Like most Millenials, Emma finds dating tricky. But for her, there's an added complication
Emma, 32, has cerebral palsy, a condition which affects parts of the brain responsible for the control and movement of muscles. In Emma’s case, this means that she struggles to walk and stand for long periods, and also has limited use of her hands. She spoke to Marie Claire about the unique struggles of dating with a disability:
You lose your virginity later than your friends.
For me, losing my virginity happened at the age of twenty-eight. I hadn’t planned on doing it so late, but wanted to wait for the right person – it just took a bit longer than I expected
People stand you up at the last minute. A lot.
Before I met my current partner Tom* while out with friends in a club, I had experiences where people would plan to go on a date with me only for them to find out about my disability and then make an excuse, or decide that they just weren’t interested. They never explicitly said it was because of the cerebral palsy but I couldn’t help feeling like it was. My disability isn’t obvious when I’m sitting down, so people can miss it at first.
Its automatically assumed you’re single
Tom and I have been together for four years, but when we’re out people often assume he is my brother or a friend
People can be *very* patronising
I’ve had people say things like, ‘oh, isn’t that nice that you’ve found someone’ when they find out that I have a boyfriend. Another question I’ve been asked -is, ‘Is he disabled or normal?’ because, what’s normal? Annoying.
Your boyfriend gets praised for dating you
It’s irritating because it’s not something he expects to be praised for. Relationships are part of life.
I have limited use of my right hand and weakness in my left so Tom often has to help cut up my food, which does draw some funny looks. I try to ignore them
Sex can be a challenge
I suffer from vaginismus – an involuntary tightening of the vaginal muscles during penetration – which means I endure severe pain as soon as we start having intercourse. Because of the pain we’ve never experienced full penetration together – sex only lasts a couple of minutes and I can’t get into certain positions because it heightens the pain. There have been moments when Tom has felt frustrated. I have too, and I started to dread sex. I told Tom he could go with other women to meet his needs, but he won’t do it. He says he loves me.
Getting therapy for the sex side of things is hard – and expensive
I’ve tried lubrication, dilators and even getting tipsy beforehand, but no matter what I do the pain was still there. I would like to try a sex counsellor but I’d have to go private, and they are £30 or £40 each time. Right now I just cant afford it so we’re trying our best to work it out together.