4 Lessons from 4 Years Together

On January 14th I woke up to a lazy Sunday morning. With wild woman hair and mascara smudged from the day before, I emerge from our bedroom like a bear coming out of hibernation. Fashionably wearing last years christmas house coat, I pour myself a fresh cup of coffee.

“Good morning beautiful,” James coos from across the room… I could kick him and kiss him all at the same time (did I mention I’m not a morning person?). I slink into my favorite part of our couch, get comfortable and take a sip of my coffee.

“Did you know today is our four year anniversary?” James asks.

I give him a blank stare. Typical man, I mumble to myself, doesn’t even know our correct anniversary date. “It’s in February,” I explain…slowly, so he gets it.

“Pretty sure it’s today,” he smiles, unaware that I’m ready to kill him. We bicker back and forth and do some research. Then I find out I am a horrible person and it WAS in fact our anniversary. Apologies to James (and all men) were made.

Now, I usually like to have events such as this one planned out, so I am having a bit of a moment. I have no confetti, no presents and no earth shattering surprises. I sat there for a bit and decided to give to James what he appreciates the most… (get your head out the gutter!) the gift of quality time.

The day was simple. We took the time to really enjoy one another and reflect on our accomplishments as a couple. This blog post is based on that reflection. I’d like to share with you the four most important things I have learned about dating someone in a wheelchair these past four years.

Love is love, just say yes

It’s definitely a little scary to fall in love with someone who doesn’t fit the social “norm”. If you have a connection with someone that is hard to ignore…just go for it! Black, white, gay, straight, disabled, whatever, love does not discriminate. I am sad to think about all the love stories that simply did not happen because someone was “different”. Most times I can guarantee that being different is a hell of a lot more interesting than being “normal”. (Can you tell I hate the word “normal” yet?) I can’t lie when I say that I had my reservations about dating a man in a wheelchair. Initially it did scare me, what would life be like? What would my family think? Am I allowed to break up with him if it doesn’t work? A lot of questions flooded my overthinking brain until I finally said, shut up Chelsea. I gave myself permission to say yes because the connection we had overpowered my fear and I am so happy I did:)

The chair disappears

It takes a while, but the wheelchair does disappear. In the beginning you wonder if it would and after a couple years the chair just becomes a part of daily living. A hidden language is developed between you and your loved one and the chair never really comes up. A small yet practical example is when we are cooking, I’ll bring down a plate that is higher up and not even think twice about it. You adapt and once the chair disappears you are just two people living life like everyone else. Of course there are reminders now and then… like stairs. Who invented stairs anyways!?

People don’t know what they don’t know

Sometimes you are totally blindsided on an idle Tuesday by someone saying something so utterly outrageous you have to physically shake your head or shake it off (thanks T Swift!). I have to remind myself that people just simply don’t know what they don’t know. Before meeting James I had my own stereotypes on spinal cord injury. For instance, I thought everyone who was paralyzed was paralyzed from the waist down… I was quickly informed that wasn’t true, haha! So when someone now says something to me like I am an angel for dating James, or he just needs to try harder and he’ll be walking in no time (I love that one btw), I no longer get as upset as I used to. The general public isn’t going out of their way to be rude they are just uninformed; they aren’t surrounded by it. They only see an SCI for what it is on the street or how disability is portrayed in the media. Take er’ cool, sometimes I end up having really fascinating conversations with these people and they do become more informed. The best tactic is to not react instinctively, take a breath, and instead change someone’s perspective that day!

The pivotal role of peer support

Sam and I talk about peer support all the time, but we cannot stress enough on the impact it has on our lives and our men. Everyone has a story and challenges they face in life and finding an individual or group of individuals who truly get what your going through because they have gone through it themselves is life changing. It’s like being in love with airplanes in a world that only talks about cars… when you find someone else who loves airplanes, you bond (I’m weird I know lol). The truth of the matter is, even if you don’t realize it, at some point or another you may need to find a group of people or an individual to support you, someone who just gets it. My advice to anyone who has an SCI, or is a spouse to someone with an SCI, find a community and if you don’t have one, create one. It will be the best thing you ever do.

There you have it! Four things I have learned in four years. They haven’t been the only thing I have learned and I know they won’t be the last. A relationship is ever changing, wheelchair or not. I look forward to many more years with this hunk as we continue to evolve together.

What are some of the most important things YOU have learned from YOUR relationship?

Pushing on…


10 thoughts on “4 Lessons from 4 Years Together

  1. My friend in a wheelchair showed me so many things, including incredible optimism and joy, enormous energy … and I love his statement: “expect unexpected!” 🙂 We are not a couple, but I owe him really a lot!

