Developing and maintaining a romantic relationship isn’t easy on the best of days. We all carry baggage and have expectations that we place on the other person. Even if someone’s situation is “perfect”, they will bring trauma and scars from their past, often subconsciously. When it comes to handling romance with bent and broken bodies, the obstacles can feel unbeatable. But, they aren’t.
Let’s start with dating. The word alone can cause a flood of anxiety. It’s a world where possible partners take a quick look at a picture, then swipe either approval or dismissal, before personalities are even brought up. Do you have an obligation to disclose your medical issues during the picture or chat phase? Is it fair (to yourself) to tell that information to a stranger; a screenshot of a person who may or may not be real? How much should you share and at what point? People already ghost, catfish, and harass matches. There are good reasons to be cautious about sharing personal information with pseudo-strangers. But the question remains, shouldn’t attraction be completely honest and vulnerable?
Most people with visible disabilities acknowledge their differences in their profiles. While the same pressures over broken body dating are present, the worry about how and when to show those differences is off the agenda. Most of the time app-based dating presumes the best of people. We go on it with hope that everyone we are attracted to is presenting accurate versions of themselves. The same can be said for in-person dating. Maybe a friend set you up or an attractive person had the guts to ask you out. No matter who it is or how they found you, everyone is looking for a person they can be their most genuine self around.
Being a woman in the dating pool has its own set of problems. Add to those a difficult medical situation… it’s just so freaking complicated. There is a lot of hope and excitement around finding new love. Physical encounters and some emotional turmoil inevitably happens. Eventually, someone wanders onto your path that you really like. Maybe a first date, or even a second, goes by without acknowledging your health. You’ve found ways to navigate the dates around your hurdles. Smiles and chemistry abound! At some point, it feels like the right time to tell them about your body. You owe it to yourself and them. But, you don’t want to put a shadow over their new-like filter. You don’t want your health to be the only topic of conversation or for your date to start acting strange. Even worse, what if they can’t handle your lifestyle and they disappear. It sucks, but you have to pull the plaster off sooner rater than later.
I recommend peppering notes about your health throughout conversations from the beginning. Perhaps there is a moment when they ask about what you’ve been doing for work or school. “I had to take some time off to deal with health stuff” is a perfectly acceptable response that you can parlay into questions about them. Another example, “Because of my health stuff I can’t run anymore but I love swimming. What’s your favorite water activity?” By doing this, they (hopefully paying attention) are provided with a jumping board for asking about it and you have a way to bring it up organically. I’ve found that this is a great way to start the process without overwhelming them with all the details upfront. Remember, they probably have mental or physical crap they are dealing with too. We all do!
Some people feel that it is mandatory to bring up their health issues immediately. That is completely fine. There is success in dating with a warts-and-all up front mentality. I’ve just seen, in this age of dating, that people can be put off by the overshare. There is a subtle dance taking place during a date. Stomping on toes out of the gate might hinder your dance partner’s ability to see your other graceful moves. No matter the advice, do what feels right to you when dating. Be yourself. Trust yourself.
The lust part of forming a new relationship is usually wonderful. Covered in the weird chemistry cloud that sooths everything bad and makes you smile uncontrollably. It’s usually all wrapped up in physical contact and intimacy. Pain and other symptoms can throw a cold towel over that fire, even when you desperately want it to burn.
The best way to approach the possibility of symptoms during intimacy is with an honest discussion. I know that many people find sex talk to be awkward or even taboo. Here’s the thing, it isn’t a big deal. We all have sex. It looks different to everyone and each person has their unique preferences and boundaries. When it comes to broken bodies, voicing desires, deal breakers, and possible speed bumps is the only way to guide both parties through a positive sexual encounter. If the person you are sharing with decides that they don’t want to accommodate your needs, then so be it. They aren’t the right fit for you. If, on the other hand, they are open to moving forward with your needs in mind, awesome!
In the sex realm, getting over shyness or undeserved shame around the subject can be easier then you think. First, you both have bodies. Your bent bits have a counterpart in your partner. Even through the perfecting haze of lust, know that the other body has its own issues. Next, you are incredibly attractive. I know! What a wild thought! There is someone, probably many people, who find you and your package desirable. You, the total you, deserves to be treated the way that you treat others. The right people in your life will fill this need. Finally, talk about sex by asking questions. It’s the most powerful tool in the communication toolbox for a reason. Every time there is an opportunity to ask the other person the same question they asked you, take it. Especially when it has to do with physicality.
Of course, if you are already comfortable with your sexuality, keep rocking those flirtatious moves and questions. Just don’t forget to be honest about your needs around adult playtime. Mentioning pain triggers and ways to ease symptoms can be a fun part of the interaction instead of a problem.
Like in real life, love comes on the heels of lust. Wait. Let me rephrase that. Love usually accompanies the later stages of lust.
It would be unfair, and pretty crappy, to hide any medical issues from a partner at this level. One of the craziest parts of love is our vulnerability. We show the best and worst parts of ourselves to someone else and see if they stay. They do the same to us. I’ve been in situations where lies and withheld truths come to light just after the love phase has started. Not only were those experiences painful, they left either myself or the other person feeling like the entire relationship was fraudulent. Some of us might be able to hide our disabilities better than others, but it doesn’t mean that we should. Excuse such as, “saving someone else from worrying”, “they don’t need to know”, or “it’s not their problem” are completely bogus. Those are just ways to cloak the fear of “if they know my weaknesses, they might leave me”.
I’ve mentioned this before in my relationship posting, but if a person can’t deal with you having health problems it doesn’t make them a bad person. You can still be frustrated, angry, and sad about their leaving. Some people just cannot cope with everything that comes along with having a bent or broken partner. The right ones will stay. You’ll endure one another’s challenges together. Those hard times will give way to wonderful experiences and feelings of home. If you are really lucky, you’ll get one of these loves. If you are fortunate, you’ll get many of these loves. If you are everyone else, you’ll get a taste of these loves. Just stay open and be honest. Maybe you’ll be the lucky one.