Wise Council From Susan Quilliam: When Do I Disclose My Disability?

Dear Susan,

I broke my back earlier this year in a skiing accident and am now in a wheelchair. I’m coping well physically though I know it’s unlikely I’ll ever walk again, and emotionally I’m fine. But my fiancé just couldn’t cope with it and a few months ago he called the wedding off and walked out. I’m coping with that – I don’t really blame him – and have turned to internet dating and made lots of contacts online. Only one problem – I’m stuck about whether to admit I’m disabled. At what point do I come clean about my condition? Any advice would be welcome – I’m really confused.


Dear Maxine,

My first piece of advice to you is quite simply to slow down. Your email is wonderfully, wonderfully – but suspiciously – positive. You’ve say you’ve got over your accident. You’ve recovered from the emotional impact of disability. You’ve forgiven your fiancé for abandoning you. And everything’s fine in your life.
All of which rings alarm bells for me. I’m not encouraging you to be depressed or pessimistic, but everything is not fine in your life, and it sounds to me as if you’re in denial about that. You need to take time to come to terms with the situation and adjust to the changes.

It’s not that you need to let your disability stop you doing anything you want to do – particularly finding a new relationship. But if you keep charging forward without grieving the loss of your health, your relationship, and your life-as-it-used-to-be, all the unexpressed emotion will in the end catch up with you.
In particular, I would come off the internet dating sites. I think such sites are a wonderful idea and properly handled can work very well. But firstly you’re not over your break-up yet, and that means you may well make wrong choices when looking for a partner.

And secondly you have to be very strong emotionally to cope with the ups and downs, the emotional roller coaster as you pin your hopes on one person or another. And right now, though you may feel strong but you really do not need another rejection – and internet dating is a minefield of rejection.
So hard though it is, stop looking for a partner for a while. Take a little more time getting in touch with your feelings. Talk to friends. Lean on family. Work with a counsellor not only about the breakup of your relationship but also about your accident. Take several months more to get back your emotional balance..

Then by all means look for a partner. As to whether to confide your disability, I would. Telling it like it is is more honest; it may put off some people – but these are not people you would want to be in a relationship with. The person you’re looking for is someone who will accept you as you are, and value who you’ve become. There are plenty of men out there like that – so when you’re really ready, go find one!

Susan Quilliam also offers email, phone and face-to-face coaching on relationship and sexuality issues. Contact her here.

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