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Loving Someone Who is “Different.”

*Note: In place of “disability” I use “differences,” because I believe that disability is a harsh word that has no relevance to those who persevere.

No one is perfect, and we all have our own baggage. However, there may be a slight difference between someone who has too many ex-girlfriends and someone who deals with permanent differences. These differences can be anything from someone who suffers from anxiety to someone who is wheelchair-bound. What does it take to love someone who is “different?”

First and foremost, let me start off with this, you love them just like you would love anyone else. They still want all of the normal things that come with love: respect, affection, attention, and understanding. They still want to do anything and everything with you (with consent) as long as they are able. Don’t assume they can’t do something with you, instead, just ask first. “Would you be comfortable going to the carnival with me? If not, we can find something else to do equally as fun! I want to make sure you’re comfortable.” This little statement is really all it takes, and your partner will thank you so much for considering them. Consideration is key when it comes to loving someone who is “different.”

With any relationship also comes the division of work and effort. Relationships with “differences” may not divide work evenly at times. When you agree to date someone who is “different,” you are physically and emotionally implying that you understand what your role in the relationship is. It’s like signing a contract that says you agree to do whatever is necessary for that person you care about. So this means that you might have to do most of the driving, because your partner can’t exactly do that. If that kind of commitment is too much for you, it’s okay, but you need to make that decision prior to the relationship you delve into. However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be doing ALL of the work. Because 9 times out of 10, your partner will pull their own weight in a different way. You will never hold jurisdiction to make your partner feel bad for not pulling the same type of weight that you do. Because remember, you agreed to that relationship. Either you accept what they can give you, which very well may be something better than any “normal” person could give you; or you walk away and let them find someone who CAN accept those responsibilities without complaining.

This doesn’t mean that you as the “normal” partner can’t be frustrated at times, but you have to approach these issues with your “different” partner in sort of an unorthodox way. Otherwise, you could make them feel bad for something that they can’t change- which simply isn’t fair. Tell them that you love them, and you’d do anything for them, but maybe you need to push off that grocery trip until tomorrow because you’re not feeling well. Never tell them you wish they could do it on their own, because they already wish that too. You should also never be controlling your partner. They aren’t iliterate or incapable of doing things. They don’t need you to parent them.

On the flip side of that coin… don’t feel inclined to be their parent. I have differences to where I can’t drive, but I also have pretty rough anxiety. At times, on a good day, I can conquer my fears. Instead of asking my friends or partner to take me somewhere, I will go somewhere using alternate modes of transportation. I do this so they understand that I am not completely trying to rely on them. I want that independence as badly for myself as they want it for me. Your partner with the “differences” should always make it clear that you are not responsible for them per say, but you do have an obligation to be there if you can be. You are responsible for taking care of them like partners do, but you are not responsible for everything when it comes to them. Unless you are comfortable with that, and that’s what you want. For instance, my significant other is completely fine with taking me where I need to go. However, I personally like to cut him some slack where it counts. I still pay for our dinners at times, so he may have taken us there, but his meal is free. Because he takes care of me like he needs to, but he doesn’t take care of me completely. Sometimes I like to provide for him in some of the very few ways that I can.

Bottom line is that you simply have to have a conversation with your partner. Communicate! Ask them what they can and cannot do, what they are comfortable with, and assist them in obtaining more independence if necessary. I am encouraged constantly by my family, friends, and partner to take that bus all by myself. Because they know my independence is important to me, and that I need that encouragement sometimes. However, on the days that it seems to intimidating to handle or I don’t want to go alone, they’ll be right there for me. Give love, happiness, and just be honest with one another. Once you find your system and split your work loads your love can blossom into what it was meant to be. No differences attached!