Loss of limb is one of the most fearful things to happen to anyone. But while the person can eventually get around to fact that he/she lucky to be just alive, very often an amputation is perceived as an obstacle to forming personal relationships. However if you have met an amputee and wish to know him/her better or generally explore dating an amputee, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Focus the person not the disability
When you are going out with an amputee, don’t put all your focus on your partner’s disability. If he/she is ready to date, in all likelihood he/she knows well enough to manage their condition too. Thus don’t be fussy or extra-solicitous towards the person you are dating. Behave with him/her as you would do with any other person. Constantly jumping up to ‘aid’ them or fussing about them can make them feel disempowered and hurt.
As much as you are ready to accept your partner’s appearance, do not expect the same of society at large. If your partner’s amputation is visible, like the loss of a hand or an arm, it is very likely that there will be stares and whispers from people wherever you go. If you have chosen a public place like a movie theater or restaurant, prepare yourself mentally for negative reactions from some people around. If you are unsure of how to behave when a comment is particularly loud or nasty, take your cue from your partner. If he/she ignores it, do the same; but if your date makes a joke of it, join in and laugh it away.
While you should not consider your partner weak or less than others, at the same time you should keep his/her amputation in mind when planning a date. Avoid physically rigorous activities like hiking, bowling or date ideas where there is a lot of walking involved, like a city tour. If your partner uses a wheelchair and you plan to visit a museum or a theater, ensure beforehand that the venue has a ramp and other facilities like a washroom for the disabled. Even something like dancing which many couples take for granted in a date might be difficult for your partner. Instead organize your date around activities which don’t involve much of a physical strain like going to a movie, a concert or an art gallery. If you would like to be in the outdoors, a visit to the zoo or a nature park can be a good idea as these are places where you can rest intermittently and simply enjoy the view.
Talk about it, if your partner wishes
One of the most difficult things about dating an amputee is to know whether you should talk about it. Here it is again best to take your cue from your partner. If he/she brings it up, feel free to discuss your partner’s physical condition. In fact talking about something as personal as the loss of a limb can actually bond people together in a relationship. If you are thinking in terms of a relationship, it will help you both to gauge each other’s values and priorities in life and whether you are mutually compatible. At the same time, resist the urge to ask umpteen number of questions about his/her amputation. This will not only make you come off as rude and intrusive but also obsessive about someone else’s disability.
In a culture obsessed with physical perfection and beauty, it is hard for amputees to maintain a positive self-image. It is likely that from time to time they may start thinking of themselves as somehow inferior to a person with intact limbs and thus as less attractive. They may ask themselves, "why should anyone be interested in me when there are so many people with all four limbs?". So if you are dating an amputee, it is important that you should say positive things to them. For instance compliment your girlfriend on her hairdo or mention to your boyfriend that the jacket suits him very well. However make it a point not to say anything that you don’t mean deep down in your heart. If you lie, then your partner will see you as insincere and patronizing, traits which are hardly welcome in a meaningful relationship.
Take it slow
When dating an amputee, don’t be in a rush to move things forward. Allow the relationship to develop at its own pace and avoid trying to force anything, especially intimacy, too soon. This is because amputees are generally wary of how they will appear to their partners in an intimate situation. Your girlfriend may be unsure of how you will react when she takes off her prosthetic leg in bed or your boyfriend may secretly wince at the prospect of you viewing the stump on his arm. Since notions of selfhood in human society are so intricately wound up with physical perfection, your partner may be hesitant to move your relationship to the intimate level. Also there may be trust issues wherein your partner may be hesitant to allow him/herself to open up to you for fear of being vulnerable or rejected.
Finally think of a relationship with an amputee like one with any other person. If you are dating him/her, let it not be just for their condition, but because of the person he/she is on the whole. Often people have a tendency to pity an amputee and wish to be in a relationship with the intention of caring or protecting the person; on the other extreme are those that are attracted to an amputee because the latter has defeated immense odds and is something of a “superhuman”. Both these attitudes are extremes and thus unhealthy for a relationship. If you truly wish to have a meaningful relationship with your partner, avoid succumbing to either of them. Amputees appreciate understanding and sensitivity, but do not wish to be seen as stronger or weaker than others - they just want to be treated equally. Thus though an amputation is a part of who your partner is, keep in mind that it is not the entire package.