True Story: I’m Dating and Disabled

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/amazing/challenging this. This is Melissa’s story of navigating dating as a person who has Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome.

Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m Melissa from So About What I Said, and I’m a writer and a college newspaper adviser from Illinois. I turned 30 this year, which, surprisingly, wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be! In my spare time, I like to watch TV, spend time with my family and indulge in one of my favorite activities: shopping.

Can you tell us a bit about your disability?
I was born with Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome, a bone and muscular disorder. I’ve had about 26 surgeries to correct my bones and joints. Despite my disability, I’ve lead a pretty normal life: Graduated from college with a degree in journalism and now work as an adviser for a college newspaper. I enjoy getting young people excited about journalism and writing.

How does your disability affect your dating life?
Of anything in my life, my disability has affected my dating life the most. I’m usually a pretty self-confident person, but when it comes to dating, I’ve always been a bit self-conscious. I often worry that guys won’t be able to see past my disability…

Tell us about your dream guy!
Oh, definitely someone who can make me laugh. Laughter is one of the most important things in life, and any guys with a sense of humor has my heart. I’m also a romantic at heart, so I love guys who are romantic and charming. My family mean the world to me, and you know a guy is a keeper if he’s close with his family.

What are the biggest misconceptions about disability and dating?
Definitely that women with disabilities aren’t interested in dating. Sometimes, people forget that we’re just like them. Maybe they think that we have “more important things to worry about,” but we want love just like anyone else.

Where did you meet the people that you’ve dated?
Confession: I’ve never been on a date or had a boyfriend. I sometimes find myself getting really self-conscious about that, but then remind myself that during the time when most of my peers were first learning how to date – when we were teens – I was going through all my surgeries, so I’m a bit behind my peers now in the dating field. I’m trying to live by the motto that love finds you when you’re not looking. But…it is hard not to want to look sometimes! 🙂

How have the people in your life reacted to your dating life?
Actually, people in my life haven’t ever been very vocal about my dating life. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. Thank goodness, no one has ever said anything offensive. Maybe they didn’t see me making a big deal about my dating life and took their cue from me. I’ve found with my disability that if people don’t know what to say, then they don’t say anything at all. And honestly, I’d rather have them ask than not ask. It’s not like I have some big secret that I don’t want to talk about.

What advice would you give to anybody in a similar situation?
Be honest. Be true to yourself. My parents raised me with the belief that I could do anything, and it’s that sense of independence that has made me reach for so many things in life. Yes, there are obstacles in my way because of my disability, but I don’t let them stop me. I’m grateful for all their encouragement.

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Melissa! Do you guys have any questions?

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  1. Lorna

    Thank you for this, Melissa and Sarah!

    I'm 30, university educated and I love to travel. I'm also disabled.

    I met my boyfriend online in October of 2009. We now live together.

    Good luck with your dating adventures, Mellisa!


  2. the Citizen Rosebud

    I love how laughter is one of the things Melissa mentioned at the top of her list on what's she looking for in a man. Because I'm the same way- toss in street smarts, and compassion and a love of plaid and we're liking the same guy. And she's so right- she's learning social skills that many folks learned early on, so not to get discourage and learn at her own pace is a good outlook.

    Advice I'd like to offer (not just to Melissa but to anyone dating) is to not forget to cultivate friendships, male friendships as well as searching for "Mr. Right." I see so many men and women focus so hard on finding a partner that they neglect to savor the intimacies of friendship. And besides, your dude friends can help hook you up with your future Mister!

  3. Joel Stibbard

    What a beautiful story, very honest and open!

  4. Heather

    Thanks for posting Sarah! Melissa is adorable and inspiring and I'm not reading her blog!

  5. heather

    Should have been *now*. ha! I'm NOW reading her blog…

  6. Kelsi

    Laughter and a good rapport with one's family are two of the same major traits I value in relationships. Dating in general is tough, because it means meeting people who aren't right for you for a while before you meet a great one! It can be rather discouraging. Melissa, you sound awesome and there is no doubt in my mind there is a wonderful, sweet, equally romantic guy out there who will see that and love that about you! (I have to tell myself the same thing!)

  7. Melissa Blake

    Hi everyone — Sarah, thanks so much for allowing me to guest post. It was so much fun!! 🙂

  8. Kit

    This was such a great read! And I love that I've found another blog to follow too. From one singleton to another, good luck with your search x

  9. Chelsea

    Good luck in your dating adventures, Melissa, and don't ever be self-conscious about your experience! Love finds us when we are ready 🙂

    Your journey had molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don't think that you've lost time. There is no short-cutting to life. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time. –Asha Tyson

  10. Anonymous

    Hi Melissa,
    Great article – and I checked out your blog. What strikes me is how lucky the people you have relationships with will be! You obviously have a very generous and open heart – clearly someone who knows how to love well. I met my significant other at age 42 via online dating and what I try to remember to do is "love well" and not get caught up in the day to day issues.
    Best wishes, Phoebe

  11. sabrina john

    Maybe they didn't see me making a big deal about my dating life and took their cue from me. I've found with my disability that if people don't know what to say, then they don't say anything at all. And honestly, I'd rather have them ask than not ask. It's not like I have some big secret that I don't want to talk about.


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