One of the biggest misconceptions I encounter when it comes to people with disabilities is to do with dating.

Mostly that we are not able to understand the meaning of being in a committed relationship, or that we even have the desire to be in a relationship.

The truth is we do have the desire to date and find the one.

From my personal experience, ever since I entered my pre-teen years, I have always dreamt about finding my true southern beau that I could spend the rest of my life with.

I had my first experience with dating in middle school when I met my first boyfriend, Evan. We were both in sixth grade and had social studies class together.

What attracted me to him the most was that he was the only boy in my entire grade that liked listening to country music. He was an able-bodied young man, too, so, ya know (wink, wink.)

During my 4 years with Evan, my cerebral palsy was an issue for him, and we weren’t really open about my condition. This caused a lot of conflict and arguments, since he never wanted to hang out with me outside of school or on school trips.

Ultimately, that whole experience changed the way I saw the world. It made me realize that not everyone can understand me and my story.

However, it also taught me that when it comes to dating and putting myself out there, my disability has to be an open discussion. It’s a part of me and it’s never leaving. If you as my significant other can not accept that, then it was nice knowing you. It also taught me that I shouldn’t allow myself to be treated less than how I deserve to be treated. Loving yourself before others and society is the first step to finding the direction you were meant to take in your personal journey.

Now, onto my second relationship.

I was only with my ex-boyfriend Kent a year. I met him in computer class when I transferred to a brand new school in 10th grade. He, too, was an able-bodied young man. I think what attracted me to Kent was that he was a country boy, but he was also a daredevil. He rode four wheelers and went hunting for deer and ducks. But, he ended up being a big trouble maker, to say the least. What I learn from that relationship is to never let anyone influence you and try to make you think you know very little about yourself because of your disabilities. The word “disability” does not define you.

Lastly, on to my recent ex-boyfriend, Andrew.

Now, I’m going to be honest with you; when I met him, it was the first time I felt what love is.

What attracted me to him was that he was a really loving, compassionate person. He has Cerebral palsy, too, but he wouldn’t push himself to be a better person. This caused me to lose focus on my dreams and goals. What I learn from that relationship is that you should never lose your own identity because you’re in love. Don’t ever change who you are for anyone else, or sacrifice your values and beliefs.

Ultimately, I learned a lot from each of my past relationships and how to be brave about putting myself out there even though I have a disability.

I’m thankful for each experience it taught me because, without those experiences, I wouldn’t have a clear mind as on how to explore the world as a disabled woman. Despite any heartbreak that I have experienced, I am very grateful for every lesson that I’ve learned.

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