This article is intended for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Read our related article about helping your loved one through dating for Parents and Guardians.
When it comes to dating, people with and without disabilities approach this stage of relationships with many of the same questions, doubts, fears and hopes: Will this person be easy to talk to? Will we have enough in common? What if my breath stinks? Will they like me just as I am? We are all human and want to be seen as our whole self and not be scrutinized by our segments.
Here are eight tips to consider when navigating the dating world:
- Have patience. The person you are dating (or hope to date) may not be around people with disabilities or your particular disability often. Give them grace when they ask certain questions or do certain things to “help” you. In the end it takes open communication from both parties to reach an amicable state in which you both feel comfortable.
- Have confidence. Got a date? Great! Go into the date feeling confident! Don’t try to talk yourself out of it or let your doubts overtake your mental state. Every person has nerves going into a date, the important thing is to let your true self shine and be confident.
- Share what you feel comfortable with. When meeting someone new, they may have questions for you about your disability. Answer or supply information about what you feel comfortable with and move on to the next topic. Just like their brown eyes aren’t the only interesting thing about them, your disability doesn’t define you.
- Talk with someone you trust about it. Dating can be scary, exhilarating, weird and amazing. You may feel things you’ve never felt before. Have someone you trust that you can talk with about your feelings. Not sure what’s appropriate behavior? Ask your trusted advisor. Feeling sad? Or great? Talk with someone about it. Communication is key.
- If you are meeting someone for the first time, pick a safe and suitable location. The internet and dating apps have opened many doors for people with disabilities to meet and form relationships with people they may have never had the chance with before. Make sure to tell a loved one when, where and with whom you are going on a date or have them nearby if you feel safer.
- Not connecting? Don’t feel bad about it. It’s called dating for a reason. Not everyone you meet will evoke sparks and that’s ok. Maybe you can’t get agree about your favorite basketball teams or politics. If you just don’t mesh, don’t worry about it! If it’s meant to be, you’ll know. Every person is unique and sometimes it takes time (and a few bad dates) to meet the right person.
- If they don’t want to date you because of your disability, it is their loss. It can hurt to feel rejected because of your disability but in the end, it is only the other person’s loss. You deserve to be loved and respected for all of you, and if they can’t see what an amazing person you are, they don’t deserve your time or tears.
- Know that you are worthy of love. Every person on this planet deserves to find happiness. Just because you have a disability, does not mean that you are less than anyone else. Get out there!
Above all, make sure to remember to have fun! Dating is a big deal for anyone and can be especially so for someone with a disability. Remember who you are and what makes you special. Ask your date questions and make sure to listen. Be polite and have a sense of humor. And above all, have fun and know that the other person is just as nervous as you are. You are both in this together!
For more resources on dating, check out Love on the Spectrum on Netflix for a fun, real-life look at dating with autism. The Undateables is a British docuseries following people with many different disabilities while dating. You might also want to read “Love, Dating, Relationships and Disability.”