As I watch my seventeen old daughter revel in her first serious relationship, I am reminded of my own early experiences of dating many moons ago.

My very first ‘relationship’ was aged six with a boy called Bernard (I’m really showing my age) whilst at primary school. During the Winter you were only allowed onto the playing field if you had a pair of wellington boots and as Bernard and I seemed to be the only two children in the whole school who did, we were rather thrown together. I won’t reveal exactly what went on at the bottom of the playing field, but it’s a good job no one else was around!!!

During my early and mid-teens I had many, intense infatuations but, despite my best efforts, it was always unrequited love. With age, things gradually improved but I began to notice a pattern. I was fiercely independent and hated anybody mollycoddling me. There was a tendency for some men to want to protect me, take care of me and do everything for me. Possibly naively, I took this as a personal affront, and caste aside these advances in rather uncaring ways.

In my late teens and early twenties things went rather quiet on the dating front and I admit there were times I was lonely. I am an incurable romantic and I would yearn for a meaningful relationship. As so often in life, love came when I wasn’t looking for it – and, like buses, three came at once!

At the time I was a post-graduate at Southampton University and sharing a house with three men. My husband-to-be was a friend of one of my flat mates and we met at a night out at the pub. We were instantly attracted and it wasn’t long before our first date. When I got home from it –on a high – another of my flat mates friends –who I’d been attracted to for some time – was staying and made a pass. Meanwhile another man from an evening class I was doing, constantly phoned and called round.

I declined the other two and stuck with the ‘husband-to-be.’ He is non-disabled, as have been all the men I have dated, and always says he is the only one in the family (apart from me!) who chose disability – the children and my parents had little option. We have been together for twenty-five years and he has stuck by me as I gradually deteriorate – though I have given him ‘permission’ to leave if it all gets too much!

I think I might have over-done the avoidance of a man who wants to take care of me and do everything for me as my husband is selectively impractical. I have solved this by threatening “to get a man in” if DIY jobs are left for too long.

Dating with a disability can be difficult and it is easy to fall into the trap of over-analysing why a date might want to go out with you. I’d say trust your instincts and give it time. Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy every minute of that intense excitement you have in the early stages of a relationship. There’s nothing like it!



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