UNDATEABLE?

by Alice Thomson

Dating has changed a lot over the last few decades. In the time before dating apps, people would meet at work, in cafés, or via friends or family. It may seem like a simpler time, but it did mean that the variety of people for you to meet was limited to your direct community. I think you would be lucky to find ‘the one’ when there is a world full of possible ‘ones’. As Tim Minchin so eloquently said, “If I didn’t have you, I’d probably have somebody else”.

Let’s be honest, there isn’t really a ‘one’ out there. There are so many people in the world that statistically there can’t just be one person that is meant to be with another. Of course, this attitude also completely ignores the plenty of polyamorous people living in our world, for whom the ‘one’ could be a two or three or more. The idea that there is just one person for every person is actually a very depressing thought. It would be like trying to find a needle in a planet-sized haystack!

In reality, finding a person we might describe as ‘the one means finding someone who has qualities and attributes that we are attracted to – and that someone also has to be at a stage in their life where they are ready to commit. It’s hard ticking all these boxes, so imagining that there would be only one person in the world that could fit that role would mean that very few people would be together.

In 2016, it was estimated that 1.8 million adults in the UK experienced domestic abuse in that year.

But many people are in relationships, and many of them are in relationships that they just shouldn’t be in. No one comes to a relationship perfect. We all have our wounds and insecurities. However, there are some relationships that build strength on this, whereas others can be unhappy at best, or toxic at worst. In 2016, it was estimated that 1.8 million adults in the UK experienced domestic abuse in that year. Unfortunately, those that experience abusive relationships often fall into a behavioural pattern that means they unconsciously seek the same sorts of relationship in the future. When you experience a relationship like this, it can be easy to fall into the core beliefs that coincide with it. These core beliefs can be difficult to unlearn, but not impossible. In many cases abused people go back to their abusers because of these core values. Those without experience of such a relationship often wonder in dismay why someone would go back to an abuser, but psychologically it’s extremely complicated. Unfortunately, with the level of austerity in this country, there is limited funding in the mental health sector to help those that fall into these patterns. As a result, many people rely heavily on charities for support and sanctuary.

Life can be lonely. Humans are social animals. For many people, an intimate relationship is high on their list of things they need to be happy. With the invention of dating sites and apps there are many opportunities for people to find a relationship. However, pairing social media with dating has it downsides. I have been single for five years, and have often felt that these sites make it harder to find a true connection with someone. Some people use them more like a game, while others are just looking for sex rather than relationships. It can be very hard to be honest on these sites, when you have the time and technology to spruce up your profile and compose perfect responses to questions. In reality, you aren’t afforded such luxury in tailoring your behaviour and responses. I think we forget that, and so when meeting people we expect a perfect carbon copy of that exemplary online persona. It’s far too easy to swipe on to the next profile.

When you have an invisible illness, when do you disclose your disorder? Is that a first or a third date conversation?

Dating has no set format to follow that provides the desired outcome. In the end we’re all just scrabbling around in the dark hoping for the best. As a disabled person, dating has a whole host of additional pitfalls that I hadn’t anticipated when I became newly single. Having had to give up my job as a teacher, I was unemployed – and one of the first questions that inevitably crops up on a date is “what do you do?” I felt ashamed to answer this. Particularly as the answer would involve revealing that I was disabled (which is not always apparent, and was something I would do my best to conceal on a date). When you have an invisible illness, when do you disclose your disorder? Is that a first or a third date conversation? I never did get it right. Often, I would be asked what my health would be like in the future. The honest answer is that I have no idea. That question would cause a mix of emotions for me. I could appreciate a person’s concern. They want to know if they’re committing to someone whose health is going to deteriorate. That’s a big commitment that could cause a lot of heartbreak and responsibility.  At the same time, I would feel insulted. Why could they only see my disability and not as me? Surely if they had feelings for me then it wouldn’t matter. I started to feel like I wasn’t a good investment. My way around it would be to ask them the same question. After all, who really know what the future holds when it comes to our health.

It was around this time that I considered applying to go on The Undateables, a Channel 4 dating series designed to find love for those with disabilities. When I first came across this programme I was impressed. I thought it was great that this minority group was being portrayed on television – as people just like anyone else – looking for someone to fall in love with. Too often we skirt around disabled people, uncomfortable to acknowledge them, or just plain forgetting that they exist. This series puts them in the limelight, and highlights their importance regardless of societies perceived ideas of their imperfections. However, I will always have a niggle of concern that shows like this could create a negative representation of disabled people, where viewers find entertainment in their challenging circumstances.

Featured image credit: Katy Walsh

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