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Relationships and dating after a Spinal Cord Injury

At the time when I had my accident, I had been in a relationship for around a year. My boyfriend would come to visit me while I was in ICU at the LGI and then when I was in the Spinal Unit in Sheffield; he would get a bus from Manchester where he was at university each Friday to spend a few hours with me. I really appreciated the effort he went to, to come and see me.

Whilst having strangers doing everything for me became quite normal quite quickly to me, having my boyfriend feed me and give me drinks was something totally different and had our relationship continued, I don’t think I would ever get used to. It’s strange really and something I can’t really explain, but there were just some things I found difficult, and this was one of them.

We had been together for a year before my accident, and we split up a year after my accident.

As the years have gone by, naturally, my close friends have moved on with their lives, but they have always kept me involved. I would hear about all their dates, see them getting married and then starting families of their own, of which I have been so happy to see and I get a great deal of pleasure out of spoiling their kids!

I think that the idea of me maybe not getting married or having a baby is harder for my parents than for me. All mums and dads have aspirations and dreams for their children and want them to have a happy and fulfilled life. They do now have my niece, Mollie, nephew, George, and of course my fur baby, Poppy, to fuss over which keeps them busy! Seeing me doing the work I do too and seeing how happy I am that I have a focus and a purpose again, I hope in turn, makes them happy.

Before my accident, I had always met guys on nights out, through work or mutual friends. After splitting up with my boyfriend all those years ago, it’s only been in the last couple of years that I have found myself in a place where I am really happy and content with myself. A lot of this is to do with my confidence increasing as a result of my work life and this made me want to start to explore meeting someone.

Just before lockdown, I went to visit a friend who has a Spinal Cord Injury like me and who is now in a happy relationship, so it gave me a little nudge to try it.

So, I took the plunge and registered for Tinder, Bumble and E-Harmony, just to make sure I had the best chances of meeting someone! All of the apps are slightly different, but they all ask you similar questions once you join about yourself and the person you want to meet.

I spent days debating what to write in my profile and which pictures to use. I got some really good advice from a few Facebook groups for people with Spinal Cord Injuries. The majority of the advice was to be upfront with people about your disability and your wheelchair, and I have to agree with them; don’t be afraid to be honest! I always think that if you can be anything in life, be real.

In my profile pictures, you can see my tracheostomy and wheelchair, and I know that, for some, this must be intimidating, but I would much rather people know that this is me from the start. I am also honest about the fact that I can’t move, so need someone to do everything for me and I always need to have two people with me at all times for assistance that are either by my side or are in the next room.

I did have a few laughs when trying to verify that I was a real person when setting up my profile! To do this, you are shown two different poses and to demonstrate that you are a real person, you have to take a picture of you in each pose… not that easy when you are paralysed! My carer had to position my arms so that I was able to complete this task. Maybe dating website could think up a way round for those of us who are paralysed!

If I am honest, swiping to express an interest in someone does seem like a shallow process as sometimes all you get to see about a person is maybe one picture, but it has been worth a try and definitely an experience! I only go for the ‘blue ticks’, so you know they have been verified as a real person, and I got quite a few matches which means that we’ve both ‘swiped right’ to say we like each other, but when I did get the courage to message a guy, I very rarely heard back from them. It’s been a bit of a disappointment, but there’s plenty more fish in the sea! I keep getting told that I will meet someone when I’m least expecting it, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

Of course, anyone I do meet will have to pass the Poppy, my Yorkshire Terrier, test! I know that some people might think I’m crazy at how much I spoil her, but she’s a huge part of my life and has filled that gap for me instead of having a child of my own.

“Share your weaknesses. Share your hard moments. Share your real side. It’ll either scare away every fake person in your life or it will inspire them to finally let go of that mirage called “perfection,” which will open the doors to the most important relationships you’ll ever be a part of.”Dan Pearce

Have you tried dating after sustaining a serious injury? What was your experience like? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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