Finding the Right One: Advice from Experts on Dating with a Disability

“So, are you dating anyone?” Could there possibly be five more scary words spoken to a single person? Finding love is hard for anyone and can be especially tricky if you have a disability, however, it is not impossible, says dating coach Erika Ettin.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we talked with Erika Ettin (@alittlenudge) and Ryan J Russell, PhD, a mindset coach and 41-year-old with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who was recently engaged, and developed five tips and tricks for finding success and experiencing worthwhile relationships for someone with a disability.

1. Be yourself! 

Let’s be honest — dating can be intimidating! It’s ok to be nervous about putting yourself out there and acknowledging this is a great first step. But don’t forget – regardless of your disability, everyone is worthy of finding love. You have a lot to offer a partner, especially if you desire a deep connection and are willing to invest in your future relationships. Whether it’s a mood-boosting song or a pep-talk in the mirror, give yourself a confidence boost so you can show up to any date and be yourself.

“Know your intrinsic worth; muscles, money, and other things aren’t important for dating. Your heart, mind, personality, and outlook on life are all that matter,” Ryan says. “Be a good person, hold your values, and strive to be self-sufficient, and a person of quality can see past your disability. No matter how long it takes to find your person, it’s worth it!”

2. Swipe Right

Online dating is a great place to meet people if you are looking for a serious relationship or just curious what’s out there. Gone are the days of online dating carrying a stigma. In fact, a Pew Research Center Poll found that three in 10 U.S. adults have used a dating app or website. That means, according to Erika,  there are more people to meet if you go the online dating route.

“If you’re looking to maximize the probability of meeting someone, you’re going to want to go where the most people are, and most people are online dating,” Erika says.

And with the growth in popularity, there are many apps to choose from based on preferences, like Holy, a Christian-based app, OkCupid, an app that can allow you to share your favorite hobbies, or even Dateability, a platform for the disabled and chronically ill communities.

3. Share your Disability

This is always a tough question: When do I reveal my disability? While the answer can vary based on the kind of disability you have, if it is something visibly obvious, like a wheelchair, Erika recommends talking about it early on, or if you are on a dating app or website, including photos of you with your assistive device.

“If it’s something somebody’s going to physically see upon meeting you, then I do think it’s worth having accurate pictures that represent that,” Erika says

4. Find Like-Minded People (and get creative!)

While it might sound like a pre-millennium fairytale, people still meet in person. Erika suggests joining groups of people that pursue similar interests, whether online or in-person.

“Do things that make you happy, like going to events. That way you’re more in your element. And if you meet someone there, you know you have something in common.”

If joining a social club, consider going solo to encourage yourself to meet the other people there, or consider striking up a conversation with someone in line at your favorite coffee shop. It isn’t always easy to find that right person, so sometimes you have to think outside of the box and try different approaches.

5. Be Intentional

Being stuck in the friend zone is a problem common to many people, whether they have a disability or not. According to Erika, the best way to combat this is to show the person that you are interested in them with your body language, treat your meetings as a date, and follow up. A simple, “it’s a date!” can make your intentions clear when making plans with someone.

Lastly, don’t forget to have fun! Dating is about meeting people and discovering what you like and don’t like in relationships, and having fun is an incredibly attractive quality. So laugh, show up as yourself, and have fun dating!

If you are interested in hearing more from Erika, check out her book, Love at First Site: Tips and Tales for Online Dating Success from a Modern-Day Matchmaker. Ryan is a life coach and consultant for his own business, Life On Positivity.

Related Posts

Share This Page

Make an Impact

You can advance the care, treatment and cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Contributions in any amount can truly make a difference and can be credited to a fundraiser or event from the list below.