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The Question

Dear Love Lounge,

I need your advice on my family’s reaction to my relationship with a disabled guy. My parents have met my partner numerous times over the past year, and we all get along well. Last month we moved in together and plan to get married. My Dad has suddenly gone a bit weird about it all, asking questions like “Who will put up shelves for you, and who will cut the grass? I’ve pointed out that its not 1950 and that I can put up shelves and cut the grass but he’s still going on about it.

My partner knows there’s something upsetting me but I haven’t told him about my Dad’s comments yet. I’m not quite sure how to handle that conversation as he loves my folks. It’s really upsetting that my Dad is being off when it should be a happy time for us. Help please!

Ellen x

Our Answer

Hi Ellen,

Thanks for opening up about this scenario. I think it is more common than you may think, although that doesn’t make it feel any easier for you!
Being in a relationship with a disabled partner can indeed bring practical problems. But there are invariably solutions to most of them. Your parents naturally want their daughter to be looked after well but your Dad is focussing on what your partner can’t do!

The generations before us had their jobs clearly divided into ‘blue and pink’ jobs. Many of us now subscribe to that notion less and less. Perhaps your Dad’s perception is that to be the ‘man of the house’ you have to put up shelves and mow the lawn. This is how he felt he supported the family and looked after his girls. Doing these blue jobs validated him as a husband and father.

I wonder if it might be worth a chat with him about this way of thinking – as this isn’t necessarily dependent on your partners disability. You could have a non-disabled partner who is useless at putting up shelves!

I would also consider mentioning this to your Dad – what would happen if you married a non-disabled person and then they became a wheelchair user? You would naturally have to adapt to a new way of life as he may no longer be able to do these tasks. I doubt your Dad would encourage you to leave them because they can no longer mow a lawn.

It sounds like your Dad is a little fearful of the future and has gone into fatherly protective mode.
A simple, adult to adult chat to reassure him may be all he needs.

I think not getting angry or defensive will help you. It appears this is really coming from a place of concern from your Dad rather than a place of mean prejudice. A gentle talk, with confidence and assertion from yourself about how you will manage the household and the relationship as a whole, will allay his fears. It’s encouraging that he gets on well with your partner and has known him for a year. Your Dad will have seen the lovely attributes of your boyfriend; those you’ve fallen in love with. Hence why being in a relationship with a disabled partner doesn’t bother you, as it is about much more than practicalities of a disability.

It’s great that your partner really likes your parents, and I can understand why you may not want to disclose your Dad’s comments.  It could hurt your partner and emasculate him perhaps.  Or conversely, he may totally empathise with your Dad and be willing to talk to him to reassure him.  He may express how he contributes to the partnership and what that looks like to him.  His dedication, emotional support, commitment, love – all more important than him making Wimbledon-quality lawns!

And hey, if it’s such an issue, or your partner fancies mowing – he could always get hoisted up on to a ride-on one 😉

Good luck with the chats.  I have every confidence this can be easily sorted with a bit of empathy and compassion from both sides!

Zoe x

 

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