This is my fourth year writing this blog, and right from the start one subject’s been notably absent – romance. There’s a lot of love – the love and care of my family and friends runs through pretty much every post. But I rarely mention romantic love or sex.
This isn’t an editorial decision, it’s simply a reflection of the prairie-like state of my love life. A quick glance at the blog categories underlines the bleak reality of the situation – there are more entries about the post office than about dates (but at least dates are still ahead of exorcisms!)
I’ve written a handful of times about love, relationships and loneliness and I’ve always said I don’t think I’m single because I’ve got Tourettes, and that many women my age are in a similar position. While I still think this is largely true I’d accept that it’s slightly simplistic.
One of the biggest barriers I face in finding love is my own attitude. I’m daunted by the extra logistical challenges my disability brings. The list of things I‘d need to sort out comes quickly to mind the moment I let myself think about dating:
• Which support worker would I take?
• Where would they sit?
• Who’d cut up my food?
• What if I had a fit?
• Who’d push my chair?
Seeing them written down like this it’s obvious these practicalities aren’t really barriers, except in my mind. If I’m honest, the questions I’m really asking are, ‘What would my date think if I brought a support worker? Had a fit? Needed help cutting up my food?’
These worries have been a handy excuse for putting off doing things that might change my situation. For example, many people in similar circumstances use online dating sites. I’ve flirted with this, but never really committed the time or energy to making it work.
My friend Kirsty is a researcher specialising in disability and sex. You can hear her talking about her work in this month’s BBC Ouch Podcast. One of the things I learnt from listening to her interview is that rates of marriage are higher for disabled men than for disabled women. This is interesting because I’ve also heard people with Tourettes suggest that men who tic are more likely to find a partner than women, and that the reason for this is that women are more caring. I’ve never been sure about this, but perhaps gender is a factor when it comes to relationships and disability.
Sharing intimate moments with another person is something I miss. In the process of writing this I’ve realised that if I’m going to find someone to have a relationship with, I need to stop cluttering my mind with extra obstacles, and instead invest time in meeting new people.
It’s been such a long time since I had any sort of romance, it’s understandable my confidence in this area is low. But things will never change if I let my fears and insecurities make decisions for me.
I’m not going to end with a list of elaborate promises to change my situation, but with one simple commitment to myself that from now on I’ll keep my mind clear of excuses and take opportunities to meet new people.
I’ll keep you posted – hopefully next Valentine’s Day I’ll have something more to report.