What does dating after SCI mean to you?| Elena Pauly (WAGS of SCI)

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on July 12, 2019 # Relationships

While spinal cord injury has drastically changed our lives, forced us to create new routines, and presented many challenges to our relationship, it hasn’t stopped us from “dating” each other.

Well, sort of…

When my boyfriend, Dan, was first given a day pass from the rehabilitation centre (G.F Strong) he was quite frail, and I thought “holy crap”, I felt responsible for keeping him alive. At first, we spent our days sitting in the nearby park soaking up the sun rays and breathing fresh air. Something we typically enjoyed doing in our backyard before the accident. Once he was discharged, we organically fell into a routine of running errands and grocery shopping together.

Even though we sold our townhouse, relocated cities, and moved farther away from Dan’s family after his accident, we quickly decided to make our new neighborhood our home. Our Sunday’s are often spent at our local farmers market and end at our local produce stands. We have made our new city and neighborhood feel like home.

We went on a few dining dates and very quickly realized that every restaurant has a different version of being accessible. Our conversations went from, “what do you feel like eating tonight?’, to “which place is accessible and one that we feel comfortable in?” Our friends would invite us for dinner at places that Dan’s chair was unable to fit under the table, or the foot plate would prevent him from sitting close enough to reach his plate. We even came across a few places that used their accessible bathrooms and patio ramps to store kegs and extra patio furniture while we watched their able bodies patrons enjoying the luxury of both. A few of our local pubs and breweries have only high-top tables and find it acceptable to call themselves “accessible” because they don’t have steps into the building. In all honesty, these experiences have actually encouraged us to enjoy the comfort of our own home.

I guess what I’m saying is…date nights and days can be simple things that you both enjoy doing together. Maybe it is something that you once did and have realized you can still do with a little extra effort or modification…

For example, we took our dogs to the dog beach on the ocean the first year Dan was injured. I pushed and pushed him through the grass and sand until he was literally cemented in. He told me how much he missed laying in the grass and feeling the sand on his toes. I felt guilty that I could run with our dogs and feel the waves crashing on my toes because I wanted him to have it too. I wanted to lay him down in the sand and have no worries of picking him back up into the chair. So, I took his shoes and socks off and buried his toes in the sand. He smiled. (It was the first time he had felt the sand on his feet since his diving accident in Cuba, on his first out of country vacation that I surprised him with). I so badly wanted to put him on my back and simply carry him into the ocean. I wanted to push his chair all the way to the water’s edge and let him take it all in. It’s a hard pill to swallow when you want your person to experience everything you do while well knowing they cannot. He sat at the edge of the grass and sand line, he laughed and said it was exactly what he needed.

Dating after spinal cord injury doesn’t have to be anything other than what you both enjoy doing together.Dating with or without an SCI doesn’t need to be about spending tons of money in order to have fun. Some days, building a pillow fort, watching your favorite tv shows and ordering take-out is exactly what the doctor ordered and that’s totally awesome.

Something I have learned in the past three years post-injury is that doing nothing is still doing something. Listen to how you feel before you commit to plans with friends and family. Spinal cord injury will present unexpected challenges even when we make plans, be okay with canceling your plans to take care of you and your partner.

I would love to hear what some of your favorite date night or day activities are or have been after SCI….

If you’ve made it this far, thanks so much for taking the time to read this and please leave me a little comment below.


The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.