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Disability and Relationships

Spinal Cord Injury Advocate
03/04/24  9:00 AM PST
Wings for Life World Run May 2019 Aaron Baker

Disability is not a burden, and ableism is not heroic.

I recently saw a meme on Instagram that depicted two people holding hands – one in a wheelchair and the other standing. Over the person standing it reads “not a hero” and over the wheelchair user it says “not a burden”. It got me thinking, especially during the month of Valentine’s Day, of the stereotypes put on people with a disability and those who are in relationships.

As a woman without a disability married to a man with a disability, I immediately resonated with this depiction. I am no more of a hero than my husband is a burden. I cannot stand the label of “inter-able relationship” as it gives the connotation that something is different about our relationship over a typical relationship. We are two people who fell in love and promised to share our lives together – end of story!

Sure, things are difficult in our relationship, but please show me a relationship that does not come with its own trials and tribulations! I choose to look at our relationship as yin and yang – we fit perfectly and compliment each other. Aaron’s strong sense of self and mental maturity uplifts me when I am emotional and in need of clarity. My ability to freely move around the house gives Aaron the peace that things will be physically taken care of. What I lack, he excels in… and vice versa.

My advice for those in relationships (not that anyone asked), whether disabled or not, is to communicate. This is not some ground-breaking tip, but it helps tremendously in our day-to-day interaction. Aaron and I are raising a toddler, living with an injury, building a business and dealing with the monotony of every day life. Each day brings a new bump to overcome – his body not cooperating, our toddler throwing a tantrum, my workload overwhelming me, etc. However, we both have promised each other that when faced in those “ugh” moments to stop and express where we are mentally. It allows the person to get it off their chest, and the other to see another perspective.

One is not a drain and the other in not a saint. If someone can give 20% for the day, the other should be able to take on the other 80%. And if not, communicate it! THAT is a stable and healthy relationship regardless of physical ability.

Disability is not a burden, and ableism is not heroic.

Celebrate your loving relationship for all that it brings and gives!

All my love,

Katelyn Baker

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