My Personal Thoughts on
Sex and Dating
At the age of twenty when I first had my injury, like most men I was very concerned about my sex life. I had been dating someone for a couple of years and it was an important part of our relationship. While in rehab, quite often I would get an erection simply if the wind blew. So I thought things hadn't changed much. What was very different was the fact that I could be mentally or emotionally aroused but not physically. And I could be physically aroused but not emotionally.
Much has changed over the years in the form of sexual function and erection aids. Having Bob Dole as a spokes person for Erectile Dysfunction (ED) back in the late 90's didn't really help. If today's male heartthrob had been the spokes person, ladies would be much more interested in investing in drug companies that produce phallic dividends. The biggest issue is not whether you can have intercourse or you can't have intercourse. The greater weight of importance is finding someone to share intimate time with. If you have a creative bone in your body, you will find a way to combine emotional and physical time for the best possible relationship.
As much as stereotypical type sets will position you for specific roles, if you have the opportunity to follow you heart... always follow your heart. Getting back to spinal injuries, it's not much different than the rest of the population. No revelation here! Dating is not easy. But adding the issues of injury and how your body reacts, what feels good and simply not knowing can make it much harder. Okay... We've all heard the speech on communication and learn to be open, just talk about it. Well, after a few beverages in a crowded bar with loud ambient noise, I say bullshit. Communication is second to physical attraction. Talking and getting to know each other either confirms your instinct or gives you the option of ruling out intellect and personality as a part of attraction. It's no different for a change of venue either. The same applies for a much more holy setting so don't be too quick to suggest a different meet and greet.
Rarely do people ever discuss sexual function before the fact. Even people in close long-term relationships can find it difficult to express what feels right. It does bring a very important part of a relationship to the surface early on and its not the act of the physical relationship. It means truly getting to know someone. Know them well enough to share how you feel.
Did you ever meet someone and after a few minutes you feel like you've known them for most of your life? Okay. Now that could be several things but let's just say that it's your hormones rising to the occasion. Companionship is not a conquest. So approach the situation with honesty and understanding.
I used to think that it was just a guy thing to be concerned if your partner was satisfied. Also known as, was I good? Yea. It's a little ego point for men. For most women, they understand that a guy is going to be satisfied with sex good, bad or indifferent. Hey, its sex! But the tables have turned somewhat. Intimate time together is very important. I am still very interested satisfying her. The hardest thing to do is explain how she can satisfy me. My body has taken on a whole new set of pleasure zones and it is different with different people. Now, I'm no Dirk Diggler (Johnny Holmes or substitute your favorite "actor") but I still fantasize, crave and physically desire a sexual relationship. I think men can relate their erection to masculinity similar to women do their breast for femininity. Loosing it can be like loosing your place in the world.
The issues can be very deep for a lot of people who have complications relating to them. Compounded with insecurity and sensitivity because of external factors, performance anxiety can be tremendous and some people may simply choose to avoid the whole situation. I have a history of taking things slowly. Maybe too slow to have gained real momentum at times but its important for both parties to understand that the physical thing is not the only thing. And if your body doesn't seem to hold out for true intercourse, nibbling here and there, touching on the moment and being creative can provide a pretty intimate experience that cultivates passion.
I have been very fortunate to have had some beautiful and very special ladies in my life. Prior to my injury I was in long term relationships but shortly after, dating was more of a one month stand because I wasn't ready or interested in a permanent situation. Enough was permanent already! I was still trying to figure the whole thing out and how I fit in. Wheelchair or not, I feel strongly about being financially secure, family oriented, good at managing independently and emotionally before entering into a serious relationship.
Now that I feel that I've accomplished these tasks, I'm in my mid-thirties and relate all too well with reality shows that depict those who have done everything except find the perfect match. I am more selective in who I'm attracted to because of experience. For example, I've learned that its a good idea to avoid those on severe mood altering drugs and those that have been on The Jerry Springer Show. I've been "In-love" only a few times and even fewer has it been reciprocated but there is no greater feeling than having someone to love and being loved.
