Created Controversy

Victoria Tkachuk by Victoria Tkachuk Additional Needs

Victoria Tkachuk

Victoria Tkachuk

I'm from the Midwest region of the United States and I have four children, three neurotypical daughters and one son with dyskinetic cerebral palsy....

Created Controversy

Why does the public think inter-abled relationships are strange?

There is a couple I have followed for years, on several social media sites. Now married, they met in college and bonded over shared interests, as many do, and started dating. Eventually they moved in together and started planning for their future life as a married couple. Now, in addition to having personal interests in common, they have shared goals and dreams.

None of this is controversial, right? A typical couple going through the typical motions of merging their lives.

Now, what if I told you that the husband is - gasp! - disabled and in a wheelchair indefinitely, and the wife is - gasp! - his caregiver? It is at this point the non-initiated (to the world of special needs many of us live in) will have all sorts of questions:

Why doesn't she find someone else to couple with, someone without complex needs? Doesn't he feel guilty, for keeping her in a relationship as his nurse? How does it even work for them to have both a medical and intimate relationship? It's so weird, the whole thing.

To read the comments on this adorable couple's web page is to have your stomach turned. How can people be so cruel, to put this man down simply because he cannot walk or dress himself? He is intelligent, very funny, caring, conscientious and loving to his wife. The comments for the wife are often worse: she ought to leave her "invalid" husband; he's a burden to her. And of course, she can "do better" because she is an attractive woman.

There are myriad assumptions represented by these questions. To start, that love for a person is based on either their physical appearance or physical ability. This is wrong for many reasons, and a thoughtful person should instantly reject the idea. Really, do we stop loving someone when they become ill, old, weak, or otherwise less physically appealing? Nonsense.

Another opinion lurking within these negative comments is that a romantic partnership survives best when both parties are self-sufficient. But, if both partners are self-sufficient, why do they want to be in a relationship anyway? And do the commentators believe that we are all so selfish as to refuse to aid those we love? If that's true, we are all better off being alone.

The last insidious assumption being made by anonymous commentators is that the wife is somehow obligated to provide care for her husband. However, them being married shows her commitment to him regardless of his care needs. He respects his wife so much to say that they can hire a carer if she'd prefer. But she desires to care for him herself. They are both acting in honesty toward each other.

To those of us who love someone with complex needs, the objections to "mixed ability" couples are laughable, but also insensitive and maybe even loathe. Our desire for any of our loved ones is the same; for them to find peace with themselves/their condition, and to find others who love and accept them for who they are. There ought to be nothing controversial about that.

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