Dating can be daunting, especially for a person who has recently suffered a spinal cord injury (SCI). Yet, with the right attitude and a little confidence, you can go from friend zone to your happily-ever-after place
As a person with an SCI, it can seem pointless to talk about sex if you don’t currently have someone with whom to explore and experiment. Going out and meeting potential partners can be an overwhelming challenge – one that you might prefer to shy away from. It might therefore be helpful to talk about the dating stage of relationships and to highlight a few things to keep in mind.
The most important aspect of dating is how you see yourself. The danger with low self-esteem (which often accompanies an SCI) is the belief that nobody would want to have a romantic or sexual relationship with you.
This mind-set creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, where an SCI individual avoids relationships and experiences rejection.
It is important to make an effort to meet potential partners and break this cycle. It is likely that there will be some rejection, but the whole aim of dating is to look for chemistry, and you can’t have chemistry with everyone.
Get out of the friend zone
Another hindrance to dating is the feeling that you’re always the friend and never the partner. Maybe you’ve had the experience where people come to you as a shoulder to cry on or a sympathetic listener for the tales of their failed dates, while you are not taken seriously as a lover. Although there is nothing wrong with platonic relationships, you need to make your own romantic needs known.
You can explain that you are looking for love; you can even ask if they know somebody who might be interested in dating. If you feel sexual attraction towards someone, make it known. It’s the only way to break out of the friend zone.
Asking someone out on a date can be daunting even if you’ve done it often. One way to go about it is to invite someone to a casual event that you’re planning to attend – for example, to a friend’s birthday party.
One couple with disabilities came together because she accompanied him to an estate agent to find a new flat. The estate agent assumed they were a couple and that initiated the relationship.
Come right out and say it
Finally, when you’re on a date, introduce that elephant in the room. Because very few people have contact with people with disabilities, they often don’t know how to act around them. Talk about it upfront: encourage the person to ask you whatever they want to know. Once that is out of the way, that person can get to know you – the person behind the disability.
Danie Breedt is a passionate scholar-practitioner in the field of psychology. He divides his time between training future psychologists, research and clinical practice. Danie works from an integrative interactional approach in therapy dealing with a wide range of emotional difficulties. He is currently working as a psychologist at numerous physical rehabilitation hospitals across Gauteng for Charis Psychological Services where he does supportive counselling as well as sexual education for patients with disabilities. Column courtesy of Charis Psychological Services.