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Dating Someone in a Wheelchair – From a “Wheelchair Spouse”

Spinal Cord Injury Advocate
10/31/17  2:53 PM PST
Dating Someone in a Wheelchair

Dating Someone in a Wheelchair – From a “Wheelchair Spouse” – By Katelyn Devine Baker. 

Hello! I’m Katelyn Devine Baker, wife to Aaron, organizational-guru, part-time fitness enthusiast, and connoisseur of all things home decor and cooking.

Here’s our story: We met at a mutual friend’s wedding… but we didn’t quite connect there – more like, Aaron stalked me on social media after the wedding – which turned out very well! Aaron proposed eight months after our first date, we had a two year engagement and were married on September 26, 2015.

At the beginning of this year, I left my job in event planning and sales to work alongside my husband at our niche gym facility, Center of Restorative Exercise (C.O.R.E.).

I have wanted to share my point of view as a wife, caregiver, partner, and lover. But, I have had difficulty in narrowing down my thoughts, feelings and experiences. I have attempted to write this blog three different times and re-reading each post sounds more like a long therapy session I had with myself than anything worthy of sharing. At the start of our relationship, I remember not being able to relate with my friends on their relationship issues, and when I began explaining mine, the blank stares would begin about five words into what I was describing!  Maybe my ramblings would be relatable to other significant others in situations like mine, but that is for another time. My hope is to offer tangible takeaways! So allow me to tell you my thoughts on beginning to date someone in a wheelchair:

Before I met Aaron, I had almost no prior experience with a wheelchair user. My experience was limited to the in and out transfer from a hospital room to the front seat of a car with a family member. It never went any further from there! I do remember a time in high school, a classmate of mine broke their back while riding an ATV over the holiday break. He came back to school with a full brace down to his butt, but still able to walk. However, with limited mobility, sitting in the hard plastic desks made quite a scene at the beginning of each class. I did not understand the gravity of what he endured until eight years later, after I met Aaron, and began to experience what Aaron went through each day.

Aaron and I had our first date at a Mexican restaurant with the newlyweds from the wedding where we met. I mostly remember his bright blue eyes and golden hair: he was unlike any of the brunette football players I gravitated toward. He constantly had a smile on his face when I would look across the table, and he did not even have to try to impress me! His energy radiated and it was a little overwhelming. He was just so sure of himself, not in a self-absorbed way, but in pure sense of self.

Once we started to get to know each other, I knew I had questions for him, but I didn’t know where to start! Each day we spent time together, I observed something new and learned by what was presented to me. I remember one of the first “Ah-ha!” moments was a couple of months into dating. Aaron was going to meet my friends for the first time at a birthday party, and I was excited, but nervous. As time approached to our meeting, Aaron texted me that he was running late… 15 minutes turned into 45 minutes, and then I grew angry. “How could he be late on this night of all nights?” Finally when he arrived, I got in his car, frustrated and sad. He explained to me that his bowel program (BP) took longer than expected and he was rushing to pick me up. My heart instantly dropped as I thought How could I not know that he went to the bathroom differently? He does almost everything differently! It was in that moment I realized that everything I had thought was “the way it was supposed to be” would never apply to this relationship. I had to throw away that notion and presumption, and start this relationship with fresh eyes. Easier said than done!

My friends, of course, had their questions ready as soon as they heard about the man who I was dating. Hands down, the two questions I was asked (and I am still asked to this day) are: Can he have sex? and Does he drive? My answers were, and still are, Yes and Yes! The sex question is a whole article in itself. As for the driving, Aaron has written his own article about his experience and the adaptive technology available.

Which isn’t to say that Aaron is afraid to ask for help. I do not remember the first time Aaron asked me to help, but I do remember the first time I noticed he needed help. As we were leaving the restaurant on our first date, I was walking with my girlfriend in front of Aaron. We stopped on the curb to say our goodbyes and get into our cars, when I noticed our friend go over to Aaron. He stood next to Aaron and held onto his right hand, and with Aaron’s left hand on the van hood, helped him step down from the curb. Such a simple task for me which I never thought about, yet watching another person struggle with the step was a bewildering moment. I remember leaving that date, calling my girlfriend, and explaining to her that he “would change my life forever”…I did not know how, but our relationship has continued to do that. 

I hope this helps someone know the uncertainty is to be expected, and I was once there!

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Comments

8 Comments

  1. Steve and Judy
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 10:05 pm PST

    We understand 100%. We’ve been together since 1983. I was three years post injury and Judy was fresh out of a divorce when we met. We experienced similar situations in getting to know each other, and yes Judy gets the same two questions and additionally they usually ask how to both. We must be doing something right because we’re still together.

    I knew you guys were meant for each other when I saw the both of you together.

    Be back soon, cheers!

    😉 Steve

  2. Katelyn Devine Baker
    Posted November 14, 2017 at 9:50 am PST

    Thank you for the kind words and sentiment, Steve and Judy! We are lucky to be surrounded by a community of strong partnerships, including you two. Aaron and I look forward to celebrating 30+ years together as well.

  3. Raha
    Posted November 7, 2017 at 10:57 am PST

    Always wondered

    But after living with a friend for a moment understand the challenges

    But still this is a big move for you n him.

    Prayes that the bond stays strong n you both go poaces n heights of relationship

    Thanks

  4. Katelyn Devine Baker
    Posted November 14, 2017 at 9:50 am PST

    Thank you for taking the time to comment, Raha!

  5. Ronda Raymond
    Posted November 7, 2017 at 8:26 pm PST

    I ❤️love your post!
    I have a son who has a c5 injury (July 4, 2016) so we are still figuring things out but I am hopeful he will meet someone that he can share his deepest secrets and his heart.
    Thanks for sharing and I look forward to your next post.

  6. Katelyn Devine Baker
    Posted November 14, 2017 at 9:51 am PST

    I am sorry to hear about your son’s injury. Sharing this journey of spinal cord injury has been one of the greatest gifts my husband has given me. I am thankful to see the world in a new light, and I know your son will have the chance to enlighten another person’s world.

  7. Roula Bezanis
    Posted November 14, 2017 at 6:20 pm PST

    You’re one special lady Katelyn! My oldest son, now 29 yrs old had a diving accident in 2008….he’s a C6 complete quadriplegic with a TBI. I quit work and I’m his full time caregiver. The challenges my son and the rest of family face daily due to the traumatic brain injury are catastrophic, we try do our best, and take one day at a time. I can relate to your post (other than the one private question you’re asked). Thank you for sharing your journey. May God Bless you and Aaron and grant you many more years together.

  8. Posted November 14, 2017 at 9:08 pm PST

    Thank you for all the wonderful stories when you fall in love with someone you just do with all your mind body soul and spirit and you learn something about each other everyday and the more you are together the more you fall deeper in love ❤️Take it from someone who has been there and still going strong

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