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Tips For Inter-abled Couples

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Have you ever wondered if being in an inter-abled relationship is more complicated than being in a regular relationship?  

Inter-abled couples go through the same things that any other couple does. Although one person has a disability, his or her limitations don’t disable the relationship’s joy. Inter-abled couples adapt to the physical challenges of the world together, whether figuring out how to explore an inaccessible city or finding the right furniture for the house.

Five years ago, I went on a date with a guy I met through an online dating website. His name was Brandon, and we talked for several months via text. I was so nervous. It was not because it was the first time we were meeting in person; it was because I didn’t want my disability to prevent him from seeing a future with me.

I was born with a neurological condition called Cerebral Palsy. It affects my ability to speak and walk properly. I have to use speaking programs to communicate, and I have been wheelchair-bound since I was a kid. I have dealt with many challenges. Being in a romantic relationship is one of the hardest ones. 

Although I captured many guys’ attention, they could not deal with how to handle the disabled life. I could not just jump in a car and go meet a guy. I never learned to drive, so I had to rely on somebody to drive, and my accessible van wasn’t exactly appealing. I also lived with my parents throughout college. So I never had high hopes about a relationship progressing after a couple of dates.

That changed when I met with Brandon, though. Brandon fell in love with the person I am and patiently learned how to adapt to my special needs. He did not mind driving a big accessible van or having to meet my parents right away. He was very respectful of them and the whole living situation. A couple of weeks after we went on our first date, he asked me to be his girlfriend. He became my fiancé a couple of years later. We just celebrated our second wedding anniversary this year.

Tips For Inter-abled Couples

I have to admit that our relationship has not always been a breeze. Once Brandon and I moved in together, Brandon became my primary caregiver, which affected our romantic relationship a bit. We had to find a good balance between love and caregiving.  

I figured I would share some tips on maintaining a healthy balance between caregiving and romantic relationships. 

Don’t Frustrate, Just Communicate

Strong communication helps prevent conflict and confusion. If you have to rely on your significant other for most daily living activities, it’s vital that both of you can effectively discuss your personal wants and needs. Although you and your partner might be in sync, he or she cannot read your mind. You have to speak up. I have a terrible habit of being vague about how Brandon can be helpful in certain situations. I hate being too needy, so I don’t demand help right away. It drives him crazy. 

For instance, I love to dress and look cute whenever we go out. It is difficult for me to fix my hair and do my makeup on my own. I can’t expect Brandon to know all the beauty tricks, though. I end up wasting time trying to do certain styles myself and get aggravated when something does not come outright.

“Ugh, I give up. Just hand me a headband.”

“You’re so stubborn. If you just let me help, then I can probably learn how to do it.” He responds.

I have learned to let him assist more, and things are running smoother. Our wants and needs align most of the time. However, there have been a few cases that our desires clash. I am an extrovert, and he is an introvert. He enjoys staying at home as much as I enjoy getting out and being adventurous. Instead of sacrificing any of our happiness, we compromise and work things out. 

If he rather chills at home, then I go hang out with friends or schedule a worker to drive me around. We understand that we don’t have to do everything together to be a happy couple. If you are in a similar situation, don’t change who you are or they are. Don’t get frustrated. Talking openly through these situations is always better than remaining silent until it becomes a real issue.

Share The Weight 

Open communication about caregiver fatigue is important, as is having backup helpers. Don’t wait until your significant other has a breakdown. Let your family or friends help release some pressure sometimes. If your family members or friends are not available, you can schedule a PCA or nurse to come for a few hours daily or weekly… There are many caregiver agencies and websites to check out. We have found a few great workers through websites.

Although I call him my Superman, I never expect Brandon to not become burnt out with taking care of me, my needs to take a lot of physical energy. I need help transferring in and out of my wheelchair. I can’t take a bath or dress. I can feed myself, but I need assistance with making my meals. Brandon is the muscle of the relationship. Muscles can’t be overworked.

His health and happiness is as important as mine. Brandon is strong and patient, but he is not perfect. He has his moments of fatigue and frustration. When he is frustrated, I am frustrated. It took a while, but we both started accepting extra help. I work from home as a freelance writer, and Brandon is a shipping clerk at an oil company. While he is at work, I have a PCA come to help me with my daytime routine and weekly errands. 

Tips For Inter-abled Couples

So Brandon doesn’t have to do much when he gets home from a ten-hour shift. We fix dinner, change for bed, and watch our shows like any other married couple. We are usually on the go most weekends, but our families and friends help whenever Brandon is physically exhausted. Whenever we do a long vacation together, I make sure things are not as easy on him. For example, It is difficult to wash my hair in an inaccessible shower, so I schedule a blowout nearby in whichever city we are visiting.  

I just hate feeling like a burden, and I know many can relate. It doesn’t matter how dedicated a person is. Everybody needs a chance to focus on their own care. If your partner does not take care of yourself, how he or she will take care of you, the best thing to do is take away some of the weight and show your partner how beneficial extra help can be to both of you. 

Caregiving Doesn’t Ruin The Romance

I don’t know how many times I have heard, “You should NEVER let your significant other be your primary caregiver. It doesn’t work!” or “Does it ruin the romance?”

I can’t deny that it is awkward to have my spouse wipe my butt or help me with feminine products. However, they’re just two of many reasons why I know I have a good caring man. If he didn’t love me, he wouldn’t have taken on the responsibility of being my husband and primary caregiver. It’s not like we flip a switch and turn off our passion for each other just because he has to attend to my daily needs.

 In fact, you would be surprised to find that our romance and caregiving go hand-in-hand. For example, either of us has great cooking skills, and sometimes a meal does not come outright. However, cooking allows us to grow and make fun memories. Another example is when he is helping me get dressed. He makes sweet jokes about whether an outfit fits on me or he kisses me as he does it. 

Love truly conquers all. The romance will not work as the responsibility grows. It will help it bloom bigger. 

Laugh It Off

Sometimes mistakes are made, and things don’t go as planned. We just recently attended my best friend’s wedding. The dress I planned to wear to the wedding ended up being a little too tight. It took all Brandon had to zip me up. It caused some tension to the day. We ended up laughing about it later, though. 

It is better to laugh things off rather than arguing or getting stressed. I can promise you that laughter is a helpful ingredient in any relationship. Don’t fret over every error. Bad moments are what strengthens the bond between two people. The moments will become hilarious stories.

Express Your Appreciation     

I became so used to his help that I started automatically expecting it. I didn’t realize it until he spoke up. I felt terrible about him feeling unappreciated by me. So I began thanking him more often and randomly doing surprises for him. He is special to me, and I will always express it in many ways. 

Simple acts of gratitude go a long way in keeping your romance alive and thriving. It is easy to fall into a comfortable rhythm when you’re living with someone and to experience much of daily life together. Afterwhile you will forget to keep telling each other how much you appreciate each other. It can be as little as leaving a note for your partner to thank them for doing a certain chore-like finishing up the laundry. 

As you see, It is not impossible to keep the sparks alive when you are an inter-abled couple. Being in an inter-abled relationship can only be complicated if you let it be. Follow your heart and enjoy the obstacles. Don’t the limitations prevent you from finding your soul mate. 

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Brooke Smith
Brooke Smith is from Louisiana. She graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University with a bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in History. She has a blog called Creative Works by Brooke Settoon Smith, which presents her most recent short stories and poems. She is a contributing writer for The Mighty and Coffee House Writers. The most unique thing about Brooke is that she was born with Cerebral Palsy and she lives life limitless.

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