Question: I was involved in a motorcycle accident last year and became a paraplegic. I am working again and I think I have accepted my condition now. I would like to start dating and perhaps even get married but I feel isolated and I wonder if girls will ever find me attractive now that I’m in a chair?
The first question you could ask yourself is: Am I attractive to myself?
It has little or nothing to do with the chair you are sitting on right now. It has everything to do with your own opinion of yourself. All the qualities you would look for when you become interested in another person (with a view to a relationship) apply to you and your impression of yourself as well. So, - the start to a new relationship starts with yourself and what you see in the mirror, both the external (physical) but also the person inside. Relationships are formed primarily by mutual trust and respect, which is earned and cannot be bought at the corner store or enforced with threat or coercion. It needs to start however with yourself and your own trust and self-respect.
To feel good about yourself you need to look at the following three areas:
Becoming spinal cord injured does not necessarily buy you a license to become a sloth! The same dress rules still apply and for as long as the popular media is around there will be fashion and pizzazz. You needn’t follow the latest fashion like a slave but you do need to pay attention to your appearance. You can even dress the same as before your injury. Your clothes need to still be clean, not creased and suited for your lifestyle and nothing stops you from sporting the latest hairstyle or accessories. Personal hygiene, like before, stays relevant. You may not be as physically active as before but you still perspire, your clothing still requires adjustment at times and your seating posture remains important. A seductive and alluring after-shave or cologne will also go down well, as long as your hair is clean and your nails are manicured!
The person inside
You mention in your question that you ‘feel’ isolated. By extension this implies that you think so as well! The problem is that if you think you are isolated, you will feel isolated and you will then behave like an isolated person. Only your behaviour is visible to the outside world and if you get treated like an isolated person then perhaps it is time to start thinking differently about yourself?!
A good place to start is to go back to your original injury. Did you get onto your bike that day to see how badly you could hurt yourself?
You have the same job to do but with less tools. The choice is yours. You can say: ‘Woe is me, the victim’ or ‘Let’s get it on, I am a survivor.’
To all intents and purposes you are still the same person as before your accident, you just sit down a lot more???
Here I have to mention though that your job to feel less isolated will frequently be turned into a challenge by a largely ignorant and apathetic able-bodied public out there who do not think it important to be informed on spinal cord injury. All the more reason then for you to prove that you too are a catch to someone who is prepared to look beyond the chair under you.
You do not mention the level of your spinal cord injury but it would be safe to assume that your sexual function will have been affected to some extent. For a man to have sexual intercourse he needs to obtain an erection of sufficient strength and duration, followed by an orgasm and ejaculation.
All three of these functions are usually affected or impeded by spinal cord injury at any level which prompts the question (by uninformed individuals): ‘So why bother trying to have sex?’
The answer is simple. Spinal cord injury does not remove your sexual desire or your need to have children or to fulfill your gender role expectations.
The good news is that all these functions can be restored or reclaimed if you so wish. Often it is necessary to make some adjustment and to do things slightly differently but that brings about a whole new journey of discovery that can be fully explored on your own or with a partner.
In my practice I often find able-bodied persons who are not sure, after several years of marriage, whether they have actually experienced an orgasm and do not know where their G spot is exactly.
It can be an exciting journey to discover new ways to get an erection, to experience an orgasm and to find new positions to pleasure your partner with.
Remember also that intimacy does not always have to end with simultaneous multiple orgasms and: ’Did the earth move for you too darling!!’
Some learning can also be taken from the Tantric experience of sexuality where intimacy can, instead of becoming just a mechanical physical exercise, be elevated to a more spiritual holistic level at a far more pleasing mind and body experience.
I wish you an exciting journey of discovery and hope to hear from you soon as you develop your new relationship with that special person out there who is waiting for you to come forward out of your ‘isolation’!
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