want to tell able bodied people that they assume about disabled people dating?
Everybody has assumptions about what it is to be in a relationship and how the disability is going to affect that. I learned this my whole life. I was hesitant to date from a young age. I didn’t fit the mould when I was young, and I don’t fit the mould now. So I always thought, “No one wants to deal with boys who can’t get over the fact that you’re different, or that other people have a problem with you being different.” And these are things I have to prove in my everyday life, that I’m just like everyone else. And having to prove that in my relationship to those around me is a lot of work.
Dating and being on Tinder and talking to people, even the things that people have said to Matt: “Oh you must not be able to have a real relationship then. How do you have sex? How can you have kids? Can she cook for you? How can she take care of things? Good for you, but are you sure you want to do this for your whole life?”
Obviously people make those assumptions. People assume that because you’re disabled, you have to do things different, that you are somehow less desirable or you’re more work. I’ve had guys on Tinder say “You seem really nice, but it seems a lot.” To that my snarky, defensive response is, “I’m sorry my disabilities and struggles are too much for you.” One guy, when I told him I write about accessibility because I am disabled, even said: “Oh, I”m so sorry. I was only looking for a hookup but I feel bad I was about to proposition someone who’s disabled.” And while I’m not a hookup person, I told him his attempts would be in vain but it had nothing to do with my disability and he shouldn’t feel bad he was about to ask, but he should feel bad because he thought that.
First of all even though I’m disabled, I still have all of the same thoughts, feelings, and desires of everyone else.
I am just like everyone else in that respect in a lot of ways and that even though there are things in my life and day-to-day that are different that require some understanding and team work in the long run, that’s okay. It’s not that big of a deal. Don’t make assumptions, just ask and learn. And don’t be afraid to like someone with a disability. You know what? We’re people. It’s okay.
How did you perceive love growing up? Was there someone who influenced your perception of love?
So, my dad isn’t my biological dad, but my parents have been together since I was 6 months old. He chose to raise me. He loved my mom enough that he decided to give it a chance and fell in love with me too and has raised me ever since. So in that respect, like I said, it’s who you choose, it’s the commitment. You don’t have to be family, to be family.
Real feelings of love that go into it are real, but at a certain point love is a choice. I guess the choice is to keep loving someone. I think you fall in love with someone for who they are and how great they are and how they make you feel, but I think the choice after a long period of time is to keep loving someone.
So what would you say is a key foundation to a relationship?
For me, for any relationship, whether it’s friendship or a romantic relationship, loyalty is probably the most important thing. You want to be with someone who you get along with and you have similar values to and have similar interests, all those things that are important. But once you found that and you move past that and you decide to have a life together and the more you get into it, you build things together—whether it’s a house or to live together or bank accounts or mutual decisions to go on a trip together or friends—it is a choice, you value that commitment and keep it as your main goal. You keep working towards the same or series of goals together.
Love is…? Fill in the blank with one or two words.
Love is commitment. Even among your friends, your family, the people you choose to be in a romantic relationship, there are so many things that go into it when you decide to be with someone. Past a certain point—as you can tell by my longest relationship—that my vision is always the long game. You meet someone and it may not work out—not to freak someone out that if they go out on a date I’m automatically going to say we’re getting married—but I sort of proceed with that intention. To me love is commitment, because after a certain point that is the goal, that’s what it is.