Responding to Stereotypes About Disability and Relationships

Does Dating/Marrying Someone With a Disability Automatically Make You a Good Person?

My husband and I were talking the other day and he told me a story about an incident that occurred when we were dating over ten years ago. One day we decided to go to the mall. We were just shopping together in a store and I was looking at some clothes, and my now husband was patiently waiting (and waiting…and waiting…) for me to finish. Apparently I was preoccupied when a man approached my husband and stated, “You’re a good man”. Well, he was right; my husband is a good man. He is loving, selfless, funny, and as mentioned before, patient. But, unless he was clairvoyant (which would have been way cool), there is no way he would have known all of that. No, he was not speaking of my husband’s character, he was saying my husband was a good man because he was willing to be with me, a girl in a wheelchair.

Does dating or marrying someone with a disability automatically make you a good person? Absolutely not! I have known many people who have been in relationships with disabled individuals who were complete jerks. The idea that someone would, or should, only be in a relationship with a person with a disability out of pity is ridiculous. People with disabilities are more than just their disability. We are husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, farmers, truck drivers, students, etc. We are just as capable of providing love and support to another as someone is to providing that to us, and we are equal contributors to our relationships. My husband and I have an equal partnership that is built on love, trust, and faith in each other. It has nothing to do with my disability.

People with disabilities are not a thing to be objectified, fetishized, or pitied. Anyone who is in a relationship with someone for such a reason needs to get out of it. Anyone who thinks that people with disabilities are not capable of being in a relationship for any other reason than these needs to be educated. You don’t get brownie points just because you are in a relationship with someone with a disability. We are people. We are people who want to be loved like everyone else. We are people who want to give love like everyone else. We are people who are capable of contributing equally to the relationship, and it is offensive to assume otherwise.

So to the man in the mall, I say shame on you. Shame on you for assuming that I need to be pitied. Shame on you for not believing I am capable of providing love to someone. Shame on you for feeling like the only relationship I could be in is with “a good man” who is willing to stoop low enough to date someone in a wheelchair. Shame on you for thinking I am worthless. I am a strong, independent, loving woman in a strong, loving, supporting relationship with my husband of over ten years. I am a good woman in love with a good man, and yes, I have a disability.

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