Dating can be scary, all of the questions that go through your head before a first date can often be overwhelming. What do I wear? What do we talk about? Does my breath stink? These are common concerns before any normal date. My brain was wrapping itself around the idea that this was my FIRST DATE EVER.
As a quadriplegic person, one of the most important milestones can sometimes be receiving your first wheelchair. It is often the first major step towards autonomy and freedom, even at the young age of three it was the beginning of the rest of my life. While handling the process of choosing the appropriate chair, my parents and I met another couple with a daughter just a little younger than I was who also had cerebral palsy, her name was Shelby Nurse. After short conversation, the two families parted ways forever....or so we thought. Fast forward 24 years later when my physical therapist gets the bright idea that it was time for me to start dating! I’ll be the first person to admit, I come with a little baggage, but Mark told me that he had someone who may just be the perfect one to try carrying those bags. Shelby Nurse and I would be going to get coffee, at the urging of our friends and families, almost 24 years after our first meeting.
Dating can be scary, all of the questions that go through your head before a first date can often be overwhelming. What do I wear? What do we talk about? Does my breath stink? These are common concerns before any normal date. My brain was wrapping itself around the idea that this was my FIRST DATE EVER. Luckily, Mark had assured me that things would go well if I just acted like myself. The plan was to meet at Starbucks for coffees and conversation, and after 4 hours and a couple refills we left considering ourselves to be in a newly formed relationship.
Shelby and I have now been together nearly 3 years now, and we have experienced so much. There are several important aspects to our lives that add to the strengths of our relationship. We have an intimate understanding of each other’s day-to-day struggles and successes due to being wheelchair users, and now can support each other through it all. Being in a relationship is about trust, love, understanding, and communication; sometimes those things are amplified by our disabilities and at other times can become difficult. The important thing is that we have each other to experience this life together.
We currently commute and split our time together between two homes, and also have a need for personal care providers 24/7. This is an interesting arrangement that we have been presented with and are fortunate to have the caregivers who have agreed to take on this relationship as their priority as well. The ways in which normal partners express their affection can oftentimes be more difficult for Shelby and I. With adaptive technologies, lift systems, and some very selfless caregivers we are able to experience these things in ways we hadn’t ever expected we could.
This is most definitely a very unconventional lifestyle and relationship, but one in which we have to trust each other and the people around us completely. It can often feel as though we can never be truly alone until we go to bed together and this is a part of our lives we are constantly adjusting to and working towards changing. With new technologies, our care can give us more freedoms and space to live our daily lives while still providing for our care and safety. For example, we use Alexa and several other voice-activated tools for lights and phone systems while inside our homes. If there is ever an emergency, our homes have also been equipped with power doors for accessible exits when the situation calls for it.
As we move forward with our lives and see our futures growing brighter on the horizon, I often think back to when I was unsure that I would ever experience love this way. It was only a few short years ago that we had that first cup of coffee together, and we are now planning our wedding with our families. We have yet to find any occasion where our disabilities make things easier, but they sure do make things fun. Shelby and I have been very fortunate to have families that support and encourage us to do what makes us most happy in our lives. We look forward to our wedding day and all of the new and exciting challenges that await us.
We have an intimate understanding of each other’s day-to-day struggles and successes due to being wheelchair users, and now can support each other through it all.