Everybody’s looking for love

Having a learning disability doesn’t mean you don’t want the same things as other people when it comes to love — why would it?

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A dozen red roses by on adonyig pixabay.com under Creative Commons.
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A couple relaxing together by pixels2013 on pixabay.com under Creative Commons.

“… look how long I will be in my 50s and then 60s and I am thinking I don’t want to be in the same situation … being by myself as I become an old lady. I want somebody to settle down and spend the rest of my life with.”

When Barbara was asked why she had joined up, she said:

“I want to join because I was looking for relationships … To meet people, not necessarily a boyfriend straight away but friends to begin with.”

The social networks that many people take for granted are often restricted for people with learning disabilities and they find it hard to engage or access social activities where they can meet people and possibly form relationships. The challenge, however, is getting the right support. As Georgia, one participant in a 2014 study, said:

“I think I do need a bit of support … And that’s to like, meet people … And that so yeah, gives me a bit of confidence to speak, and see if I can meet the right one, and could say to them, ‘well what d’you think about this … fella?’.”

Protection from abuse

People with learning disabilities — both men and women — are vulnerable to sexual abuse and need protection from this. Monica, for example, said:

“[I have] never ever experienced a proper relationship in my life. It’s just people taking advantage all my life yeah, and it’s not right.”

But there should be a balance between protecting people from abuse and enabling them to get into relationships, otherwise people are denied their right to do so . To prevent abuse, people with learning disabilities should have access to sex and relationships education, and caregivers should be prepared to discuss issues on sex and relationships openly in a proactive, rather than reactive, way. This would equip people with the knowledge they need to enjoy relationships in a safe way. Not being open or only dealing with issues in a reactive way is more likely to leave people vulnerable to abuse.

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The word ‘love’ written on a beach by Porapak Apichodilok on pexels.com under Creative Commons.

Dating agencies

Special dating agencies can enable people with learning disabilities to find relationships and broaden their social networks. The decade has seen a growth of friendship and dating groups for people with learning disabilities, including HeartVenture , Luv2meetU and matesndates . They match people interested in forming relationships and support them on their first date.

“I was struggling to find anyone on my own. And I want, I guess what every girl, woman would like to have partner or companion to share things with.”

Jane’s reason for joining was “because I didn’t want to be single anymore. I hate being on my own and being miserable.”

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