When it comes to romantic relationships, there are wide misconceptions surrounding the disability community.
Myths such as being fragile or a burden, being unable to have a physical relationship, or not leading normal everyday lives are all barriers that disabled people must combat when first getting to know a potential partner. What is important to remember is that while there are some unique issues to consider when dating a person with a disability, their overall roles, needs, and desires in relationships are very much the same as everyone else.
Whether a couple is able-bodied, disabled, or one of each, romantic relationships are widely varied, but the way they are universal is in the ups and downs that are inevitable and the give and take that makes them last.
Though year-old Rocky is now happily married to his husband Jimmi, he is no stranger to adversity in the dating world. Being a gay man with spina bifida, his road to love was not always an easy one.
A common dilemma amongst disabled people, it is difficult to determine how much is appropriate and necessary to share upfront. For Rocky, it was easier to be candid almost immediately.
This helps you rule out who is capable of handling it. Why hide it? Spina bifida is a part of me.
He was open about getting to know the real me before making any conclusions about me. True friends and potential spouses will get to know the real you first. The questions regarding spina bifida tend to come later. Over dinner, they realized they shared many common interests including hiking, dinner parties, playing cards, and traveling.
From the beginning, it was clear to Beth that her being in a wheelchair was of little consequence to Chuck. He saw her for her kind heart and courageous spirit. I have always been the adventurous person. I love to try and do new things.
Rocky and beth
Chuck says that is one thing he loves about me. If something does become hard for me to accomplish, Chuck is there to help me adapt to the environment. I feel spina bifida is just coming along for the ride honestly. For Rocky, open communication and being himself has always been an integral part of his relationship with Jimmi.
You need to be vulnerable.
You need to be honest and know that rejection WILL happen. You need to communicate and be who you are. You cannot settle.
Keep your individuality. Having talked to Jimmi for 4 years before they actually met, Rocky learned that when explaining some of the more personal details of his spina bifida, it was important to offer enough information to allow Jimmi to fully understand his disclosures. When a person has lived with their disability for their entire life, it is easy to forget that an able-bodied person might not be familiar with condition-related terminology or the medical cause of certain symptoms or behaviors.
For both couples, being involved with the Spina Bifida Coalition of Cincinnati has helped them to find community, feel empowered, and navigate the effects of spina bifida on their relationship. Beth, who currently sits as the Chair of the Board of Directors, has been involved for several years, sitting on multiple committees in this role.
Rocky is currently the Chair of the Program Committee and has held several positions throughout his decade long involvement with the organization. His husband, Jimmi, has also found a way to get involved and support his partner by ing the Board as a spouse representative, bringing a fresh perspective to discussions. Both Rocky and Beth recognize that while their relationships are unique in some aspects such as needing a bit more planning and flexibility at times, they are very comparable with able-bodied relationships.
Like any couple, there will be arguments, disappointments, and failures. But there will also be growth, new adventures, and happy memories made. The foundations for every healthy relationship, regardless of ability, are communication, compromise, and trust. Knowing that no one is invincible, that anyone can become sick or disabled at any moment, reminds us that in searching for a partner, the qualities that matter most lie in their character.