The pursuit of love and companionship isn’t easy. It’s never a guarantee that two people have romantic chemistry, have the patience and consideration for each other, nor have the commitment to push past the inevitable challenges of being together for any length of time.
Arguably, people have a tendency to limit their dating pool in large part due to the sheer uncertainty of dating. Perhaps you dismiss the idea of seeing someone romantically entirely due to preconceived notions about their ability to support and care for you.
It’s true that romantically pursuing someone of limited physical or learning ability entails a unique set of challenges to overcome. This does not mean they’re not great dating partners. In fact, you may just find yourself pleasantly surprised by eliminating your own bias and expanding your dating pool.
Love isn’t skin deep
Before showing reluctance toward dating a PWD, consider these foods for thought:
> All relationships have their challenges. In this regard, dating a PWD is no different than dating an abled individual.
> Dating an abled individual is NOT inherently easier. An abled individual with toxic relationship traits are common, while plenty of PWDs are emotionally available and perfectly romantic when it counts.
> Supporting a PWD throughout a romance can be a challenge, but limited physical or learning ability does NOT necessarily limit their independence. The perceived burden of supporting them can often be an exaggerated concern.
> A date isn’t a lifelong commitment. Spending an evening or two for a wine and dine is a very small price to pay for the possibility of encountering love from someone unexpected.
How to evade a dating disaster
Got a date with a strapping PWD? Here’s what you DON’T do:
> Don’t treat their disability like a proverbial elephant in the room. Most people can sense when you are tip-toeing around something, which may create a slightly anxious atmosphere. You’re in the ideal social context for getting to know them, so if you want to understand their challenges or experiences, ask. Politeness paired with honesty go a long way.
> Don’t be afraid to tease your date as you might do with anyone else. Being overly cautious with your words out of fear of offending tends to be counterproductive. Making attempts at genuine light-heartedness is rarely ever a sin.
> Don’t hyper-focus on their disability. This may sound like the opposite of the above. It isn’t. There is a fine line between a conversation and an investigation. Just like anyone, a PWDs challenges don’t encompass their entire personality nor identity.
> Don’t be overly courteous. Being too helpful can be suffocating, or create an unnecessary scene. While you may have good intentions, the result can be very similar to hyper-focusing on one’s disability. Acting the gentleman or lady is great; acting the parent isn’t.
> Don’t be impatient. Certain physical and learning limitations can inhibit conversation, but a pleasant date is very possible with a little empathy on your part. Remember, a PWDs challenges do not make them incapable. There could very well be a brilliant, charming mind behind those limitations.
Tackling a potential romance
Figuring out what to DO when dating PWDs is simple; keep in mind what not to do, then do the opposite. Beyond that, common sense applies.
Does your date have difficulties traveling, for example? Offer to pick them up, or have the date at a more convenient location.
Even if dating isn’t easy, the components that make up a healthy connection between two people are often incredibly simple. Being considerate, polite, charming and showing genuine interest or concern is the hallmark of any successful date.
OttawaLife (2020) Dating tips for PWD and that anyone can use [Accessed 17 Oct 2022] Available at: https://www.ottawalife.com/article/dating-tips-for-pdw-and-that-anyone-can-use?c=85
Springer Link (2022) Attitudes Toward Dating People with Disability Amongst Young People in Australia and Hong Kong [Accessed 18 Oct 2022] Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11195-022-09734-2
Disability Horizons (2019) Top 5 reasons why dating someone with a disability is great [Accessed 18 Oct 2022] Available at: https://disabilityhorizons.com/2019/02/top-5-reasons-why-dating-someone-with-a-disability-is-great/