Sometimes you have to come up with unique ways to show love if your partner has a disability.
Disabilities activist Imani Barbarin, who has cerebral palsy, knows this all too well, which is why she took to Twitter to ask other people with disabilities to share how their partner's loving actions differ "from the way abled people show love."
Barbarin shared her tweet with the hashtag #YouCanLoveMeButYouCantHoldMyHand, as cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects muscle movement and motor skills.
Disabled People:— Crutches&Spice♿️ (@Imani_Barbarin) June 22, 2018
What are some of the physical ways your partner makes you feel loved that are different from the way abled people show love?#YouCanLoveMeButYouCantHoldMyHand
The callout quickly received hundreds of responses that revealed the unique and diverse ways partners show care and affection. (Get your tissues ready!).
One Twitter user revealed that they are immunocompromised, meaning they have an impaired immune system. Since they are "constantly fighting infection," they do not have physical intimacy with their partner and have come up with their own "love language" instead.
So I am immunocompromised and constantly fighting infection. Out of safety to each other, there is no typical intimacy. Instead my husband makes for us the most amazing food- it has truly become our love language— Denise Persisted (@Denisepersisted) June 22, 2018
It is possible for people who are immunocompromised to have sex, however they are more susceptible to infection and get sick more often, Very Well Health reports.
Along a similar vein, another Twitter user revealed that not receiving pressure from her partner to have sex is actually what she considers to be the greatest act of love.
Honestly by NOT initiating intimacy because he knows how painful endo has made sex for me. He waits (and often waits some more) for me to feel like maybe it won't hurt too much or at all, and then let him know.— 🐥Bacon theFett 🥓 (@Bakpaksgotjets) June 22, 2018
"Endo" is endometriosis — a painful disorder where tissue that lines the uterus starts to grow outside the uterus and becomes trapped. In a subsequent tweet, the user added that her partner's patience with her condition has been "tremendously helpful for both my physical and mental health."
Yes! It is tremendously helpful for both my physical and mental health. And I do feel guilty enough about it, tho he has never contributed to those feelings. Which makes it about 1000% easier to deal with. ❤️— 🐥Bacon theFett 🥓 (@Bakpaksgotjets) June 24, 2018
Hope you have good days soon!
Other users noted that love is in the little things, such as a simple phrase that makes them feel supported or the act of picking out their outfit so they can go out and "have a bit of a life."
(You experience so many people and doctors who think you're faking when you have an invisible disability and it's a relief to be supported.)— Shain Donnelly (@shaindonnelly) June 24, 2018
I'm not well enough to work anymore, so he doesn't have to pack my lunch, but he packs my back if I'm going out (on my mobility scooter) for a little bit. And he helps me get my outfit together. These things help me have more energy for going out so I can have a bit of a life.— Charlotte Issyvoo (@CIssyvoo) June 22, 2018
One user, who has rheumatoid arthritis, even shared that a former boyfriend invented salsa moves so that she could dance with him without putting too much pressure on her knees.
Had an amazing bf at 20 who was a killer salsa dancer. He made up new moves for me that would take the pressure off my knees. I danced!— Kat Macfarlane (@KatAMacfarlane) June 22, 2018
But not all disabilities are physical or visible. People with mental disabilities also joined the conversation, revealing that they consider their partners' understanding and forgiveness a beautiful show of love.
Spouse and I both have fairly severe anxiety. We both give each other quiet time after being around other people.— So-Called Heathen (@nebulouswonder) June 22, 2018
Then we make each other laugh, usually by making fun or bad commercials. Humor similarities bond us.
If mental illness is being counted under the umbrella of disabled?— Topless Topics (@ToplessTopics) June 24, 2018
Honestly, I can't believe how patient and forgiving he is in letting go of some of the horrible things I've said in the midst of borderline panic attacks. I can't imagine anyone else moving on like him.
While these beautiful acts of love are inspiring, one user with a disability noted that it's not always easy to find a partner who can accept your condition.
"I don't have a partner because they can't get passed my disability and hurt me even more when I have a bad flare up and it ends," they wrote on Twitter. "Genuinely wondering where are you people finding [loving disability friendly] partners?"
In response, Barbarin, who created the thread, revealed she feels the same way, but that this Twitter conversation gives her hope.
I'm sorry this brings up a painful aspect of lonliness. I'm in the same position and haven't found anyone yet (ahem, recommendations please) but this thread gives me hope. For me, I think I need to be more open to people that want to be closer to me.— Crutches&Spice♿️ (@Imani_Barbarin) June 22, 2018
The disability stigma is one reason it's difficult for people with disabilities to form relationships, as others often make assumptions about their conditions instead of trying to understand them.
Holland Bloorview, a Toronto kids' rehabilitation hospital, created a campaign called "Dear Everybody" last year to address this issue.
"We live with our disabilities every day. You might think that's the biggest problem but it isn't," the open letter from the hospital's patients begins. "The biggest problem is the world that's full of stigma around living with a disability."
According to the survey, more women than men report having a disability and that prevalence increases with age. Additionally, those in the younger age group (15 to 24) tend to have mental and psychological disabilities, while those in the older age group (45 to 64) tend to have greater physical disabilities.
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