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Dating, Interabled-ly

Guest Contributor: Melanie the “BedBoundBabe

I was well over 30 years old when I first heard the term “Interabled Relationship”.  Most know what a relationship is but, “interabled”?  My initial reaction to seeing a video circulating online was, “What type of #fakespirational, ableist BS is this?” This particular one came in my email and was titled “Extremely Cute Interabled Couple Discusses Love and Disability.”  That? That title? Ableist. Patronizing. Infantilizing – “Extremely cute”.  Eventually I saw another video without the completely ableist titling.  No, I did not watch the video. I make it a point to try (keyword: Try) to not give clicks to those types of videos.

Anyway, I was immediately turned off but, maybe I was late to the party. Maybe my disabled peers have a different take on this.  So, I took it to the streets…so to speak.

Well, what exactly IS an “Interabled Relationship” and I am in one?

I guess I am. My partner is non-disabled. I am disabled. And I am not alone. Take a second to peruse through the replies to the tweet above.  I was convinced that a non-disabled person dreamed up the term.  But, it appears that a fellow community member, Mattis reportedly coined the term.

I don’t like it. I don’t see the need.

Understand, the disabled community has so many labels/perceptions we have to contend with. We are “othered” on a daily basis. Do we really need our own dating term? Interabled? We don’t.  My relationship with my non-disabled partner is just…a relationship.  If anything it’s intercultural (it’s a word, the dictionary said so).

Let me be clear. My issue isn’t with the TYPE of relationship. #LoveIsLove.  People’s relationships are interesting.  We want to know the juicy details. We want to know how they make it work.  That is fine with me.  I just have a disability and well, people are even more interested.  Again, that’s fine with me.

My discomfort is on the potential to center the non-disabled (ND) partner. The heroization of the ND partner.  Another thing the disabled community has to contend with.  It may invite criticism and accusations of selfishness of the disabled partner.  This was an actual thing someone asked me: Do I feel a little selfish for being with my partner? Answer: Nah. He good.  It is making something that has been happening for as long as dating has been around (i.e. forever) a thing that needs highlighting as a phenomenon.  It puts even more spotlight on the non-disabled partner and his/her/their perceived martyrdom. Because the conversation, I’m sure, is rarely going to focus on the actual disabled person and their relationship in general. It will be focused on HOW to date a disabled person.

I know that there are ND and disabled people embrace the term and put their relationships in the public eye in interviews, videos, etc.  I understand it may be a way to spread awareness. But awareness of what? Awareness that disabled people can and do date? Awareness that some ND are okay dating us, just as they would be another ND person? Awareness of “See, we’re just like you!”. Who are we making aware?

It would be nice to believe that the target audience was other disabled people who may be struggling on the dating scene (I was one of them.).  But my wheelie senses tell me it’s for ND people. Why else do I see videos about traveling/intimacy/just being in an interabled relationship?

I DO appreciate the representation of disabled dating. I wish I saw more couples when I was growing up.  Remember, it’s not the relationship and how anyone puts it out there. It is the term. Labels. Othering. Tagging. Performing.

I also noticed a few comments (and DMs) mentioned the closeness to “interracial relationships”. I asked a friend, fellow community member, for her input.  Here’s what she had to say.

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