Finding that one person that you want to spend the rest of your life with can be one of the most challenging tasks. Not only do you want your personalities and lifestyles to match, as an amputee you’ve just added a few notches that makes dating an even bigger challenge.
There are dating apps and web sites to find “the one”. There’s even one specifically for amputees. However a lot of the times, it is the amputee and all the insecurities that come along with limb loss that adds that additional barriers when it comes to dating.
Body image is probably one of the biggest struggles most amputees go through. Many amputees unfortunately get stuck in this downward spiral of not accepting our bodies and go into hiding because of what’s missing. You can’t really tell an amputee to “get over it” just like you can’t tell an overweight person trying to lose weight to look and feel better to just “get over it”. Sadly, an overweight person is probably viewed more normal than an amputee since society automatically label us “unable”, “incapable” and a “freak”. Missing a limb only adds to the insecurities we had about our body image even before we had the amputation. It’s a process that we work through daily not just to date, but just to be outside of our homes and be part of society again.
Rebuilding self-image should be part of your daily practice of rebuilding self-confidence while you are rehabilitating in a hospital, rehabilitation centre or at home. You’re already working on building self-confidence when learning to walk or learning to get dressed, eat or wash (if you’re an upper limb amputee). Make it part of your routine to check yourself in the mirror. Silly as it may sound, “find your angles” again instead of looking for what’s “missing”. Find what works best to show off your features. It is finding that lightbulb moment in our head that says “yup…still got it!”
The Dating Pool
If you happen to find yourself back in the dating pool after your amputation, there are a few characters of men and women that you would not have likely come across. Below are some examples of characters to be aware of:
There’s what I like to call “The Interrogator”. There’s nothing wrong with dating “The Interrogator” if you are prepared to answer their questions. It’s similar as the questions you ask when you are getting to know someone new – where they went to school, what work are they in, do they have siblings and so on. Many are genuinely interested and curious about your amputation, from how you had the amputation, the reason, what it looks like, what it feels like, and so on; they want to get to know your situation. Some are genuinely interested and some get stuck in feeding their curiosity. There’s nothing wrong with asking if it is done politely and not the focus or the only conversation you have in each date. These questions can get exhausting after a while and you must ask yourself if dating this person is really what you want.
The Unintentional Ableist
Then there is “The Unintentional Ableist”. “The Unintentional Ableist” is someone who wants to do everything for you either by intent to be courteous or that’s simply how they are programmed. They are not intentionally discriminating against you for having a disability, they just feel that it’ll be better or faster if they do things for you – many times, disguised as courtesy or being “nice”.
For example, they will keep getting things and bring you things because they think it’ll be easier for them to do it. That unintentional ableism can quickly turn into making you feel inferior in the relationship. Later, you may find this with everything in your household including financial control and even control in the bedroom. God forbid their unintentional ableism becomes a reason to cheat on you because you’re just not cutting it in the bedroom anymore. It may be amazing at first that you are feeling “loved” in the beginning when the person does things for you out of “niceness”. But be aware of warning signs when it becomes a way to control you and you lose self confidence and be completely reliant on this person.
If you are new in the limb loss, have a limb difference, or new to the disabled community, you may have heard this word tossed around. More specifically, Devotees are often associated with amputees and amputations. Devotees are also often associated with being bad because they are often linked to emotional, physical and sexual abuse reported by those victimized by devotees.
What are they? The simplest way to explain what a Devotee is it is someone who fetishes or sexualize your disability; in this case, your amputation. They are not generally interested in you as a person. They are only interested in your amputated limb.
Why would someone fetishize something that happened to you that you wish didn’t? There are lots of medical research papers about that, so we won’t get into the psychology of it here. But simply explained, it is the same as you fetishizing or sexualizing any part of a person’s body such as attraction to big breasted women only, muscular guys only, someone’s hands or feet, and really any physical part of a person’s body. It is different because of the stereotype and the sexual violence often associated with Devotees. To each their own, so if you choose to date a Devotee, just be aware of what you’re getting yourself into.
The dating pool may appear bleak, but it is not. We put our own barriers, amputee or not, when it comes to dating. We often make excuses not to date even before we start looking. “I want to lose weight first”, “who would date me?”, “I don’t have time to date” are all barriers we put on ourselves. At one point in your dating life you have said excuses like these. It is really all about being confident in yourself that you can go back into the dating pool.
Go on dating apps that have members with similar interests. Meet people. Go out with your friends. Socialize. It’s an old dating tip but it’s a proven technique when it comes to dating.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – Relationships!