    By the way, I hate the word “disabled” … He is more fit and unstoppable than most guys I know.
    And yeah… grettings from Poland for all of You!

  2. Love this post! I have also been with the love of my life for 4 years, he has been a T6/7 SCI for 30 years this year and we are *ahem* ‘senior teenagers’ 😂 You are right. The chair does disappear – it’s always there, but I only remember when he runs over my toes! I didn’t think twice about starting a committed relationship with him because our connection was very strong. I have never laughed so much with anyone or had such an amazing life with anyone before (believe me I tried!) I did think very carefully before moving in with him and even though he asked me after only 6 months I waited for 2 years before making that final step. Not because I had doubts but because I needed him to be absolutely sure first. We’ve been through some really tough times in the last 12 months. (Medical problems, emergency hospital admissions and a major elected operation) but we’re stronger for it. My 4 year wisdom being an SCI WoSO (wife or significant other) ?
    1. Leave the communication doors open – talk to each other – it’s OK to ask questions if you aren’t sure, especially in the early days
    2. Don’t be squeamish – there’s a lot of times when you’re going to do things you never imagined! ( you’re going to have to get used to ‘toilet humour’ 😂💩😂)
    3. Laugh about stuff, tease a little – there are times when I can make light of what could be an embarrassing situation – but learn when the time is right to do this, sometimes the frustration is heart breaking and only a silent hug will do.
    4. Be intimate, be affectionate – sometimes the line blurs between being a carer and being a lover. Keep these separate.

    1. Hey Ria! So much YES! We couldn’t agree with your 4 points more! So much so, that we couldn’t even pick a favourite if we tried! Thanks for sharing with us xo

  3. This is a beautiful love story. Your compassion and love is so sweet. I can relate to many things in your story. I developed an incurable medical condition (Meniere’s disease) it’s an inner ear fluid imbalance condition, it causes severe vertigo, deafness and all around day to day sickness. My hubby and I went through many challenges with my health. Our old lives were changed forever. Like you say in your article, our day to day living just adjusted then seemed to flow. Our love developed into something so powerful, we’ve found ways to live our best life. We plan things a bit more before we go places. It’s nice to hear the voice from someone facing life’s challenges and loving life. I am also a writer, my characters share similar challenges as me. My books are children stories. Check out my website.

  4. Always enjoy your insightful perspectives and appreciate the humour you infuse as you shed light on aspects of life with SCi that often go overlooked. LOVE the work you do!

    Wishing you and that old dog many more incredible years ahead and look forward to see where life takes you both.

    You guys are so inspiring, keep up the good work!

  5. The biggest thing I learned in the past 9 years with my partner is that sometimes you need to appreciate the little things. My partner has Spina Bifida and sometimes he needs help here and there as anyone would. Many times when I get busy or stressed, I tend to find myself getting irritable over the smallest things that he asks for. I would always say, “You always ask for so much. I already have a lot on my plate, I can’t do everything” and other silly things like that. After reading a passage in a book, I had to rethink the whole thing. I was just focusing on the things I was doing and not taking the time to notice all the things he was doing. It’s easy to think about all the things someone does wrong but not always as easy to think of the good things they do.

    Loved the post! It’s very true how you just adapt to things without even thinking about it. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for the insight Leanne! You are so right, it is so easy to see the wrong or the bad and to overlook the good. Everyone needs to take the time to slow down and really look at the situation before becoming frustrated. Thanks for commenting xo

    2. This is so true. We all forget how much our SO’s do every moment of every day that we take for granted. Often I have to remind myself that when he is asking for something it’s probably because there has been a struggle or battle to do it before he has asked, and hecj sometimes it’s just easier for me to do it. No sweat! Thank you for the reminder.

  6. The part about the disappearing chair is so true. Although, I am the one in the chair, I always tell people that if they will just give me 5 minutes, I will make them forget all about it. Of course, the hurdle is that first 5 minutes.

    The part about “normal” was right on as well. I want people to understand a basic principle: They walk, I roll. They stand up, I stand out.

    The part about finding a support group of some sort was great advice! When my diagnosis and “remedy” heightened to prognosis, I asked my orthopedic oncologist if there was a support group for me. His reply was: “I’m sorry, Patty, but what happened is so rare, that you will never be able to talk to anyone to had done to them what you had done to you.” What I came to know was that: I didn’t need to know someone who had done to them what I did, I just needed to talk with someone who felt the way I was feeling. Most doctors still do not understand the connection between our minds, our spirits and our bodies.

    Your article was a really, really thought provoking one …. and your touch of humor always satisfies!! Thank you!

    1. Thanks so much, Pat! We are so glad that you have been able to find your way and find what works for you. Thanks so much for your honesty! We are happy to have you as part of our Wheel Love community. Keep doing you xo

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