Rejection, dating and disclosing disability

Rejection dating and disclosing disability - a black and white image with a hand hiding a persons face indicating STOP!

Love Lounge Question

Rejection, dating and disclosing disability.

Hello,

I have Cerebral Palsy and I’m 30 years old. I’ve been online dating on and off for the last 10 years after I broke up with my first girlfriend. I haven’t ever had any success. I have met a few people on dating sites but ultimately I feel I’ve been used for sex as as after we get it on, there’s no more contact.

After a couple of years break from dating site I decided to give it another go.

I’m happy with the direction that my life is going, I’m learning to drive, I’m at college and I’m hoping to have a job in the near future.

To begin with I pretty much had a repeat experience in that I would message people, get a reply and start getting to know them. But I felt like I was lying as I hadn’t disclosed my disability in my profile. I always knew at some point I’d have to tell them how I am.
Now I am close to giving up. I’ve decided to avoid disappointment to be up front and honest,  changing my dating profile to reveal my disability, the way I want it to be. Nobody is interested. I will message someone, they’ll check my profile and not respond. Or I’ll talk to someone as before, they’ll check my profile and I’m ghosted.

I feel worthless.  Like no matter how much I have in common with someone they will never see me as someone to settle down with because of my disability.

I believe I’m a good person but that seems to matter very little. Any advice would be much appreciated. I need the help.

Our Answer

Reading your letter really resonated with me and, I’m sure, many other disabled people that have tried to use dating apps.
The familiar quandary of whether you are upfront on the profile about your disability, knowing that those who message you are obviously okay with it. Or do you hide it and let someone get to know your personality and then tell them, hoping they’ve liked you enough to give it a go?  It’s hugely risky and can be so damaging for ones self-esteem. No one can know the correct way, it’s a gamble – but do what feels best for you in order to protect yourself emotionally.

It sounds like it’s difficult for you to look at these dating scenarios objectively, without putting the emphasis on your disability being the issue.

Hearing you say that many times it feels you have been used for sex, I would say this is commonplace, regardless of ones abilities.  It might not be what you wanted but the reason for it doesn’t have to be because you’re disabled. It’s about re-framing your perception so that if such events occur, they don’t ruin your self esteem.
It sounds like you’re in a really good place in your life at the moment – hence you wanting to date again – with your driving and college. So perhaps when you’re left feeling ‘worthless’, remember to focus on what you have achieved.

Don’t let the negative feelings of dating suppress your achievements.  When you’re oozing confidence about yourself, this will spill out into the way you relate with others. Which leads me to another point…

It might be nice for your profile to show a fun side of your personality. Perhaps a funny comment regarding your disability, should you choose to disclose it.  Maybe be jokey or be flirty with it – “you never know until you try” type thing. If you sound comfortable and accepting of yourself, then hopefully the receiver will feel more at ease too.
Unfortunately, people are anxious about dating people with disabilities- it’s unknown territory for many.  I wonder whether choosing a photo which shows your disability may help to allow someone to see what your situation is. The imagination can lead people to think the wrong thing!

Again, only do what you feel comfortable doing.

If you give people a way out/excuse by saying ‘I know it will put people off’ then it may end up being a self fulfilling prophecy. Don’t give them the option to think that as they then might think they should be staying clear!
Again, it’s a true statement that if they’re not willing to accept you then they’re not right for you – and I understand it’s coming from a place of hurt and self protection.  I wonder whether you need to mention it at all, as the right people will come through whether you iterate this point or not.
You’re a good looking young man and obviously have focus, determination and goals to achieve.  I wish you luck with the dating and completely understand how disheartening it can be.  Remember your value.
** Pulling a positive from this Covid-19 situation – you won’t be going on dates anytime soon, so it gives you plenty of time to write and build up some good relationships with people, allowing them to get to know the real you.
Hope this helps, and sending all best wishes
Zoe
Follow us on Instagram @UndressingDisability and on twitter @ETUKUndressing. Learn more about sex and disability by purchasing our ‘Undressing Disability’ ebook priced at £5.99 All proceeds go to support our charity.
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