Most women admit to wanting unconditional love morning, night, bad hair, bad breath and all. With the condition of course that it comes from the man of their dreams. Hypocritical? Okay. This works both ways but how often have you heard, "Tall, Dark and Disabled" as a dream guy? Girls, granted. Its probably going to startle your parents a little to bring home a guy in a wheelchair but its got to be better than the blue hair punk rocker you dated in high school.
The girl that I had been seeing at the time of my injury was very special and remains very special. I respect her highly. Our relationship was on rocky ground before the accident due to my own stupidity and we didn't last much longer as a "couple" but she remained dedicated the relationship for almost a year. Her mother made a comment one day that I'm grateful that she made but at the time it was devastating. She said to her daughter, "If you stay with him, you will be handicapping your life." She was protecting her daughter and of course wanting the best for her but it hurt like hell. I still wasn't sure of who I was or what I was even capable of. This mentality is old school but it still holds true today. Little did she realize that so much was possible and handicapped is a state of mind.
I am still learning every day that I set my limits. People use language to describe people that can carry a negative connotation and invoke an image of helplessness. I have no problems with anyone who doesn't know me referring to me as handicapped, disabled, crippled or what ever. My goal is to live the best life that I can full of adventure, responsibility, creativity, love and belonging. If after you truly know someone and you still see them as handicapped, then look to their state of mind and question if that person has simply given up. The best compliment anyone can convey to someone in my situation is to forget the chair and see the person. Recognize the skills, the abilities, the obstacles overcome and the people they have become and you'll see that anything is possible with some imagination. Especially a loving, physical and mutually satisfying relationship.
I really enjoy having a physical lifestyle of travel, cycling, riding four-wheelers, sport flying and all of those breathtaking things. These things only last for a moment and then you're back to everyday life. Some of the greatest times I've ever spent were in front of a good movie or a long slow stroll through the nature trails or enjoying a picnic watching the sun set with someone special. What makes these things breathtaking are the people we share them with. I could care less about spending another minute in a smoke filled bar or meat market. But sometimes you have to get out and be around people. To meet that special someone or even to just make friends, they're not likely to just stop by and say, "hello, here I am." It takes perseverance, time and a willingness to get past let-downs.
My giving advice on dating is as hypocritical as me giving advice on performing flips off of rope swings. Okay... inside joke. Although better at rope swings, I can only share what I've learned not to do. Having special people in your life and sharing years of experiences good, bad or otherwise gives you that opportunity to reflect back on some of those incredible things that you've seen or done. And then you can say, hey do you remember when...and that... lasts a lifetime.
I find that it is way too easy to go to work, go home and then do it all over again for most of us in small and larger communities. Even in my everyday work life, I find it easy to get into a habit of staying in the office most of the day focusing on "business" and not interacting much. Being social is truly a skill. As I am getting a little older, I do feel that I prioritize my life to a degree and being social gets pushed to the bottom when you've worked a long week and you're tired.
There is "baggage" we all seem carry. Some people even seem pretty normal until we get to know them! I have questioned, "who would accept life with someone in a chair when they don't have too?" Living under the shadow of the things we consider baggage and feeling that no one wants us is as unhealthy as playing Russian roulette. It is easy to point out all of the difficulties, different lifestyles and disadvantages a person in a chair faces when trying to date and the fact is, its a bitch chair or not!
Loneliness and solitude are facts of life that have to be fought off daily especially if you're faced with added challenges. I don't have the slightest clue where you can go or how to meet your soul mate. But it feels good to think that you're still viewed as a sexual being and that catching the eyes of a stranger can still make your heart race. Meeting that special someone and taking all of risks with your heart can still be well worth while. The best way that I've found to meet the person of your dreams is to start dating someone. The one that you're looking for will surface from the sidelines. Now there is a dilemma?
Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject with me.
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