OK, I’m caving… since I’m a bit of a grump regarding all things Valentine’s Day, this should come as no surprise to people who know me well. For those of you who don’t, that’s OK… but you can send me chocolate or buy me a coffee if you love my Valentine’s Day post. 🙂
About a month ago, nearly a year after its publication, this blog post blew up twitter and Facebook. The rage was palpable from blind people all over the western world and from their partners, sighted and blind alike. I addressed many of these common perceptions in my most popular blog post ever, so I won’t belabor the point here, but it came as a surprise coming from an organization that claims to serve the blind community.
English is clearly not this author’s first language, and it’s entirely possible that culture (in whatever context that is) played a role in the article itself. But I completely disagree with the idea of allowing partners (current or prospective) to be smothering and hovering – even a couple of times – until we prove to them that we are capable. Such behavior sets up precedent of one partner viewing themselves more capable than the other, due to the very nature of one partner having a disability and the other not. This doesn’t even address the idea that two partners can have a happy, healthy relationship while both having disabilities (some couples share disability, while I know others who have different ones). Either way, it’s incredibly presumptuous for anyone to think that all people with disabilities should have an able-bodied partner, or that we should “stick with our own kind”; both ideas are incredibly damaging both to our prospects for relationships and to our own autonomy in choosing partners.
Whatever our disability status and that of our partners, the important thing is to allow them to fly, not clip their wings until WE feel things are OK. I’m not talking about making wise financial choices about when one partner should go back to school, or keeping your spouse company while they’re cooking in the kitchen (because, like, couples should spend time together or something). In my own opinion, relationships are meant to strengthen each partner when the chips are down and life isn’t that great, to encourage each other when one or the other is struggling, to boost each other’s confidence in their own abilities and encourage each other to try new things. Any stifling, even under the guise of “protection” is almost counter-intuitive.
So for those who are in relationships – healthy ones, struggling ones, ones whose time is nearing an end – enjoy each other, not just today, but every day. For those who are single, by choice or by circumstance, I hope there are people in your life who will give you the wings to fly. To those who are happy, share it with others; to those who are hurting, someone – somewhere – wants to help carry you. Above all, after all the Valentine’s Day sweetness has faded, once the flowers have wilted and the candles have melted into small pools of wax, think of all those who love you now – your friends, your family, your partner (if applicable) – and those who haven’t yet crossed your path, and thank them for giving you the wings to fly. Even “flying blind” is safe when there are others who buoy you, encourage you, and help to heal any broken wings along the way.