“I feel like, to me, I know I love somebody when I can make them smile and I feel great about it.”
What is love to you?
I feel like there’s different parts of love in the world. I mean I love hockey, I love sports, and I love other things, but at the end of the day the love you find with somebody…what I learned about love, I lost my parents over the course of my life and that really hurt and that really made me realize this thing called love exists. When you lose somebody from your life forever and that pain is always there and I wish it wasn’t, but it’s a reminder to me whenever I get down that love exists in the world and I love these people more than anything.
I think I did really like a girl one time and she broke up with me and I was full on crying in bathroom stall. And that made me kind of standoffish. But then I lost my grandmother in 2006, and I’m not religious, but it was almost like someone was telling me, “I’m going to show you real heartbreak.” And I realized that wasn’t love, this was love when my grandmother died.
And the same thing kind of rang true when I went through my divorce. There were obviously some issues that happened, I think we both weren’t ready, but it just didn’t work which was tough. It’s tough when you really can’t see your life without a certain person. Love is when you have that unconditional connection to somebody you just want them in your life in some capacity, you care about their well-being, seeing them smile makes you feel good, when they’re happy it makes you feel happy. I feel like, to me, I know I love somebody when I can make them smile and I feel great about it.
I still think there’s been people who’ve been through rough relationship but still love that person, so for me that’s when you know when you love someone: you’re willing to see their flaws and accepting that as well as their positives and what they bring to your life. When you start to get to that point then you can see that and you like the tiny nuances and the things that annoy you start to become the things that you like about them also.
I think that’s all connected to love.
Has your outlook changed after your divorce?
I’ve been struggling for the past couple years. I remember talking to my friend saying, “Man, the next person I fall in love with is gonna get the best me.”
I feel like I understand the things that I did a little bit wrong, where I was a bit off, and the biggest thing that I learned about people and about myself is that we’re always trying to be right and I feel like nobody is every really right or wrong when you’re in a relationship, it’s about what’s fair and compromise.
I was raised in an environment where I wasn’t really shown how to love. I had a messed up version of love when I was being raised. There was a lot of passion I could witness, I could tell there was love between my parents deep down there but there was too much resentment. Unfortunately that rubbed off on me and I carried that into the world when I found my ex-wife and she really had to put up with a lot of that stuff.
You’ve learned a lot from your divorce, so what are things you think are key to actually making a relationship work?
Communication is key, what type of communication? If I looked back on where things went wrong, I could have used straight up honest communication with the emotion put aside. It’s tough to have a conversation when you’re emotional about it, I don’t’ think you’ve come to a solution, because you tip-toe around the solution. Before I would avoid that because I was mad or upset because she wouldn’t agree, and we never got anywhere because we would always be offended.
What are some assumptions you’d wish people would stop having, now that you’re starting to date again?
I think the toughest thing is for me is, when I meet somebody your’e kind of attracted to they get excited about the whole glitz and glamour of me being a Paralympian and then they put me up a little bit higher and then they get to know me and I’m just a regular dude with my flaws.
But, as a disabled person, I think it’s actually a benefit, because I’ve never been in a relationship with someone who’s shallow. On dating apps, I’ve had conversations that have gone so well, they get excited asking if I was in the Olympics, then I mention to them, “It was the Paralympics I’m in a wheelchair” and all of a sudden just dead silence.
But I think anyone with a disability, it’s almost a filter. Let’s be honest you could be disabled in a minute so why would you want to be with somebody who i shallow and wants to leave you for something that you can’t control?
You don’t see who you’re really with until you go through that adversity so I’m lucky to have this situation. It only lets good people, honest people in. It really is a buffer for shallow people.
Do you feel there’s a stigma surrounding men when it comes to discussing love or emotions?
I do. I was raised by white people born in the 40s. My grandfather never cried in front of me. Even then I don’t think I saw him crying even on his deathbed.
Gradually people are more accepting towards males opening up and of course I come from a hockey background everything’s about being tough and “suck it up,” and I found that that doesn’t work. I’ve even been on dates where I had that mindset still and people would say I have a rough exterior, I’ve had situations where I’ve broken down, so you start to toughen up a bit and you think it’s the right thing to do.
And anyone who’s reading this that is a young male, who can relate to me as a male, it’s important to realize that whoever was a strong influence on your life, this is a reminder that that person behind closed doors at some point has had a good long cry by themselves. And it feels good to let it out.
Love is…? Fill in the blank with one word or two and why.
Love is unconditional. I think if you love somebody, even if they aren’t perfect, your heart always finds a way to stay connected to that person. You never forget that person, whether it ended good or ended bad, or whether it wasn’t the greatest, but if you love somebody there are no conditions on it. You can’t understand it. I know it sounds cliché.