Ali and I recently took our first big trip together to Miami, where she lived for nearly 10 years, for her first real vacation since her accident in 2010.
I have now been dating Ali, who is a C6 quadriplegic, for a little over a year and a half. You may know her from the Quirky Quad Diaries blog (www.quirkyquad.com), where she writes about relationships, life, and many other topics.
She has asked multiple times since we’ve been dating to elaborate my perspective of what it has been like for me to date a woman in a wheelchair, a question I placed little energy towards answering thoughtfully until now.
Miami bound! This past September, we were all packed and on the road for a three-week vacation. As I was driving, swerving the morning traffic while sipping my coffee and managing to find a good station to listen to, Ali was making phone calls and scheduling plans.
She may be a bit of a quirky jokester, but she is as punctual of a person you’ll meet, whose personality is not only focused, it is absolutely full with charmingly rapturous charisma.
After a short stop in Orlando and the several hour drive further south, we arrived in the Coconut Grove area of Miami, just around the time she had put the finishing touches on our schedule of places to go, things to eat, and people to see.
By the time our third day rolled around, Ali had arranged for her friend Deborah Davis, who runs Push Living Magazine, to meet us for an early evening dinner at this fantastic tiki-hut beach-bar, nestled behind some city buildings, alongside a marina.
Between the laid-back, beachy vibe and the ambient smells of shellfish and salty air swirling around us, Ali had picked the perfect venue.
Deborah and her date had arrived shortly after Ali and I had found a suitable table, positioned in a spot where the sea wind and the evening sun were most soothing.
We were able to listen to some live music over a light dinner which later led to splashing a few drinks and jokes as the evening grew long.
Midway through our dinner, Deborah posed the question to me of what it was like to date someone in a wheelchair?
Ali was always writing about me on her blog, but Debra wanted to know what it is like from a man’s perspective to have a relationship with a woman in a wheelchair.
The Question is back! Since I had still not really prepped myself for answering, I gave her the only answer I had, “because it’s Ali!”
After a few giggles and a heartfelt kiss from my love, I then, of course, had to plunge further into explaining why it is I am dating Ali, a woman whom I have fallen in love with as opposed to someone who is able-bodied. This topic had us returning to this conversation several times throughout the night.
The truth is, other than the one exchange I had with my father several months into the relationship; I never put much thought into it before that night.
I spoke with Ali about it over the next few mornings, and she made a comment that I felt to be fairly profound. “Dating a person whose anatomy works differently because of paralyzation may be too complicated and scary for a lot of different people, for a lot of different reasons.”
After she said that I reflected for a while and remembered some of the questions my father had asked. The important one being, “why did I give the first date a shot”?
I had never imagined myself dating someone in a wheelchair. It previously never crossed my mind. My father may have pointed out how most of the people he knows would shy away from a date from fear of not relating, but also pointed out why I did.
Ali and I were already talking to one another before we initially met. I had read her dating profile and reached out to her after finding that we share a very similar outlook on life.
She had put herself out on the market, ideas and woes included, and I had to meet her.
The real question at the time was, did the chair bother me? Clearly, I am in love with the women, so, no it did not deter me from dating her. I suppose most guys have a million questions running through their head when starting to date a woman in a wheelchair, but when I met her, I didn’t see the wheelchair …I saw her.
When we first met, Ali was exceedingly careful and cautious in how she introduced me to those more personal areas of her life.
There are obviously things that needed the introduction in the beginning. She slowly educated me on things like her catheter issues, wheelchair issues, general, spinal cord injury issues, sex, etc., but first and foremost we simply had to get to know one another.
This involved spending time together, which we did … Quite a lot of it actually.
From my experience thus far in life, it’s not often you find yourself in the company of another where you rarely wish to leave.
From the very beginning to present day I have enjoyed every single minute with her. We’ve developed such an intensely personal bond that all of the spinal cord injury stuff that comes along with her injury seems secondary to me.
Just as people have to take a shower every day, so does Ali, but just in a different way. I suppose this may scare off some men who want to date women who are able-bodied or conform to societal norms, etc., but
Ali is unique in every way possible. She has a spinal cord injury, but it is not who she is. She has never let it take over her identity.
Two years ago I decided to move back home to work in the family business from a job I loved, which left little time for social interactions to turn meaningful.
I felt a real gap in my life, a longing to meet someone who would find joy in me by sharing each other’s’ silly quarks.
So, after a few weeks of settling in, I was sitting at the desk I had just set up in my office, stirring a spoon of honey into my morning coffee when this surreal feeling hit me. It’s time I should start dating again. One of the things I promised myself this time around in life was to not set any trivial relationship expectations.
I find expectations often lead to disappointments, which I had experienced in the past. So, I chose first to establish my own set of relationship goals and boundaries that are important to me.
I thought it best to be firm and upfront with myself with what I want and am willing to offer.
Around this point, I also told myself relationships should thrive not just on some similarities and “sexual spark.”, but also on some deep, long-term character traits important to me like:
- being generally respectful and caring even in times of stress,
- being willing to compromise at times when plans have to change,
- being less eager to boisterously argue some contentious point by knowing those around you could care less,
- knowing how to be stoic at times when facts won’t alter,
- having the ability to spark a curiosity that offers decent challenges for one another’s betterment,
- and most importantly, sharing ample complements towards one another.
So, after taking some time of gathering my thoughts and putting myself back out on the market, we found each other.
When Ali and I started dating back in April of 2016, she informed me that she is what’s known as a C-6 quadriplegic.
Without looking it up and asking, I only had a basic idea of what that meant. Most of the people I know had the same issue as it turns out.
Ali was cautious with telling me too many details about what’s involved in being a quad during those first few weeks. I’m glad she did. It allowed us to have meaningful conversations in other areas life.
As time moved forward, and we continued spending more and more time together, I learned how little most people know what it is like for someone who’s dependent on a chair for mobility. Most of my friends and family had questions, but for one reason or another, they were patient to ask.
Many of them would pry in soft questions’ like how often does she get in and out of her chair throughout the day, does she have anyone help take care of her, does she eat a special kind of diet, etc.
However, for a hand full of friends who are certainly not modest in their curiosity, their uncertainty of my new relationship was completely unbearable for them to handle, and I had to yield answers to a slew of questions. The predominant one first was Sex. “Are the two of you able to have sex?”
I have to admit, after having this question asked so many times, it begs one to ponder whether the school system should add this to part of the Sex Ed curriculum…
Honestly, I didn’t know what kind of relationship we would end up with during those first few dates. All I knew was that I really liked her; and being that we share so many jokes, similar ideas, and interests, …her also being gorgeous 😉 I had to know more.
The next series of questioning fell chiefly around, what kind of life obligations will you have in life will where she needs my involvement?
My perspective of dating or starting a relationship of any kind, be it personal, business partner, agent, etc., they all come with their own unique plethora of emotions, and obstacles.
I have seen a range of relationships from fruitful, loving, and prosperous to irate, where the people attest how there are worse things than being alone.
There are so many unseen things that occur which can excite you, scare you, bring you in the moment, fascinate your imagination, take you out of the moment, reward you with utter joy, or the unfortunate “crashing you on your knees heartache.”
For any of these to happen, you have to become involved, and involvement means time. You have to be willing make time and give time if you want to engulf in the experience and understand the direction of the relationship.
So, to answer to the question above… Put yourself out there to give romance a chance. Dating means you’re always learning and discovering, and hopefully finding that other person whom you desire to share your time, stories and life’s adventures with. That’s what matters…
Related content: Spinal Cord Injury Sexuality