Hello everybody, welcome to episode 127 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Today I’m coming to you with a very honest and very standout relationship question that a listener sent in. We’ve talked a lot about relationships of course, but being that they are so layered, there’s always another layer to peel back and we’ll be doing that today. Very excited about this one on dating a blind person. Here’s the question…
QUESTION: “I am in a new relationship with a person who is blind. I am struggling with many aspects of this, but perhaps the biggest one is addressing my unknown biases that I held against people with blindness – and disability in general.
I’ve had to confront uncomfortable assumptions that I had made and some anxious feelings raised as a result. I realized that I was projecting my own fear of becoming blind into my thoughts, and not being fully present with my new prospective partner. I’ve taken the time to get to know them as a person, and am fortunate that my partner is willing to answer my questions head on.”
Dating A Blind Person and Relationship Biases
All right, what a wonderful, unique question! Thanks so much for sending this one in! Covering new ground today.
Though dating someone who is blind is a more uncommon example, we all carry biases into relationships whether we’re aware of them or not. We carry biases into all facets of life – it’s nearly impossible to not have some degree of bias. If we really look into why we have biases, it all comes down to deeply ingrained survival techniques.
Though our survival is not always at risk when they come out, they’ll still come out when we feel our emotional wellbeing is at risk in any number of ways. And it’s easy to judge ourselves and others when we identify biases that aren’t really necessary – biases that, to the untrained eye, seem to be rooted in hatred or judgment.
But if you track them way back to their source, it’s never about hatred. It’s about fear.
A Sense of Guilt
Now you didn’t say it outright, but I can tell there’s that same sense of judgment you’re putting on yourself right now – a sense of guilt for these biases that you’ve found within yourself.
You may have figured out what I’m getting at: there is no shame in having these biases or assumptions about the blind. And I might get burnt at the stake for saying this, but there’s really no shame in having any negative biases or assumptions.
Not to say they shouldn’t be worked on. I’m not saying that at all. But they all root back to some facet of fear.
Take It Easy
With that being said, take it easy on yourself. This is a new situation for you. And not only is it new to you, but it’s also a situation that’s rare enough that you probably don’t even have anyone close to you who has been in it.
So where do you go for guidance? Nowhere. You have to figure it out for yourself. Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. After all, you’ve come here for guidance. But you know what I’m saying.
Entering into any venture so new, so unknown and so rare like this without having some level of defenses up is nearly impossible, even if you’re a particularly open-minded person.
Even the open-minded person might deny their biases to protect their identity as someone who is open-minded, but you’ve gone a step beyond that being honest enough to admit and confront these uncomfortable feelings. That’s absolutely tremendous.
Personal Growth through Difficult Experiences
The people who would find themselves in a situation like this and pretend not to have these feelings are those who would not grow. Consider yourself lucky to not be in that group right now. You’re growing a lot right now in this experience.
You’re learning a lot about yourself, you’re learning a lot about your partner, and (to a lesser extent, as not all blind people have the same experience) you’re learning a lot about the blind community at large.
It may feel foreign to you, but your openness about this has maximized what is already a very organic process.
Being biased, confronting those biases, feeling anxious or shameful while doing so. It has to happen that way. And the only time it gets derailed is when we deny the discomfort.
The fact that you’re conscious of this discomfort and have leaned into it both by trying the relationship out and talking through your honest feelings with your partner tells me that you’re doing it all exactly right. And side note, what a blessing it is to have a partner who (so far) is understanding of where you’re coming from and happy to answer your questions with an equally open mind!
Biases vs. Your Partner's Character
Based on what you’ve told me about where you’re at, there’s only one area in which I’d caution you a little bit. I’d encourage you to be very cognizant of separating your biases from your romantic feelings. And if that feels a little too blurry, I might rephrase it as separating your biases from your partner’s character. Be able to make this relationship work or end this relationship based on your partner’s character alone is the goal.
What I mean is that if your biases are indeed too strong and you’re simply too uncomfortable to start being more present in the relationship, so be it. It’s not fair to your partner, and while you shouldn’t judge yourself for this, it simply means you have a little more self-work to do before you can give yourself to this person fully (or anyone else who you might find yourself having certain biases towards).
This is okay, as there’s a difference between acknowledging you have self-work to do and simply running away or being ignorant. This would be you ending the relationship because you’re unable to fully separate their character as your biases are too strong at this time.
Dating a Blind Person: Conclusion
If, however, you are able to improve upon your biases, excellent.
If you dismantle your biases and in being more present discover that you love this person’s character enough to continue this relationship, wonderful.
IF you dismantle your biases and in being more present discover that you do not like this person’s character enough to continue this relationship, you can end it without the guilt of thinking it’s because you were too biased and never gave them a fair shot. In short, it can be a good match or a bad match simply because it is, and realizing and acting on this separate of your current biases is ideal.
Thank you once more to the woman who sent this question in on dating a blind person. I hope this was able to help not just you, but everyone out there understand and sympathize with the inherent biases that we all carry.
Biases are a part of life and have been crucial to our survival since the human race began on the African savannas. Give yourselves permission to have them and work on them. You all know you’re welcome to send your own questions in if you’d like to have some help with them on the show.
Anything you’re struggling with, go ahead and email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Nothing is off limits and we’d be happy to do whatever we can for you. Sure hope to keep hearing from a lot of you, and I sure hope you’ll tune in for the next one. I’ll talk to you then, everyone. Thanks for being here.