Dating with a Disability

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

January 29th, 2008 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

As with other disabilities, chronic pain creates a chain reaction of struggles in one’s life — not the least of which is dating. For me, the dating struggle has manifested in a number of ways:

Sometimes getting out of bed is a Herculean task, and the major events of my day consist of taking a hot bath, then lying sprawled on a post-apocalyptic size ice pack. (It’s fun. You should try it.)

In this case, the impact on my ability to date is obvious: Unless a gaggle of metrosexual hotties not only line up on my doorstep but also magically whip out a key to my apartment, I’m not playing.

The rest of the time, pain sucks my energy non-stop — making it enough of a challenge to crawl over to the espresso machine in my kitchen, never mind accomplish my objectives each day.

As is the case with every other young, single, professional goddess-type, my to do list include theses basics :

  • tidy the apartment (Why is it always messy, when I just freakin’ cleaned it?)
  • organize paperwork
  • respond to snail mail & e-mail (Viagra Corporation: Back. Off.)
  • return phone calls
  • pay bills
  • buy groceries (Why, oh why, do I live on the top floor?)
  • do banking
  • clean laundry (Maybe the metrosexual hotties can help with this one?)

In addition, in order to stave off my pain through natural means, I’ve got a collection of regular must-dos that are merely occasional or optional for the able-bodied among us:

  • meditate
  • dance
  • swallow lots o’nasty crap (a.k.a. supplements)
  • do Feldenkrais routine
  • practice visualization
  • prepare three organic, nutritious, anti-inflammatory meals
  • do physical therapy routine
  • exercise
  • go to a never-ending stream of healthcare appointments

Side-by-side with taking care of myself through these various means, I also run multiple businesses, spend time with friends and family, actively work on self-improvement, and do what I can to nurture my musical path.

Forget the man. Where’s the extra 48 hours I need each day?

Initially, when I took a stab at resuscitating my romantic life, I was sure that the almighty Internet would deliver the solution.

While Internet dating sites are highly convenient for pain-drained, busy individuals, I ultimately came to see them as a set-up for failure. I mean, how unnatural is it to express the innermost core of your being to someone who has never stood within a 100-foot radius of you?

I know, I know, a bazillion of your friends have gotten married through Internet dating, which is exactly why I tried it (your fault), but still: In my opinion, that relationship approach is too top-heavy.

Then there’s the unpleasant aspect of screening through random weirdos — going out to coffee with those who seem fabulous on the computer screen but turn out to, shall we say, not quite pass muster in real life.

After a string of Internet disappointments and resulting frustration about wasting my time, I concluded that the best way to meet men was to be out there in the real world, doing my “thing.”

So I hauled my weary, chronic pain ass to band performances. Literary events. Community forums. Vegetarian dinners. Prayer services at synagogues — of every denomination. Hell, I even went to a Buddhist temple. (Come to think of it, there were some cute guys there. Maybe I should go back.)

The “problem” is, I love what I do so very much, that in most cases — given my time and energy constraints — I prefer to be sitting at my ergonomic desk in my cozy home office, sporting my plaid flannel jammies and big fuzzy slippers, maniacally rubbing my hands together while crafting my latest plot to take over the world.

In other words, I’ve got shit to do. Despite my disability, I am living my dreams — which leaves me with a very low tolerance for anything less than fantastic.

I don’t have the energy, time, or interest to deal with the hit & miss of random encounters or even the hassle of trolling through the Internet and local papers, looking for something fun to do.

And that’s when it hit me: Just as I’ve hired a program coordinator and administrator for my business, so must I hire a social manager for my personal life — someone who will do all the screening for me. Find events that meet my interests. Find people who meet my standards. Then call me up and tell me where to go, what to wear, and when to arrive.

So last week I signed up for a dating service called Table for Six. I like it because they organize dinners of three women and three men — which I anticipate will create a laid-back environment, where I can organically make new friends without feeling the pressure to make a romantic connection.

I also like it that they organize group events out — dancing, going to the theater, taking hikes, and other activities of interest to me.

The downside is the cost of membership and events. For me they are pricey, given that chronic pain and disability have left me financially drained. Ironic, isn’t it? The very thing that makes disabled people need a dating service like this is also what makes the service potentially inaccessible to us.

