Love + Sex, Love, Life Stories, Wellness

I’m disabled and married – but I also date other people

I've learned to communicate better, and I now have a stronger support system.

Being disabled, I encounter a lot of casual ableism throughout my day.

A lot of that ableism causes physical inaccessibility, such as heavily-scented places. Sometimes it’s something so simple as using ableist slurs like ‘crazy’ or ‘idiot’. Whatever the cause, it takes an emotional toll. It’s hard to exist in a world that isn’t set up for us.

Ableism often seeps into every interaction. Dating with a disability can be terrifying at times. We get messages like “Can you even have sex?” or “It’s too bad you’re in a wheelchair, or you’d be cute.” It’s enough that I haven’t checked my dating profiles in a while. Of course, this all gets even more complicated when you’re non-monogamous like me.

I didn’t start out as a non-monogamous person. I’ve been with my husband for over a decade. He is my rock and my best friend.

When we met, I knew that I wasn’t straight, but I also knew that I would marry him. Non-monogamy hadn’t been discussed very much in the media, especially in a positive light. It wasn’t until I became a sex educator that I learned about different relationship structures like ethical non-monogamy.

The next year, I started falling for a friend. While this friend and I are not as close as we once were due to physical distance, it kickstarted the non-monogamy conversation in my household. After a year and a half, both my husband and I were okay with me starting slow and going on dates.

Oddly enough, my husband got used to the idea before I did.

I’d never had to really use dating apps or sites in my youth. I wasn’t really sure where to start.

It’s overwhelming at first, which probably contributed to me taking a longer time easing into dating. I had a Fetlife account already for sex education purposes, so I started joining more groups on there. I found a lot of other disabled and chronically ill folk, but have had odd interactions with abled people.

Across dating sites and apps, I would find people I felt I would really click with and shoot them a message. A lot of them wouldn’t reply or, if they did, they’d share how they are not open to non-monogamy or dating disabled people and those messages usually weren’t kind.

As someone with fatigue, it irks me when I put a lot of effort into a new or potential relationship only to have boundaries crossed or ableism show up. I already don’t have enough energy to take care of everything I need to do. Sometimes I don’t have the energy to do more than watch TV, eat chips, and make it to the bathroom. It gets hard to justify the time spent with other people if I can’t shower or do dishes as often as I really should.

Sometimes I feel guilty about going on dates.

My husband gets to see the hard stuff I go through – the allergic reactions, poor mobility days, and heavy chronic pain moments I wouldn’t wish on an enemy. Why is it that he doesn’t always get to go do the fun and silly things with me? Thankfully, the fact that he’s very introverted does help. He may not want to go to Pride, especially as a cishet dude, but the gal I’m seeing would love it.

Non-monogamy is giving me more opportunities to do things that I would normally have.

The gal I’m currently seeing is also polyamorous and lives with two partners. These other partners have accessibility needs, which makes this gal so much easier to date than anyone I’ve ever known. Sharing what I need and what I need to avoid is getting easier the more I find others willing to listen. Because of ableism, I haven’t shared as much of that in the past and it’s wound up hurting me in the long-run. Being able to communicate my needs more gives me more confidence to do so in other relationships.

For example, I’ve been able to share my pain levels more with my husband instead of getting quiet.

Non-monogamy has given me a much larger in-person support system. I have friends all around the world, but it’s easy to forget that we’re all here for each other. By improving the way in which I communicate, I’ve been able to reach out for help when I need it. I’ve also been able to share crushes on long-time friends, leave spaces that aren’t good for me, and use my assistive devices more.

As odd as it feels to say, I think I’m a much better person because of non-monogamy and my disabilities than I ever was without them.