Dating After a Spinal Cord Injury

It’s natural to initially feel less attractive after your spinal cord injury (SCI). Nurturing your self-esteem is vital to success in meeting new people, dating and finding a partner.

Dating After a Spinal Cord Injury

Get help with self-esteem issues after your spinal cord injury

Who would want to date someone in a wheelchair? How will I ever find someone who will want to be with me? Will I ever feel attractive again?

Those are among some of the most common questions and worries for people with spinal cord injuries. You may feel as though part of your identity and sexuality were taken away. However, for those who make the transition to their new life with a positive attitude, meeting and dating new people can be uplifting, even healing.

Every person with a spinal cord injury has a different experience and journey. As you grapple with your new reality and perhaps some self-esteem issues, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Sure, it’s a cliché, but most people with spinal cord injuries are surprised to learn that many people are interested in them and open to an intimate relationship. In fact, many view those who have overcome adversity as strong… and attractive.

Sexuality is much more than the physical. It’s easy to view your sexuality as just a physical thing. But the confidence you exude and your personality traits – a sense of humour, honesty, friendliness, listening skills – are all part of what attracts someone to you.

Today it’s easier than ever to meet new people. Social media and specialised online dating sites can help you easily make new connections. And “real-life” opportunities, such as going out with family and friends, volunteer work and other social events can also expand your relationship possibilities. 

Rejection is a universal experience. Any single person will tell you that dating can be very difficult and the fear of rejection is real. Some people may not be able to see past your injury. Take comfort in the fact that rejection happens to nearly everyone on the dating scene.

Honesty goes a long way. If you’re dating someone or in a new relationship, it’s natural for you to feel a little uncomfortable about how he or she may feel about your condition. It’s best to address the “wheelchair in the room” and talk openly about your injury, including what you can or can’t do sexually.

Your attitude impacts how you view yourself. In a study of 64 men with an SCI, researchers found that those who decided they would focus on positive attitudes and actions had better self-image and greater self-esteem. One participant even said that “dating seemed a lot less difficult” after his injury.   

Bottom line, every person with a spinal cord injury must come to terms with the changes in their body image and self-concept. Don’t let that stop you from dating and meeting new people as you’re working through this. In fact, you may find it to be helpful in your journey towards acceptance. Best of all, if you keep these things in mind, you may attract that special person you deserve.

Hollister would like to thank the United Spinal Association and Mitchell S. Tepper, PHD, MPH, for their assistance in providing information for this article. For more information, download their free booklet, Living Your Life: Sexuality Following Spinal Cord Injury.