warning: rant ahead
I recently got copied into a letter from a specialist to my doctor which, in the first sentence, described me as “a single woman”.
Now, I feel my condition, my pain and my quality of life might be more relevant given the context but it was a reminder of just how important my relationship status is to other people.
If I was living with a partner, I have no doubt that my care support would be, or attempted to be, decreased as a result. My benefits might change as well. Especially if I was in America:
My worth is still somehow related to my relationship status. Which, as someone who has spent most of their life not in a romantic/sexual relationship, I find really hard to understand.
A brief history of my relationships:
I was a clever, quiet teenager who hung out in the library and even if anyone I knew had been attracted to me, there was no way they would have admitted that to anyone.
When I was 17 someone finally expressed some interest in me. We went on a date. He kissed me and it was awful. But he was the first person to tell me I was beautiful. And my self esteem was horrifically low. I thought this was the best I was ever going to do. And that message was one that had been reinforced over and over again along with the message telling me my worth was dependant on my relationship status or my desirability.
So we stayed together for 18 months. Which included me giving in to his regular requests to feel me up in the dark whilst we were parked down a lane… He wouldn’t take me back to his and he wouldn’t meet my friends at uni…
He told me I couldn’t dye my hair purple, I couldn’t get my ear pierced unless it was my lobes, he didn’t want me going on the pill… But he told me he loved me. I hadn’t heard that very much. He told me I was beautiful. He told me he cared about me and had our future planned out. But he wouldn’t spend the 30p or whatever a stamp cost ten years ago to post me a birthday card. He wouldn’t ring me because it cost money. He dragged me to a comedy night despite me hating the idea and told me to pull myself together when I inevitably had a panic attack.
But he loved me and he told me he loved me and I’d never had that from anyone.
Thankfully we broke up.
My relatives waited on tenterhooks to be told that we were back together. Because in their eyes, a relationship was the be all and end all and they couldn’t comprehend that I wouldn’t go back to him or jump into the arms of the next person immediately.
A couple of years later I met my second partner who was far far better for me. We lived together for a while and when we parted, my relatives again expected us to get back together. We’re still really good friends and he’s still a really important part of my life. But we’ve been there, done that and it didn’t work out in the end. This relationship was a lot healthier than my first but with hindsight, I know that I was controlling and possesive which came from fear. Not of our relationship but a fear that something would happen to him.
And other than mild flirtation and an awkward online date, that is pretty much that.
I actually really like being single.
I like my own space.
I like not answering to anyone.
I like knowing that the mess in my flat is my own mess.
I love having a bed to myself.
I love being able to keep my own hours and fall asleep at 8 if that’s what my body needs, without feeling like I should try and stay awake for the other person. Or being awake from 1am till 4am and listening to my audiobook without bothering anyone.
I love how well I’m getting to know myself.
I love not worrying about the other person (which I mean in a healthy way).
There are disabled people in relationships who are being penalised for loving someone so much they want to live together and that is not ok. As with the impact of marriage in America (see image above), if I were to have someone move in with me, my support would be affected.
Social services would probably expect them to meet some of my care needs and thus reduce the support I get. It would certainly be much harder to get overnight care if/when I need it. And my benefits entitlement would be affected. Which I think is utterly horrific.
As I mentioned in a previous post, people with disabilities are more vulnerable to abuse and this assumption that a partner will pick up care responsibilities and the change in benefits exacerbates that risk. Defining people by their relationship status is potentially dangerous and certainly complicated.
And to the doctor who felt my relationship status was more important than my health, screw you. Whether I am in a relationship or not, I am and will remain, much much more.