Yep. It’s time to have that talk, about relationships and when things get physical as well.
Since having my accident, I’ve seen so many people lose their partners and experience relationship breakup after incurring their own spinal injuries. It hits people very hard, and takes a while for many to re-adjust. Some people will end up without having a partner again at all.
I am so lucky in this way. My partner has stuck with me through good times and bad ones. We survived together and overcome the hurdles of those situations, but so many people with spinal injury just don’t have this and there are many barriers for those living the single life. People deserve loving relationships; we are social creatures who value love and commitment, but so many people with spinal cord injury have no partner and nobody to share this life with. Partners support us through good times and bad, and when you have a spinal injury it’s easy to become extremely isolated when we don’t have our loved ones to keep us going.
Quite often, people will look at someone using a wheelchair and just assume they can’t have a sexual relationship. Because of the nature of relationships in our society and the high pressure for couples to be sexual, this often means people in wheelchairs are considered incapable of having any relationships at all. This are both bad assumptions. Medical science has advanced and the support is there for any person in a wheelchair, with a spinal injury, to have a family and to have a sexual relationship with their partner.
Because of the focus on sex and the frequent assumption that people with spinal injury can’t participate in it, it means a lot of people can look at us and assume we have nothing at all to offer in a relationship. I think it’s important to talk about this topic because I see so many loving people miss out on relationships because of the assumptions about what we can do, both sexual and otherwise. It is a big topic and can be a sensitive one but we need to talk about this. As a society we do need to talk about how we can change these attitudes toward sex, toward people with spinal injury. We need to talk about the ways both men and women look at people with spinal injury and about how attraction is so heavily influenced by these attitudes toward disability.
I have so many friends of all genders who have so much to share with a partner, whether in a long-term relationship or more of a casual one, who are missing out on this vital human experience because of peoples’ assumptions. I just hope that we can be able to overcome this problem of perception and see people with spinal injury as the whole, loving, and physical beings that we are.
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