Recently my husband and I were asked if we could be featured in an organization’s newsletter as a couple where one of the partners has a disability.  Of course, we said that would be fine.  It got me to thinking about comments that have been made over the years to him and my daughters; people’s perceptions of our relationships.  Perceptions are sometimes very different than reality.  Thought I’d share and perhaps change people’s perceptions just a little bit.

We have been at an event like church or a large family gathering and inevitably someone comes over to us and tells my husband how wonderful he is for “taking care of Chris” or something similar.  Needless to say, the hairs on my neck stand up and I begin to see red.  It makes me feel like I’m a charity wife, like I make no contributions to our relationship but instead am a burden he has to endure.  That type of comment is not only hurtful but devalues our relationship.  Does my husband help me?  Sure he does and I help him.  That’s what partners do; it’s a give and take relationship and most of the time has nothing to do with the disability.

My daughters and I like to do things together.  Sometimes the three of us have gone out for a ladies’ night out leaving all the kids with the dads and grandpa.  Other times it’s me with one of my daughters and there are times we take the granddaughters and its three generations out for a good time.  You might find us shoe shopping—we love shoes, at the garden center picking out plants, or we might just be walking in the neighborhood.  Currently we are all planning to go to the women’s fair in February.  Why do we do this?  Because we enjoy being together and mothers and daughters like to hang out some times.  However, they have also been approached and told how “nice” it is you go shopping with your mom.  I understand they don’t realize how insulting that remark is to all of us.  Regardless of their intent, it devalues our relationships, making our time together charity.  I know it frustrates our daughters because they shared these comments with me.

Again, do they ever help me?  Yes, they do.
Do I ever do things to help them?  Absolutely, from the time they were born.

It is important to recognize that a relationship where one person has a disability isn’t about the disability.  It’s about relationships.  There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t need help with something and family and friends help.  They also do things together for fun and entertainment.  Next time you see someone with a disability out with someone without a disability, just see people enjoying themselves.  Let’s celebrate family; let’s celebrate healthy relationships.

By Chris Owens, Executive Director