Let’s face it: whoever we are and whatever our background, preferences or additional requirements are, we all need a helping hand and a shoulder to cry on every now and again. The same can absolutely be said if you are disabled and, perhaps, you might require a little more support than you see other people in your life asking for. It’s not unusual for this to get frustrating, and to encourage you to distance yourself from your loved ones, for fear of being ‘too much’ or even a burden.
Today’s top tips revolve around this issue of pushing others away before they have a chance to do the same to you, and how leaning on one another can be a beautiful thing that leads to a strong, sustainable partnership.
What do you have to give?
12 years ago, when I was 16, I went on a month-long expedition to southern Africa with other disabled or disadvantaged young people. As a wheelchair user, I had to depend on other, more physically able, members of the group to hurl me up sand dunes and help me onto buses for 6 hour drives. There was one particular guy who went out of his way to support me at every moment, using his strength to make sure I got as much out of the trip as I possibly could. One day, we sat together on the bus for yet another long journey, and he told me all about his childhood, describing things he’d seen that I could only imagine in my nightmares. I listened and we talked, finding that conversation alone was providing at least some solution to his difficult past. We continued to work in this partnership, with him physically assisting, and me emotionally supporting him.
Whatever you have to give, remember you are not only your impairment. So, if your partner has to help you bathe, undress, or even position you in bed before you get intimate, remember that they are not the only ones providing in this partnership, and giving and sharing talents and support can be done in many differing ways.
Vulnerability is strength
In this day and age, when love is so fleeting and a new hook up is only a swipe away, it can be very difficult to let our guards down and let our vulnerabilities shine through. We don’t want to be seen as weaker, or less attractive, and this can particularly be a difficult thing to navigate if you’re disabled. But, vulnerability is beautiful and, in its purest sense, shows real strength of character. Whilst it might seem so much easier to close yourself off and stop doing the things you love rather than asking for help to do them, remember that the right person will take such joy in contributing to your happiness and love of life (and you might just encourage them to admit to their own vulnerabilities, too! Regardless of how many dating apps there are in the world, aren’t we all really looking for someone who we can trust to love our most authentic, stripped back selves?)
Become a Leaning Team
Once the vulnerability hurdle has been crossed, your relationship will only go from strength to strength. Perhaps your partner will have to lift your mobility aid into the car every single time you go anywhere together, but perhaps, with your support and encouragement, they will also feel the most capable they have ever felt. Become a team that isn’t afraid to lean, and you’ll be the strongest team there ever was.
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this article please share it with your friends. Search hashtag #LoveLounge for more advice and information. Or follow us on twitter @ETUKUndressing and Instagram @UndressingDisability