Regardless, I decided that my romantic life is worth the investment, so I took out a loan to cover the costs, and I’m going for it. This Thursday is my first dinner. I’ll keep you posted.


judy massarano June 27th, 2008

Loolwa, you write well. thank you for this, and for all you do. may it continue with blessing. Shabbat Shalom Um’vorach! judy

Susan March July 20th, 2008

This is the 3rd attempt at replying and what I find is that I don’t want to write about what I can’t do because it makes me sad and frustrated. I’d rather think about and focus on what I can do w/in my limitations. My life ended and began on a day in July 20 years ago and I’ve learned that my friends are the ones who are ok knowing that I might have to cancel or postpone. Being social takes up a tremendous amount of energy and the recovery time is significant. I don’t like the aloneness that chronic illness has caused. I’m home today because I did too much yesterday, both physically and socially yet I had a had a wonderful time where I was and who I was with. Choices cause consequences and for me that means I’m home today and I accept it because there is no point in being angry about it because it serves no interest.

Magda213 July 22nd, 2008

Great information! Thank your for sharing. Bookmark!

Robert Boyd November 3rd, 2008

Hi. I’m curious to find out how you incorporate Feldenkrais movement lessons into your pain management. I’m a practitioner with my own ongoing pain issues. I’d like to hear more about how you’re using it on a regular basis for yourself, and how it works for you.

Thanks for your blog! I just discovered it today and look forward to reading more.

Aviva November 17th, 2008

Putting aside how much I enjoyed this post, I have to ask for details on the “post-apocalyptic size ice pack.” How big is it? I’m imagining a full body (or maybe just torso) sized ice pack. How great would that be?

I’d love an ice pack that would reach from (at minimum) the base of my neck to the small of my back and that I could ice my arms from fingertips to shoulders, all at the same time. And gosh, if it would reach from head to toe (I’m about 5’8″) that would be even better because then I wouldn’t have to choose between my upper and lower halves.

Of course, then I have to wonder if it would fit in my freezer … but we do have a chest freezer I’m sure I could make room for it in!! :)

So do tell, I want details about this ice pack.

Isn’t it funny when people fixate on a minor detail of what you’ve written? Please know that I appreciated all of it — and am ever so grateful that I met my husband three weeks before my chronic pain started and that he stuck with me through it all (so far).

Kelly February 4th, 2009

Hi Loolwa,

I admire your spunk! I’m in the same boat dating wise and hope you have good luck with Dating For 6.

I have Fibro and CFS. I have had three relationships since having chronic pain and gave them up because they sucked me dry.

Your so right, we have “shit to do” and I work 3 part time jobs to make ends meet on SSID. I had a lucrative career for 25 years before becoming disabled. Financially I struggle. Only in the US can a person be penalized for paying in to the system all their lives. If I never worked a day in my life I would get full benefits, free housing, foodstamps, medicaid, free medical and prescriptions, free fuel assistance, 75 percent off my electric bill. etc. But no I worked hard and now I am poorer then the poor. I have to work under the table to get by.

So what do I do today? I do respite work for the elderly. Many are disabled due to strokes and wheelchair bound. I can be compassionate because I understand their pain. I find that helping them helps me. I also volunteer at two food pantrys and teach sunday school. My faith in God keeps me strong long after I want to quit.

But back to dating… The men that are interested in me today as a disabled woman are not all that! All three were not steadily employed, if employed at all. It is almost like they figured I was lucky to have a boyfriend and that they could walk all over me. I will never date another man who is unemployed, doesn’t have his own place, or doesn’t have a licence. They are just like a full time job.

One kept moving in and hanging around all day looking for work. I’d kick him out because I couldn’t afford to feed him and he would call up begging me to see him. Eventually he became verbally abusive when his needs were not met so out he went.

Two cheated on me and expected me to accept it. I ended up with a sexually transmitted disease. He told me it was my fault he cheated because some days I was in too much pain or too tired to have sex.

Then there is the reality part. Yes, sex can be very painful and I act as if I am still in my old body. I have to play the part. The next day I feel like I WAS HIT BY A MACK TRUCK. Only one out of the three was reasonable to me in bed. The other two had to make a pretzel out of me and slam me into a pancake to find enjoyment.

