“…Do you mean to tell me that you met your husband after you got sick? [Insert surprised face]. You weren’t already married? Wow! He’s a brave man for taking you on! You must be so grateful to him.”
I’m really not.
I’m grateful for a lot of things in my life.
Being grateful to my husband for ‘taking me on’ definitely isn’t one of them.
Last week I came across an article by Holly Bonner on The Mighty, ‘Why I’m Not Grateful To My Husband For Staying After I Lost My Eyesight.’
Holly explored the notion that she is supposed to be grateful her husband stayed with her after she went blind…and the reasons why she ISN’T.
It was a thought-provoking article that stirred up similar feelings for me but for slightly different reasons.
I don’t get the “grateful for staying with you” comments; I get the “grateful he took you on” comments.
I didn’t get sick during the course of our marriage; I was already living with chronic illness and disability when my husband met me.
I have a disability but our relationship doesn’t.
My husband and I have been together for over eight years and just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary.
He knew about my disability and health challenges from the moment he met me. The walking sticks and wheelchair were hard to miss.
I know he was taken aback the first time he saw me being pushed in the wheelchair – it can be confronting to see a young person like that – but it didn’t deter him.
He was told of the complications that come with my managing my condition. His response was a simple, yet profound, “So what?”
Not a “So what? Who cares?” response but an “It’s cool babe, we’ve got this,” response.
He sees me for all the ways that make me who I am, from the frustrating to the wonderful.
With creativity, strategy and communication, we can experience the world to the fullest together.
People with disabilities can date and be in relationships just like anyone else.
Everyone has talents, interests, insecurities, passions, limitations and the ability to love and be loved.
A person with a disability is no different.
Unfortunately, social stigma and negative stereotypes around disability and romantic relationships make it a challenging path to navigate.
“Society’s accumulated myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairment.”
– William J. Brennan, Jr.
Why is it so hard to fathom that people with physical disabilities want to, and can be, in a romantic relationship just as much as an able-bodied person?
And why, oh why, should I be eternally grateful that someone decided to enter into a relationship with me, much less marry me, simply because I have a disability?
I’m not some charity case that my husband decided to ‘take on’ as a pet project.
He didn’t ‘take me on’ in a gesture of noble sacrifice or to explore lofty aspirations of inspiring benevolence in others.
Neither my husband nor I have ever lowered our expectations of our ideal partner or settled when it comes to relationships.
Ours is a relationship between two people who love each other.
Just like millions of other unions around the world.
In some ways I can understand the fear behind romancing someone with a disability.
It’s a fear fuelled by common misconceptions such as:
- The partner without the disability will end up being a caregiver more than an equal partner.
- Disability is a weakness, not a sign of strength.
- With disability comes an extreme burden.
Sadly, this misinformation can prevent a person from experiencing the most amazing relationship, or being able to see the beauty that lies in someone else’s relationship without passing judgement.
“When you focus on someone’s disability you’ll overlook their abilities, beauty and uniqueness. Once you learn to accept and love them for who they are, you subconsciously learn to love yourself unconditionally.”
– Yvonne Pierre
Having a disability shouldn’t be a deterrent to an emotional connection with someone.
To enter into a relationship with ANYONE requires taking a risk and giving that person a chance.
Sure, a disability may bring forth different challenges, but that does not mean the person, or the relationship, is any less worthy of your time, love and attention.
I’m not damaged because I have a disability. I live an extraordinarily full and satisfying life. I have a career, loving family, a good social network and am highly independent.
Yes, I require some help from my husband, but it’s not a dependency arrangement.
Like any relationship, there is a natural ebb and flow where we take it in turns to help and support each other as needed.
Give and take. Love and support. Laughter and sadness. Highs and lows.
One special person to annoy for the rest of my (our) life.
That is what I am grateful for.
Take that on!
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