Editor’s note: Guest blogger Kevin Dunn talks about losing his vision, how it affected his relationship with his wife, and the steps they had to take to stay together as a couple.
Dating from a Blind Man’s Point of View
With Cupid’s holiday just around the corner and his arrows poised to meet their target, I was graciously asked to offer my two cents on the subject of dating from a blind man’s point of view. Though it may not be worth the two cents, I agreed to give it a shot.
Relationship Future Uncertain
Truth is, when I lost my sight in 2001 (due to retinal detachment and optic nerve damage as a result of the chicken-pox virus), my now wife and I were already together and had been for several years. The future of our relationship for me was uncertain. In fact, while I was in the hospital receiving the unsuccessful treatment to salvage my sight, I told her to just leave me and to put me in a home. I am not sure what type of home I was referring to. I haven’t really heard of a home for the recently blind, but that is what was on my mind at the time. I did not want to be a burden and did not want to hold her back. It wasn’t self pity; it was simply my thought process at the time. She wouldn’t hear of it.
Vision Rehabilitation Training Built Confidence
While still in the hospital, I began the enrollment process at the Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta. During this time, relationships and dating were the furthest from my mind. After a few months at CVI, where I was learning mobility, braille, computer skills and the daily living duties, I was beginning to regain some of my independence and confidence. With these newly acquired skills and confidence, I was starting to feel like a worthy partner. I was getting back in the game and was ready to move forward. Now knowing that Anne wasn’t going to leave me in that home for the blind, our relationship began anew. Things were a bit different now, but we were dating again. It was as if we were a new couple altogether, and we had to learn new ways to go about this.
Relationship Role Reversal
I am not a macho-type guy that follows the male/female roles and expects for the man to be in charge, but I was soon to learn that I had absolutely no authority in public. Interestingly, it would appear that many folks in the general public seem to think that if a person is visually impaired, they must also be hearing impaired and incapable of communication. Yes, it is true; folks will often not talk to me even if it is clear that I am the one footing the bill. So, going out on a simple dinner/movie date can be daunting for the visually impaired male. First of all how do you find what restaurants are out there? A visually impaired person doesn’t have the advantage of driving or walking by the new and wonderful eateries and making a mental note for the next date. Also, a visually impaired person must find new ways to stay in the loop on the latest movies and other entertainment options. So making plans for this easy dinner/movie night can be next to impossible. The plans are left up to the sighted person which creates the I-don’t- care-whatever-you-want conversation which is a different story altogether. More authority is granted to the sighted, and less authority is given to the blind.
Singing the Date Night Blues
So, here I am on this date eating at a restaurant that I didn’t choose. The server will not address me directly and will even ask my date what I would like to eat or drink. Even when I give the money for the bill, the change or receipt will be returned to my sighted date. After a while, one will give up trying to be noticed, but I digress and again, this is a different story. In any case, after the dinner is completed, and I am guided out of the restaurant, we then head off to a movie. I have no interest in sitting through because it has no audio description and has very little dialogue and a great deal of action. I am ignored by employees, and have to step aside for my date to purchase the tickets and snacks at the concession counter. Next, I have to figure out how to carry the food while using sighted guide while going into the theater. Some theatres have tricky stairs and ramps to navigate. Then there is seating where I have to squeeze by Joe Stranger’s knees before the movie begins and pray that I don’t have to use the restroom before the movie ends. After all of that you might think why date? Just stay at home!
Fixing the Dating Challenges Together
I am lucky to have gone through this transition and learning period with someone that I already knew well. I am also lucky that we were able to figure it out together and work through frustrations with a sense of humor. If I had to learn to date all over again post vision loss, I would imagine that I would still be a single man living in that imaginary home for the blind. Today I am able to find those new restaurants and can take charge where and when needed. For my wife and me to date again, we had to learn a brand new way to do it. We learned to be more creative and to operate as a couple. We now fit and work together like an old married couple. I now understand how lucky I was given the opportunity to learn how to date again.
Tell Us Your Story
Have you had to learn how to date again? If so, how did you overcome the challenges of being visually impaired? How do you make a date night fun and enjoyable with your sighted partner? Please join the conversation with your comments below.