It’s been a hot topic in the news recently: when does a partner become a carer, and is it okay for that boundary to be crossed? For those of us who are disabled, this issue can feel difficult to address, and even raw at times. We want romantic and sexual relationships just like anyone else, but we’d also be fooling ourselves if we didn’t admit that we need a little extra help with the more practical side of things too, sometimes. If this is a subject you’d like to bring up in your relationship, but you’re not quite sure how to, please do read on and we will do our best to advise.
Tip 1: Be practical
Before starting any conversation with an existing (or potential) significant other, it’s important to be honest with yourself and consider what assistance you require that might be classed as outside of the ‘relationship realm’ of duties. Perhaps it’s help vacuuming the floors, tying your shoe laces, or getting dressed and eating in the morning. Do these needs change depending on your changing impairment, and how confident do you feel asking for help when it’s required? All of these factors are ones that you need to be knowledgeable about before discussing them with a partner; it’s much easier for anyone to get on board with something that they can clearly understand.
Tip 2: Set boundaries
It’s important, when thinking about this lover/carer dynamic, to remember what qualities and support you can provide in a relationship. You might be a magician when it comes to emotionally supporting or encouraging your partner, or you might be a total whizz with budgeting, bills and finances. Make sure to set boundaries with one another, though, so that you don’t each forget to lend a hand in other areas of your relationship when you can. There’s nothing wrong with agreeing to openly ask for help when it’s required, and even explaining if too much assistance ever becomes a hinderance. As long as those boundaries are there and understood by both parties, it will be difficult for either one of you to take advantage of the other (something that’s vital in any partnership, whether you’re disabled or not!)
Tip 3: Check in
Conversations about a dynamic as fragile and as difficult to navigate as this aren’t ones that you have once every three years. However difficult it may be, it’s so important that you both check in with each other on a regular basis. Ask if your partner is happy with the responsibilities they have in your relationship, and if there’s anything they’d like to change. If anything significant happens, such as a big change in your needs or a new job for your partner, for example, discuss your options as both lovers and carers. Perhaps it might be time to hire someone to help with dressing and feeding duties in the morning, or maybe your partner can start work a little later to allow for you both to still have that time together. Whatever works for you both is the right way to do things, but communication, as always, really is key.