Inter-Abled Dating: Lover vs. Care Provider
How to navigate dating a differently-abled person and creating boundaries for the relationship.
“100 out of 100 relationships that involve caregiving fail.” -Dr. Phil
On March 12, 2019, Dr. Phil was quoted stating the above statement during his show titled “I Swiped Right on My Quadriplegic Boyfriend,” and since then wildfire has erupted within the differently-abled community. Harley and Bailey are an inter-abled couple who were invited to join Dr. Phil on his show to discuss how they manage love and medical care. Bailey, a quadriplegic who suffered a C5, C6 spinal cord injury 11 years ago has relied on his able-bodied girlfriend to be his full-time caregiver. See the video below.
During their segment, Dr. Phil, informed Harley, that “you can be his lover or you can be his caregiver, but you can’t be both… It won’t work, 100 out of 100 times this won’t work.” Dr. Phil went on to ask Harley, “you’re a young, single, attractive female. Out of all the people that you can choose, why choose someone in a wheelchair?”
As a woman who is differently-abled and requires caregivers on a daily basis, this topic hits home for me, which is why I felt the need to take it to the blog. Over the past few days I have seen the differently-abled community defend inter-abled relationships and show how they can be successful and fulfill both partners, and obviously this is very possibly, however I have a slightly different opinion when it comes to inter-abled relationships and what boundaries should be incorporated.
I personally have only experienced inter-abled relationships, and agree that it can be just as healthy and loving as two able-bodied people in a relationship, however I don’t think your partner should be your main care provider. I believe, from personal experience, that there should be a defined separation. Obviously, your partner should be comfortable assisting you and if need be, your partner should be willing to assist in a clutch but I don’t believe in turning your partner/lover into your full-time staff. Setting a boundary is essential for keeping your relationship healthy and allows for the both of you to maintain personal time and space.
I don’t agree with Dr. Phil when he makes an ignorant blanket statement that “100 out of 100 relationships that involve caregiving fail,” -- that’s not accurate! You have no right to label inter-abled relationship that involve caregiving will fail. What works for one couple may not work for the next but that doesn’t mean only way one is the right way. It may work for some people, it may not be an issue for others; just because Harley and Bailey are struggling with balancing the two worlds, doesn’t mean every inter-abled relationship involving caregiving is doomed. Despite his many inaccurate and inconsiderate statements, I do agree with Dr. Phil when he stated “there are a lot of people that can be his caretaker, but there are not a lot of people who can be his girlfriend and his lover.”
According to Bailey, he didn’t want to make Harley his caretaker, “where we live, we live so far from any kind of caretaker and the ones we have access to, they’re no good.” So out of pure necessity, Harley began assisting Bailey over the course of their relationship, eventually becoming his full-time caregiver after they failed to find someone reliable.
I can relate to this scenario … finding reliable, professional help can be difficult; but it can be done. Even if it means hiring someone to just relieve your partner for a day or two, so you both can have some personal space. Personally, I know that I will always require a care provider and If I want to maintain a sense of personal space, privacy, I have to make sure that the lapses in between staff are minimal. In my experiences, people tend to associate dating a person who is differently-abled will require a lot of work and too much of their time.
During his segment, Dr. Phil asked the taboo question ‘if they would date someone in a wheelchair’... he then followed up with a second question … ‘if they would date a disabled person if they required full-time care?’ When the results came in, 58 percent said they would date a wheelchair user and 29 percent said they would date someone who required full-time care.
As you can see only 58 percent of the audience would even consider dating a differently-abled person but when the thought of providing full-time care to that person arises, the number drops to a drastic 29 percent! One person should not be responsible for everything; it isn’t about making one person feel like a burden, but more so protecting and respecting one another, your relationship and your individual space. If you’re able to create a healthy balance, I believe that it has the ability to reduce stress and possible resentment of one another later in the relationship.
Relationships are personal and should be customized to fit the needs of the people in the relationship, no one can tell you what works best for you and your partner, and no one should make you choose one way over the other, but I do believe creating certain boundaries may help your relationship maintain a level or intimacy that can be blurred quite fast when you are wearing all the hats.
I applaud those that can successfully juggle both roles (lover and care provider), however for me, I need the separation. I want to be with someone who can help me when the time comes but also knows they don’t have to “take care” of me. In my eyes, you met me with a nurse so I will continue to have a nurse. Should our relationship progress to marriage, well when you marry me, its a package deal; because not too far behind me is a nurse that is there to help me maintain my independence. For those who may have never experienced hiring a care provider, I suggest you and your partner sit down and put everything on the table and REALLY evaluate if hiring a care provider would help or hinder your relationship. Just understand, should you decide to hire additional care, it may take time to find the right care provider who will blend well within your home/personal life and it can be quite an adjustment, but if it will save your relationship do it!
Dating is hard enough, so find what works for your relationship and honor one another.
Until next time, this is my world... on wheelz!