As we celebrate Relationship Wellness Month
this February, it is important for us to reflect on what this means. Due to the possibility of a relationship not always being ‘well’ and sometimes having lurid results, such as those highlighted in media, we may be loath or circumspect about those we support having romantic relationships. This impulse is not at all wrong, but we cannot allow it to stop us from supporting people with disabilities and their freedom to explore this area of life.
A romantic relationship is a vital, if not primary, source of connection and significance in our lives. Of course, it can also be the greatest source of joy, and it is integral to our survival. That last bit may be surprising, but having significance in our lives supports our survival. That is, we need meaning to manage our moods, motivate us, and bring connection.
For anyone, this pursuit is fraught, and this can be, but is not always, magnified in those we support. Some may think it impossible, improbable, or too difficult. For one thing, how do we provide support and ‘safety’ if sex is involved? There is not one pat answer to this question, but there are answers. We start first with the iron-clad precept that they deserve this option to experience joy (and pain) in their lives as would anyone.
We start with friendship. Helping a person we support develop friendship outside of family and staff. This may mean finding social opportunities outside of the InVision family. This is the foundation from which a romantic relationship can spring.
We teach those we serve, while listening to their wishes, questions, and confusions. Being patient is vital as we may be the first folks to support this. We need supervision to check our assumptions about dating, romance, and sex. This will allow us to support the wishes of the people we support. It is important to teach the core value of ‘consent’ and choice within the realm of dating. It can be a hard conversation to help a person we support to accept rejection. This, though, is part and parcel with the dating experience.
What is wonderful about this is that we learn more about ourselves, our beliefs, our confusions, and what is most important in life. We at InVision Behavioral Health
wish to support those we serve in any way possible, and it is a privilege to take this walk with the people we support. For example, I have been able to begin couple’s therapy with two people we support, and it is amazing to see their growth and to understand how little if at all this differs from any other couple in such therapy. So, this month we celebrate that ‘dating is for everyone!’