There are many things we take for granted in life until they just aren’t there anymore. One of these things is when your partner is able-bodied and you can very easily plan endless adventures and travels together, without even thinking about accessibility.
Have a partner who is paraplegic doesn’t mean you have to stay at home every day – there are so many options for travel and living life as a paraplegic so you don’t have to worry about your partner being able to participate in life with you.
For most people who have a paraplegic partner this isn’t what they think about, they just love their partner for everything they have together and the life they have built.
If You’re Single, and Trying to Meet Someone
For people who are in a wheelchair – whether from an injury or they were born paraplegic – they often report feeling like no one will be interested in dating them because people cannot get past being in a wheelchair.
In the dating world, first impressions seem to mean a lot and being paraplegic is often a very foreign concept to most people. When you first meet someone, if they are in a wheelchair it can be a little overwhelming but it’s important to remember they are still a person and still (likely) have so much zest for life.
In today’s world, there are so many activities and options for dates that are accessible so you don’t have to feel like you won’t be able to do things together. In fact, there are many benefits to dating someone who is paraplegic that many people may not even think about.
A Better, Deeper Connection
Whether your partner was born a paraplegic or was in an accident, they have likely been through a lot of in their life and they have a much deeper appreciation for their loved ones and for life in general.
Most people who want a long-term partner want something more thana physical connection, they want that deep emotional connection.
Those who are in a wheelchair have spent the time to get to know who people really are and usually have spent a lot of time on self-reflection – they’re funny, witty and have really great personalities. They are in it for more than a physical connection.
Resilience to Whatever Life Brings
People who are paraplegic, as mentioned, have been through a lot of hardship, and they have had to become resilient to whatever life throws at them in a way most people haven’t had to face.
This kind of resilience and compassion makes them phenomenal life partners as they are going to be with you through everything, and will always be by your side.
A partner who is paraplegic can really help bring out the best in you as they often approach opportunities with such optimism and strength that you will find yourself looking your life, career and opportunities a whole different way.
Having a Family With Someone Who Is Paraplegic
One of the most common questions asked is whether those who are paraplegic can have children or father children.
The short answer to this is yes, to both. Being paraplegic does not mean you cannot have a child, or if a man is paraplegic he can still father children. Of course the individual situation may be different for everyone, but being paraplegic does not automatically mean you cannot have a family with them if that is what you want.
This topic is discussed much more in depth in our Sexuality and Paraplegia allergy.
Living With a Paraplegic
Now there are going to be some things that are much different in your everyday life when you have a partner who is paraplegic, but that doesn’t mean you cannot still do the same things any other couple or family does.
Using the Bathroom
One of the first questions asked is how a paraplegic gets to and uses the bathroom, and if they can even use the bathroom.
The answer to this really depends on the person. Sometimes people with spinal cord injuries will lose control of their bladder and bowels as part of the injury, so they may have to wear adult diapers as a result because they cannot get to the bathroom in time.
For others, if they have control over their bladder and bowels they can get to the bathroom physically on their own but may require assistance to transfer from the wheelchair to the toilet.
Some people have a lot of upper body strength because their injury is lower down in their spine so they can use this strength to move themselves and do not require help from their partner, but others may not.
This situation will have to be something that the two of you work out, and if you have a homecare worker come into your home to help or if the non-paralyzed partner will be doing the assisting.
It is imperative that the home and bathroom is wheelchair accessible to ensure the safety of your partner. Perhaps, your toilet and bathroom sink are ADA compliant.
You enjoy exercising and being active, so it makes sense that you will want to share in that with your partner. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean that someone can’t exercise of be active, you just will have to modify the activities you participate in.
Just like those who are not in a wheelchair, exercising is good for our mental and physical health – so doing it as a paraplegic is no different. In fact, those who are in a wheelchair should definitely be as active as they can be.
Being active as a paraplegic should still include strength training, aerobic exercise – which is especially important since being in a wheelchair means it could be difficult to get your heart rate spiked during the day. Monitor your heart rate with a fitness watch for wheelchair users.
For most people who are paraplegic, it will be recommended that they participate in a regular physical therapy routine. This could potentially be with a physical therapist who comes to their home or perhaps they go to a clinic setting.
This physical therapy routine will help with the muscles they are not using by being in a wheelchair and keep them as healthy as possible. The therapist will also be able to recommend specific activities that your partner can (and should) participate in for their abilities.
On top of that, there are often group sports organized for those who are in wheelchairs to get together and be active with those who have similar abilities to them. This also gives your partner their own activity since it’s also important for partners to have their time apart and enjoy their own groups of friends.
Life Expectancy of Having a Paraplegic Partner
Does the idea of having a paraplegic partner leave you feeling like your life will just be about doctor’s appointments, illnesses, and losing your partner young?
That isn’t necessarily true, though. Those who are in a wheelchair often live very full and long lives, without extra illnesses or a lifetime of doctor’s appointments.
As mentioned previously, the experience you and your partner have will be unique and everyone experiences life with a paraplegic partner differently.
If your partner was born paraplegic, they may not have many illnesses or difficulties. However, if they are paraplegic as a result of a spinal cord injury they could have some ongoing medical issues or concerns.
There could be some other risk factors for their life expectancy – like other health conditions and ensuring they stay as active as possible. There is nothing to specifically say your partner’s life expectancy will be greatly diminished because of being in a wheelchair.
There could be complications, yes, but these will vary from person to person and should not be generalized for everyone in a wheelchair.
Losing Weight as a Paraplegic
When your partner is spending all of their time in a wheelchair it can be difficult to stay healthy and lose weight. Adults in wheelchairs tend to burn fewer calories through physical exercise, but that doesn’t mean they can’t lose weight through healthy choices and some forms of physical activity.
Wheelchair users will very likely need less calories than the average person does since they are not using those massive leg muscles that burn the most calories.
If your partner is having trouble with staying a healthy weight and being in a wheelchair, there are dietitians and specialized nutritionists who can help design specialized diet plans for those who are paraplegic to make sure they still get the right amount of nutrition and calories needed.
Overall, ensuring your partner has a healthy and balanced diet will go a long way to helping them maintain a healthy weight. If you need help with dietary needs or recommendations, you can ask your partner’s doctor for a referral to a dietitian.
Having a partner who is a paraplegic will definitely give you a life that’s different from others – no question – but those differences do not have to be negative. Certain adjustments and considerations will need to be made, of course, but anyone who is in a wheelchair is still a person with hopes, dreams, hobbies and interests.
It can be difficult to see past someone being in a wheelchair, especially if you are looking for a long-term partner but being in a wheelchair gives people a very different perspective and outlook on life – almost always much more positive.
As a partner they will push you to see your own life in a much more positive light and think about things differently. Having a partner who is paraplegic is really just having a partner, and you can still very much enjoy your life!