It is human to desire companionship and closeness with another person who accepts and understands us. Companionship and closeness are about commitment, trust, chemistry and sometimes intimacy. Whether we are in a wheelchair, experience vision loss, have an invisible disability, or are using a prosthetic leg–we all still want to have the best relationships we can. Throughout the adventure (and it IS an adventure!) of starting and continuing to be in relationships, we must always remember that it is extremely important for others to get to know us for the person we are and for the person we want to become, not just for our disability. Of course our disabilities are part of who we are, just like the color of our eyes, or the length of our hair. But we deserve to be seen and known as whole people, not as just one part of who we are.
Freedom to be ourselves may be the toughest thing of all to achieve. But it may also be the most important. All humans desire freedom; and more than just a desire, freedom is a drive we have to be ourselves. From the time we were small children we have all proclaimed at one time or another, “I can do it myself!” In other words, we all want some freedom to do it our own way, on our own terms.
While we each crave and value our own freedom, we often need to remind ourselves that adjustments, a variety of techniques and accommodations are part of our freedom– especially when it comes to intimacy and relationships. It is these adjustments and accommodations that allow us with disabilities to pursue and experience relationships and intimacy, thereby allowing us to fulfill our desire for the warmth, touch and love of another human being–to be treated as an equal.
Respect and trust yourself and your individuality, as this will provide your inner self with the positive support that is so important. Knowing yourself and your needs, and honoring yourself, are essential for your own wellbeing, and will be a big part of your relationship “glue” when you get close to another person, whether that person is a friend, or also a lover/partner/spouse.
Robert M. Hensel is a writer, poet, and songwriter, who was born with spina bifida. In regard to having typical life experiences, including relationships, he has said, “I have a Disability yes that’s true, but all that really means is I may have to take a slightly different path than you.”
So Respect Yourself, Honor Yourself and Your Needs, Trust Yourself, and don’t be afraid to take that “slightly different path” that is yours and yours alone.