Is it really worth the pain to get the intimacy? If love has to hurt then I am going to stay single indefinately.

Good Luck and there are some wonderful men out there. I see them in church and in daily life. Hopefully God will put a nice man in your life that will be kind and supportive.

Kelly :)

Judith Westerfield May 5th, 2010

Social Coordinator.  I’m married so I can’t date but I STILL would love a social coordinator!  I’m adding that to the list of cook, and housekeeper!
I know of a few who’ve gone to the dinners.  Great concept.
Bon Appetite!

Annie May 5th, 2010

This was so great!
And I agree with you, your romantic life is worth some of the investment that has been put toward chronic pain.
I’m glad to have stumbled upon your blog!  Come check me out at It’s Time To Get Over How Fragile You Are!

Dana Marton May 6th, 2010

I loved this! I am definitely coming back to your site! You’ve got spunk, girl!

Salt June 25th, 2010

Your supplements may be adding to your chronic pain, even if you believe they are helping. E.g. If you have an AI disease other than multiple sclerosis, its likely Vitamin-D will increase your pain levels over time (this is due to it really being a steroid, and when it converts into its more active form, it causes a great big uptake in circulating calcium which can cause scarring, and tiny calcium deposits in muscles. Its counter intuitive, because with a disease such as Fibromyalgia, or Rheumatoid arthritis, taking vitamin D initially makes one feel better. This effect lasts 5-7 hours until it converts into its active form, and then pain increases.)  Calcium supplements may also increase pain for the same reason, and they may cause internal digestive pain from constipation.
Many antioxidants have immune system effects, and many substances that are antiinflamatory have a paradoxical reactions where they increase inflammation when an injury is present. E.g. Vitamin C, N-Acetyl Cysteine. Some of the B vitamins also can have this effect.
Folic acid – Generally a good thing, but if you have candidiasis it can make the problems associated with it worse.
Food for thought.

EBH July 23rd, 2011

Hey Kelly in comments – where do you live that you could get all those benefits.

I went into my life long pain due due a bad surgery where other surgeons won’t testify at their high level of practice b/c they are all friends. Its sad when you get to the Mayo clinic level if a surgeon screws your life over other surgeons don’t have the ‘star power’ to testify or are in a small group of elite friends across hospitals.

I went into this surgery with a wonderful girlfriend and many dreams. Came out with her family determined she was too good for an afterwards disabled man due to pain and nerve/muscle damage. So much for true love as all the dreams changed – for her – and what dreams are left have to be all on her terms or nothing. Her terms strip my desparately needed support and security from me as a now chronic pain and physically limited man.

For me I have pretty much given up on a dream that I can return to real life, much less find a woman I am attracted to, and her attracted to me and then build dreams again.

I still have much to offer I believe, a mind, good looks, etc. Yes I have limitations also that figure in.

I don’t think I will find that attractive sweet God fearing/loving woman anytime soon that can truly love me in spite of limitations and be able to assist me. I feel all of those are wanting fully able men to swoosh them away in dancing, long walks on the beach, romantic dinners out, hikes, etc.

I don’t think there is any choice but just to give up on women except those that they themselves have limitations as any others don’t want a disabled man – except for those disabilities that don’t impact their own dreams in the least.

How life goes from being a world travelling exec to pretty much homebound without legal recourse and without hopes of true love is one hell of a cross to bear – but here I am – still with dreams of love, children, romance, laughter, cuddling/sex, movies, candle lit dinners, etc. Just I need someone who’s either healthy or own limitations can balance with mine (mine being moderate to severe pain daily managed with everything from meds to physical therapy – and limitations due to upper body nerve/muscle damage).

But I guess I give up on meeting someone such as that and a deep deep love for Christ as almost all have dreams of the perfect man or are in this world for the love of the world and not living a goal of being a saint – knowing we are but human and all need love – even the least of us.

Sarah S July 27th, 2011

GIRL! I totally empathize with the “dont have time or energy for wading through” the bad dates and the “just friends” all the time.  I spend enough time reading food labels and screening my relationships with doctors- who has time for boyz? Thanks for posting and sharing!

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