Dating on Wheels: Coping with dating discimination

Check out the first entry in my new dating column.

3/3/11: Dating discrimination: How to cope

By Tiffiny Carlson

This week’s column is all about the most obvious yet least talked about issue facing people with disabilities in the rumbly tumbly world of dating: Dating discrimination. It’s the hard truth of being human – discrimination is unavoidable. We‘re all so used to it though it’s hardly ever thought about it, but maybe it’s time we should? Talking about this tough/sad issue can not only be therapeutic, the dialogue can hasten people to think about this issue when maybe they wouldn’t otherwise, causing change. Sure, dating discrimination is another person’s prerogative, but it’s still unfair.

How do you deal with rejection based on your disability? Are you used to it? Do you expect it? Can you blame them? Or do you just get plain angry (like me)? Whatever you’re reaction, it probably isn’t positive, and over time it can erode your happy place. Being constantly hurt, constantly turned down, really takes it toll. A friend once told me that we can only endure so much pain before it can be severely damaging to our souls. Sometimes we just need to step back, decide to take a break from the dating world, and nurture ourselves, slowly building ourselves up again until we’re at a point where we can risk once more our hearts in the game of love.

And as daters with disabilities, we’re discriminated against more than most. But more than single parents? More than people who are overweight? More than people of a different race or ethnicity? Maybe. It’s hard to say. And honestly, it depends from person to person. What I have learned however from my abundant (and turbulent) dating experience is that IT SEEMS we get it the worst, and it really, really sucks. I can be dressed to the nines and channeling Marilyn Monroe’s spirit, but guys will still turn me down and disregard me left and right. That’s just what being in a wheelchair is like somedays.

Another important thing to remind yourself is that there will always be a large unattainable portion of the population that will never be ok with dating someone with a disability, NO MATTER WHAT, and you’re just going to have to let go accept it. Again, another hard truth of living this crazy disabled life. A very wise male friend of mine actually told me that once when I was bemoaning being rejected, yet again, because of the fact that I’m a quadriplegic.

You know, the hardest thing about dating discrimination based on disability is that it’s over something you can’t change, and that’s what really hurts. It’s not like you can just go into the gym and work off your paralysis. It’s always going to be there. So instead, when you get the ax straightaway for the presence of disability, begin to think of the situation – albeit painful – as something to be thankful for. A disability can actually be a great way to filter the awful people out. If someone is going to reject you point blank without bothering to get to know you for YOU first, do you really want to be with someone like that? Would they be any good for you? I think you know the answer.

And at the end of the day when we’ve been turned down and ignored, we still go in for more. Like moths to a flame. But don’t feel silly. You’re human, and we’ll continue to crave love and acceptance until the day we die, fighting all the way down. Just remember, treat your heart with care constantly, and know that there’s always a reason to still have hope.

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Dating on Wheels archive

  1. looking forward to reading these and to hearing the sushi chair breakdown story. Not sure I agree that being disabled is the worst. (i’m able-bodied btw, so I’m, well, biased like everyone else). I think being fat, poor, ugly or stupid are serious obstacles. So’s being insecure. If the guy/girl you’re interested in brunettes and you’re a blonde, that’s pretty much the end of that. Ditto if they prefer flat-chested women and you’re a 36DD. Let’s face it, all humans go through life (or at least days) assuming that the world is stacked against them (specifically them, that is), and that everyone’s talking about them and saying lousy things. Truth is, we are for the most part our own (and only) worst enemies. Nobody can really be bothered. I’m sure you’ve been turned down Tiff. But I can probably line up a few hundred women I know who never would have gotten those dates in the first place. It is, in the words of that world famous marsupial and sage, Kermit The Frog, not easy being green.

  2. I also have a disability and since breaking up with my boyfriend who I was with for a year, and being back in the dating world again it has been quite difficult and finding this website and this particular article has helped me realise that I am not the only one who feels this way and it’s okay to feel this way Tiff!

  3. Think it’s easier for a para then a quad. I’m a para (due to CP) and haven’t walked since I was 19…
    Didn’t seem to matter that I used a wheelchair. I was very discriminated against when I walked or staggered it really was embarrassing Braces-Crutches. NO ONE ever asked me out..If I was sitting down and they couldn’t see my legs or crutches they’d flirt with me and I would have to wait until they left because I couldn’t stand to have them watch me stagger out..

    Once I need a wheelchair full time then guys started asking me out. After tons of dating and few semi-serious boyfriends I am finally at peace with the one I have and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.

  4. Why is it so bad if I find a disabled person attractive?

  5. My question has to do with internet dating: When is the best time to bring up the fact of disability and just how much do I tell them? In my case I use a wheelchair part of the time, but have significant amulation, pain and fatigue issues the best of times. Moreover, I am not even able to drive anymore–so not only do I have the issue of how much to tell, and when, but now I have issues of personal safety since I can’t drive to meet him in a public space. Recommendations? Ideas? I know this isn’t a new posting on your site, but I hope you see my comment!

    Thanks ladybug

  6. ambulation! not amulation

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