Sunday, June 18, 2006

Disability Dating Dillemnas, for lack of a better title

More on sex and disability. I realise I have moved straight on from the subject of looks to dating, having skipped the non-visual forms of attraction - but I am going at this in a clinically haphazard manner.

I have never been on a date. It wouldn't be the whole story, but impairment and disability do have a significant impact on my capacity to do the dating lark in anything like a conventional way.

Fortunately, I am at the more buggered up end of the spectrum; I have long periods stuck at home, much of the time in bed, so there would be an issue in even meeting new people anyway – other than on the Internet and then there’s the small matter of geography (among other things).

These obstacles are not to be underestimated. For some people, the practical circumstances of their lives more or less rule out having a sexual or romantic life.

However, say I was to be asked out by someone who did not live at the other end of the country;

  • I am unreliable. Often I have to withdraw from an organised social event because I’m not well. I might feel better the next day. Or I might not be better for a couple of months.
  • At the same time, spontaneity is out of the question; I need to pace myself very carefully in order to achieve anything beyond the things I absolutely need to do.
  • Even then, my stamina is poor so I can’t do a lot of the things folks would normally do on a date. I may also have to come home early. I can become extremely tired very quickly and fall asleep in strange places.
  • I use a wheelchair, so everywhere I go has to be physically accessible. Many pubs, theatres, restaurants and nightclubs are still out of bounds.
  • My health prevents me from driving and I can't used most public transport, which remains inaccessible. Any car that transports me needs to be able to get the wheelchair in it.

Now, I am a lovely person, but if you just asked someone out and they rattled off that list, wouldn’t you be just ever so slightly put off? If you were just after an encounter, then this would rule such a person out - it just wouldn't be worth the bother. And if you were interested in more than that, you'd have to be very interested.

Like I say, my situation is extreme and most disabled people don’t have nearly this amount of difficulty. Many disabled people don’t have any of these problems at all.

However, many disabled people do have access issues which can effect spontaneity. Many disabled do have impairment issues that effect what they can do and where they can go in comfort. Many disabled people do have fluctuating conditions that mean that they have to let folks down.

As you can gather, this is one way in which being disabled can really trample your confidence; can anybody be bothered with me? Dare I ask another person to burden themselves with me even for an evening? Won’t they think I cause a lot of fuss? Will they believe me if I really want to come but am not well enough that day? What if I fall asleep during a conversation?

This apart from the fact that the other person has to be worth all the energy on my part. And then there’s the small matter of sex...

The answer to all these matters is that some disabled people have to face the fact that (a) dates with folks we hardly know leading quickly to the bedroom are simply not on the cards and (b) the pool of people from which we might find potential lovers is significantly smaller than for other people. We need easy-going folks who have a bit of imagination and empathy, who take us at our word. People in whose presence we feel completely comfortable, who respect us and our limitations without suffering from what Sainthood Syndrome or assuming that disabled people are easy.

Now, on the one hand, these folks are hard to come by.

On the other hand, a lot of the dating that other people do is in all about the tedious process of whittling down their massive pool of potential lovers in order to identify just these people.

And to this extent, it could be argued that we have avoided a whole lot of hassle.


Anonymous said...


Great post.

Although I have friends of all kinds, I've never had any romantic relationship, mostly for the reasons cited above.

Also another problem is if a disability involves scoliosis or anything that makes a body look unusual - people don't find that body attractive.

Self-confidence is also an issue because when you never get to practice dating, you get caught in a vicious cycle where you just don't know how to deal with it in the least.

Thanks for posting on this important issue.


Anonymous said...

I want to thank you for your post on the 10th. I have ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - a couple of weeks ago I was told about the Lightning Process, it's some kind of mental training program. Since then I have really been unable to decide whether I should do it. I can't understand how it can possibly be the answer, and if it is, how come this guy discovered it if he's not a doctor, but all the testimonials keep making me think I should do it - but then I think, if it's so good, why isn't it on the NHS?
So your post was interesting for me, because I am turning that very issue over in my mind right now. Still can't decide though.

Mary said...

I've got one too!


But the boyfriends I've had since I've been ill, it hasn't been a case of "would you like to go on a date?"
"yes, but (problem) (problem) (problem)".

It's been more a case of internet group meet-ups, just on a basis of friendship, where all or at least most members have been aware of my "issues" and there's been a group effort to overcome them in the simplest and easiest way possible.

Men from these group meet-ups who've then been interested in developing a relationship with me know what to expect, get to know me a bit more online, and then things have gone from there. All cards are already on the table, and it's nice and stress-free.

Howard said...

Great post and very honest. And I love your last sentence. Nice dig at the shallow ones. You may not have meant it as such, but it's still a beautiful thing.

The Goldfish said...

M, yes confidence and inexperience are big issues. I'll have to write something further about that. Thank you.

Anonymous, it is a difficult one. The Lightning Process sounds highly suspect to me personally and as for testimonials; he would be in trouble if he'd made them up, but we know that there is a fairly wide spectrum of people diagnosed (or even self-diagnosed) as having ME; some of whom may not have exactly the same condition.

By the way, this is a very sad story, but in case you haven't seen it, CFS has been written as the cause of death for the first time on a British death certificate this week (see here). I have heard of other deaths, but they're usually put down to organ failure etc. Of course it is still very very unusual to die of ME or CFS, but this recognition of the most serious imaginable consequence of the illness is likely to move the science along.

That and this stuff about gene expression. :-)

Mary, I must write a bit about Internet relationships as it really does change everything. That's how I met AJ.

Howard, thank you. :-)

Anonymous said...

It's the necessity for explanations that kills sex for me.

