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Dating issues

A teenage couple holding hands.

As a young woman, thinking about dating and romance is normal. Having an illness or disability doesn’t change this. Young women with illnesses and disabilities have romantic relationships and get married just like others do. And, just like everyone else, they worry about how they look and whether or not someone will like them. It’s just a part of growing up!

The challenges of dating arrow top

Dating can be awkward at first for anybody. But having an illness or disability can bring special worries. Holding hands or kissing someone when you are in a wheelchair can be difficult to manage. While many people use eye contact to flirt, you might have to rely on other senses if you can’t see. Or, you might feel uncomfortable about wearing an insulin pump if you have diabetes.

You may wish that you didn't have to deal with these issues, but they don't change who you are. And they don’t change your ability to date and have great romantic relationships. You’ve got a lot to offer. This can be an amazing and exciting time!

What can I do? arrow top

First, don't start dating just because you think that everyone else is doing it. Not everyone is emotionally ready to start dating at the same age. If you think you are ready (and your parents or guardian allow you), here are some things you can do to overcome the challenges you might face as a young woman with an illness or disability.

  • Try to see yourself as the likable person you are!
  • Have a good attitude and show people you are comfortable with your illness or disability.
  • If people are not treating you well, know that the problem is not you but the bad attitudes of others.
  • Getting involved at school and in your community will help you feel good about yourself. It is also a good way to meet people.
  • Take time to care for your body. Here are some tips.
  • If you feel nervous around others, think of some things to talk about beforehand. Try focusing on interests you might have in common with people in your classes, like music or movies.
  • If getting around town is hard, invite people over to your house to hang out.
  • Read about real life dating and how to have healthy and safe relationships.

Wrong touching

If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable because of the way he or she touches you, make sure you tell your parents, guardian, or another adult you trust.

It’s natural to start thinking more about sex as you get older. You can read about sex, including how to talk to your parents about it and ways to decide if you might be ready. Remember that not having sex is the only sure way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Sometimes girls think that having sex will make people like them more. And some teens with an illness or disability may think that having sex will make them feel "just like everyone else." But it is so much better to be liked and accepted for who you really are!

One last thing to keep in mind: Breakups and broken hearts are a reality of dating. If somebody you like no longer has the same feelings for you, don’t assume that your illness or disability is the reason. Lots of time, a person can’t give a “good reason” for feeling — or not feeling — a certain way. Getting over a breakup is hard and takes time. Try not to take it personally. That way, the next time somebody new gets your attention, you’ll be ready to try dating again.

Lots of people with disabilities find that romantic relationships get easier as they get older. So if dating isn’t going great now, hang in there!

 

Content last reviewed February 16, 2011
Page last updated October 31, 2013

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.

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