At this time of year, whether you’re a romantic or not, you can’t fail to see all the cards and gifts on display for Valentine’s day. When I was asked to write about Partners, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a difficult subject’, yet I’m sure most of us share the same desire – to be loved.
Of course, love comes in many guises, from partners, family, friends and of course our pets. You only have to see the close bond there is between our BBS members and their assistance dogs to witness that. If we are very lucky, and I do consider myself that, we meet someone special to share our life with.
How I met Martin
In the days before Tinder and other apps you generally met people through friends, education, work or social activities. I had some great male colleagues when I started work but when a friend of mine suggested to one ‘Why not ask Elaine out?’ he replied, ‘I’d never want to hurt her.’ Which was both sweet and yet equally annoying. I think it’s fair to say disability can be scary and it’s far easier to remain friends than plunge into something you’re unsure of.
During those early days I did date a couple of nice guys (and some not so nice!) but never my Mr Right. Then browsing through a magazine one day I came across an advert ‘Disdate – a penfriend/dating agency for disabled and caring people’. Why not, I thought? Within a few days of joining I received three names and addresses. One from London, one form Torquay and the third, Martin Rush from Southampton. Living in Dorset at that time, I decided Southampton was the closest, should we ever decide to meet. I wrote a long letter about myself and enclosed a photo.
Martin was very surprised to receive my letter as he had asked for his name to be removed a few months earlier. I like to think this is where fate stepped in! He sent me a lovely letter and photo back explaining he had Hypochondraplasia, a from of dwarfism, and was only 4ft 6ins tall, but otherwise fit and healthy. Through our letters we found we had so much in common. We were the same age, loved being with family, enjoyed travelling and for me the ‘piece-de-resistance’ he had a cat called Sweep. I love cats!
The more we wrote, the more we got to know each other. After a couple of months Martin asked if we could meet up. I was a little apprehensive but excited at the same time. I chose a pub in Poole and sent Martin directions. He watched in amazement as I moved from the driver’s seat, over the passenger seat and swung my wheelchair out the back of the car on a hoist. He later admitted he’d never seen anyone exit a car in such a unique way before! That day we chatted away with ease and arranged to meet again two days later for Sunday lunch.
Our friendship continued to grow, and we met up as often as our jobs and distance allowed.
From friendship to love
One winter’s day while walking through Poole Park I said, ‘I’ve got really cold hand’s’. Being the gentleman, Martin took off his gloves and gave them to me. ‘Let’s go to the café’, he suggested, ‘A hot drink will warm us both up.’ As I handed back his gloves he asked, ‘Have they warmed up now?’ and then slipped his hand into mine. At that moment I knew this was the hand I wanted to hold for the rest of my life. It felt so right. From that day on our love for each other blossomed. We spent hours talking on the phone, wrote letters and cards (which we still have!) and when I wasn’t working I went to Southampton to stay with him and Sweep. When Martin asked me to marry him I had no hesitation. We married on 17th April 1993 and I have to say it was the happiest day of my life.
Making it work
My Mum once said, ‘You make a great team.’ I have always loved housework, so it was never a hard role to take on. Martin and I manage it between us as we both love our home. It’s about understanding each other’s abilities and working together. It’s fair to say Martin has had to take on more in the past few months as I have ‘slowed’ down a little. As we know having O.I. brings good and bad days but my love of cooking continues, even when my energy levels don’t! If I could give any advice to a happy relationship I would say, be kind to each other, enjoy what you have and try to keep a sense of humour, because there are days when laughter is definitely the best medicine!