If you become disabled while in a relationship, you can adapt successfully to the changes necessary, as I have reason to know. However I can't even imagine explaining my particular problems in this area to someone unversed in the condition. How to choose the right moment etc.

Mary said...

re: ME/death -oh bugger.

Anonymous said...

Hi Goldfish,

You are right, ME does seem to cover a lot of people who may not all have exactly the same thing, but then I think to myself, "what if I'm in the section of people that the lightning process works for?". So maybe they were misdiagnosed and didn't really have ME - but maybe I don't really have ME either, if you see what I mean? I wish things like the Lightning process or reverse therapy could be sorted out with a trial of some kind, to settle it one way or the other. Then I would know what to do either way.
(Better diagnosis would help too, there is some stuff about guidelines for ME here )

Yes, I did see about the poor girl who died of CFS. There is more about it here.

it's a truly terrible story

I have heard of other deaths before, there was an Australian girl called alison Hunter who died too.

It's interesting for me reading this blog. I don't know whether to think of myself as "disabled" or "ill". I know what you mean about the dating.

The Goldfish said...

El, thanks for your comment. Mental health impairments have a special place within the whole sex and disability thing. I have a little story about that which I may post next.

Anonymous, I too struggled for ages about this illness/ disability thing. I wrote about how I came to think of myself as disabled here. Of course, I am still ill and I still need to look after myself, but now the focus of my energies has moved to living as full a life as possible within my limitations, as opposed to using up all my energy seeking out a recovery which I may never actually achieve.

Mary said...

Agree absolutely on the not chasing snake-oil "miracle cures" that *might* work because they have been reported to have some success in curing some of the symptoms that some people who have tried it were suffering from. Generally the only effect it is guaranteed to have is to make you poorer and whoever is selling it a LOT richer.

Love the post about how you came to think of yourself as disabled, there was a lot I could identify with there.

Anonymous said...

Dear Madam Goldfish (I hope that's the correct address!)

Hope you dont' mind me dropping in like this: I read this discussion on the Lightning Process some while ago, and was interested because I'd just signed up to take the course. I made a mental note to come back and let you know if it was successful or not.

I'd had ME for 15 years, for the last 10 years so badly that I couldn't do much but lie around the house all day. Talking, reading, even thinking were usually beyond me; although I was still able to walk, I couldn't walk far without exhaustion following soon afterwards.

So in the middle of September I went off to learn the Lightning Process, apprehensive as to whether it would work for me. Now, six weeks later, I have the confidence to write and tell you that it certainly did.

Although I felt a lot better immediately after the first session, I didn't experience the 'lightning' effect that so many people do, in fact for several weeks, although I felt more buoyant and bright in spirit than I had for a long while, I didn't seem to be much different in terms of strength and energy. I was beginning to think that it hadn't really done all that much for me. But about two weeks ago, that changed quite suddenly, and now I'm bouncing around the place. That oppressive cloud of fatigue and fogginess has lifted and the strange thing now is getting used to it not being there anymore!

This week I've been for bicycle rides - as I was pumping up the tyres the first time, I thought how I wouldn't even have been able to do that a few weeks ago.

I don't entirely understand the theory behind it: as well as stopping the adrenalin rushes, it seems to increase the chemicals and hormones which promote health and well-being. But whatever the science of it, it definitely works and I can confidently recommend it to anyone who wants to be cured.

I went to a lady in Bath to learn it; she charged a reasonable amount and she worked hard to help me with my own particular needs.

Well, that's all I wanted to say, really! Unless you'd like to know any more about it, in which case I'm happy to answer any questions.

All the best,


The Goldfish said...

Elfreda, that's great news! :-)

Having not heard of the Lightning Process before it was brought up here, I know from my Sitemeter that lots of people find this discussion by doing Google searches for it, so lots of other people will hear your positive story.

May your improvements long continue!

Anonymous said...


i too found your blog after doing a google search for lp.

i am bedbound due to god knows what..cfid's me lyme viruses...whatever is causing this it has me down good.

i am looking into trying the lp also. i've tried loads of medical interventions...oth alternative and mainstream and nothing has worked what the heck maybe lp will be the thing to get me out of this living nightmare.

anyway is there a way to get in touch w/ elfreda...i'd like to chat more with her about her experience.

thanks so much.

warmly lisa

Anonymous said...

I just found this randomly after searching on google too.

I did the Lightning Process for M.E in November 05 and dont have m.E anymore.

After the first 3 hour session I felt like I was alive again and functioning in the real world, and when i used the process correctly could sustain the feeling of wellness! It was fab. The following sessions and the one I had a week later helped me to refine using the process. Which as time went on over the week or so I used less and less as my body was learning to function normally.

It is wonderful to have been well for over a year in the knowledge that it isnt possible having learnt lp for me to become ill again!

I highly recommend LP if you are prepared to be committed to being well for longterm and are aware that it isnt a miracle cure- you have to put in the determination and commitment.

I should say that before lp i was housebound with continual dizziness, noise and light sensitivity, muscle pain and slept for minimum 16 hours a day. After lp i had more energy when i used lp correctly than my friends!

If you want more info on lp read the stories of people who did lp on

Hope that encourages some people to think about lp and to realise that M.E. isnt the end of the world!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I found you while doing a search of my own blog. ( I need to change the link as my doctor just discovered I have a movement disorder and not fibromyalgia.

I love what you say about Sainthood Syndrome. That is so right on!

Anonymous said...

my major problem is that i lack the energy needed to maintain a long-term romantic relationship.i therefore agree with most of the comments.additionally,it is difficult if not impossible to find someone who won't feel like she will become a caretaker at some point in time