Commentary: On Interable Relationships

Words by Juan Carlos Lopez
Edited by Josue Ramirez and Abigail Vela 

My name is Juan Carlos Lopez, and I am a person with a disability. I was married for eight years before my health and relationship deteriorated. Despite this, I have great memories. I enjoyed the company and the love of a relationship. I especially appreciated learning and facing new experiences. One of the things I learned, for example, is how society labels people and otherizes them. 


Specifically, I saw this in the way that people with a disability and their relationships are categorized as “interable relationships.” An “interable relationship,” for the sake of defining it, is a romantic relationship where “one or both partners in a relationship have one or more disabilities.”


I personally don’t like the use of the term because it’s just a relationship. The people in it just happen to have a disability. It doesn’t mean there needs to be a definition- it is what it is. Focusing on only bodily appearance discounts what one has to offer in their heart. It is one of the most valuable things someone can share, which can be done in countless ways.


I interviewed a friend of mine, Tony, who is 25 and has Muscular Dystrophy. To him, a relationship is a partner that is loyal, patient, and understanding about his physical limitations. Having open communication with your partner about your disability, your medical conditions, and your capacity is important to start a healthy relationship. Go out there open-minded to new experiences.


If one’s partner doesn’t have a disability, they might enjoy activities that you might not be able to participate in. That does not mean that one cannot show support or that they can be personal hobbies. There are so many things to enjoy together or by one’s side.


For Tony, an ideal partner in a relationship helps him overcome his “physical limitations day by day.” Sometimes this can be straining for a partner who might feel like a personal nurse. People can get tired of that, so it is important to discuss it at the beginning of the relationship and to check in with one another. It is necessary to come to an understanding and see if your partner can assist or take care of certain of your personal needs. 


If this is a no-go, you should arrange to have a caretaker or a provider if possible. Like any relationship, communication is key. Partners should understand that family is a very important component of our support systems. Overall, go out there with your head held high in the search for a partner that will make you feel alive and successful whether in school, career, or in general.  

Despite what some might think, people with disabilities can sustain committed, loving and romantic relationships. We don’t need to label it more than that. Our most common challenge in relationships is keeping things interesting which everyone can relate to.

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