I feel like I’m at such a disadvantage finding sexual partners because of my disability. Why do people so often automatically reject me just because I have a visible disability?
Well, we really have to start with facing reality. Many ablebodied folk simply won’t consider a partner with a disability. Many disabled people won’t consider you! We do have less to choose from, but believe it or not, that’s not especially a bad thing.
Some of those people rejecting you out of hand are people you wouldn’t want as a partner anyway. They’re interested in the surface, not the substance. If you got involved with one of them, you’d only have wasted your time finding out that they’re not a person who wants to take on the real stuff of relationships— building a foundation for the future, being mutually-supportive partners in the world, devoting themselves to the couple in heart and mind, being vulnerable. These “rejections” just might be saving you a few false starts.
Those false starts can be injurious too. Ended relationships are emotionally exhausting, and to the degree that you’re prone to self-doubts or cynicism about finding a partner, they can foster negative belief systems which could lead to loneliness and fortified defenses, interfering with your ability to grab the next opportunity that arises.
So your disability can act as a kind of filter, narrowing the field to people who are less likely to jump to conclusions based on your disability. That’s the kind of partner you can share real intimacy with, the kind of person who will see you and not your disability.
Keep in mind that people without direct experience of disability are operating from social stereotypes not of their own making. Many of the people you meet and are attracted to are unable to see the real you because of these social filters. They will need an opportunity to learn, through knowing you, that social stereotypes don’t conform to who you are and what kind of a sexual or life partner you would be.
If you get the chance to make a connection outside of intimacy first, then someone who is a real potential partner—and who is enlightened enough to reassess their own beliefs and assumptions—will discover your potential. This can result in a deeper and more satisfying relationship than “love at first sight.”
Deeply ingrained messages tell us what we need from a partner. For women, the unconscious impulse is to seek a man with physical capacity as a protector and provider. Men seek a woman who can nurture and care for home and children. Of course, these stereotypes have been substantially broken down in modern times, but they remain at play in the psyche more than we might care to admit. To the degree that potential partners are still influenced by these messages, men and women with disabilities fail to meet the test.
In my view, that means they’re not really rejecting you as a person for your own values and merits. They’re not really belittling you personally. It’s just a sociological dynamic that is in a process of historic change, and the fact of your being out there having your life and looking for a partner is part of what is fueling this social leap forward.
Try not to take it personally when you’re rejected. Take heart. The fact that so many people with disabilities have found life partners proves that there are good people out there who are not irretrievably controlled by these dynamics.
Still, the question remains, “How do I increase my chances?”
Start by not assuming that you are being rejected based on your disability. That can be a self-fulfilling belief. It will lead you to hesitate, to be less secure, maybe even a little more desperate when you encounter someone who attracts you. People sense that like a wolf smells fear! Often, it’s those dynamics of apparent low self-confidence that turns someone off, not the fact of a disability.
If you expect to be blown off, you’ll project that, and you’ll get the very result you fear.
I find that most questions about sexuality and relationship—disability or not—come down to the same demand. Be yourself. Let your personality show, talk about the things that interest you, relax and have a good time when you’re around new people that you’d like to get to know better.
This is a life assignment for every one of us, everywhere—to come more and more into our own security and sense of self. So rather than trying to do something special to overcome resistance to your disability, focus instead on your own path to knowing yourself and achieving the selfconfidence that will naturally attract a partner who resonates with your true essence and the kind of life you want to live.