Finding And Keeping Mates: Tips For Individuals With Disabilities
Many of us have experienced dating difficulties. Learn more about the kinds of problems that can get in the way of relationships.
There are some universal truths about dating and relationships that apply to all people, whether or not they have disabilities.
First, the old adage, “You’ve got to love yourself first” is really true. While it is true that attractiveness is somewhat subjective, how a person feels about himself or herself goes a long way toward how attractive others see them. When we feel good about ourselves, we feel we are worthy of attention from others and we feel we have something to offer other people. This is not the false bravado that you see sometimes on reality shows, but rather an inner confidence and comfort in one’s own skin that people find attractive.
I can speak from the perspective of having worked with many students with disabilities, that some of them do have this inner confidence – especially in the area of dating. However, the ones who begin to confuse their value as a person with their ability to perform well in school compared to their peers are at risk for low self-esteem.
This confusion is not unique to students with disabilities. It is challenge for us all to separate our performance, status, job, possessions, and accomplishments from our value as a person. Individuals with disabilities are particularly at risk for this type of thinking because they are more likely to equate their internal self-worth with the things they own or the successes or failures they have had.
It takes much time and reflection to change this type of thinking. However, if we can really learn to “love ourselves first” and find our own value, it will have lasting ramifications for not only our dating life, but to all areas of our life.
There are many strategies adults with disabilities can use to build a strong self-esteem and meet and attract a loving partner:
While there are many approaches to psychotherapy, I particularly like ones that incorporate Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT can help identify the self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that are leading to frustrations and retrain the thinking process to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts and behaviors that help adults recognize their value and lead them to what they want in life.
Join an acting class
An acting class gives adults a place to meet lots of people and promotes a sense of confidence when talking with people. I particularly like the Groundlings Theater. They have improv classes – which require very little reading – but ask us to use our brains in new and creative ways. Actors such as Robin Williams (an improv genius) and Tom Cruise have LDs.
Engage in physical activity
Exercise promotes both physical and mental health. We generally feel more attractive and better about ourselves after we exercise. The ideal scenario would be to find a class or club where you can exercise with other people. Not only will you feel better, but you will be around people who are feeling good too. When you get a group of people together hyped up on endorphins, the chances of making a romantic connection increase.
Try dating websites
One of my best friends met his wife online. It’s a great and relatively non-threatening way to meet other single people. Match.com is a popular dating site. There are also popular specialized dating websites such as JDate.com which is for Jewish singles or EHarmony which has a Christian slant.
Build your friend network
Friends are great way to meet potential love connections. Strike up relationships with people who have common interests and goals because their friends might be a great match for you! It is a great idea to join a club, church or some type of organization that is of interest and meets on a regular basis.
Set some goals
This will require some personal reflection. You don’t need to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life, but you should try to answer the question, “What is the general direction I want my life to go for the next couple of years?”
Join a charity
Charitable work is an excellent way to meet people and it feels good. It also helps give us some perspective about the quality of our own lives. You can go to a church or temple, or look online for a worthwhile charity to join.
Say “hi” to everyone
A simple “hi” or “hello” is all it takes sometimes to get a conversation going. Once the conversation gets going, be a good listener and ask lots of questions. People usually like talking about themselves!
Learn a few jokes
People like to laugh. And make sure to laugh at your companion’s jokes too if you are interested in them…people like to think you “get them” and their sense of humor.
Don’t give up
There are many potential mates who are looking to start a relationship with someone who will treat them nicely.
Friends of Quinn is a site that some of my past clients have referred to. It has articles about helping people with learning disabilities attract potential mates.
Read about ways disabilities can get in the way of relationships from Nicole Archambault Besson.