'Dating is more difficult when you have a disability' says ex-Paralympian Myles Pearson
For a man who has represented Great Britain at the world’s highest stage of athletic competitions, success is not an unfamiliar experience.
Myles Pearson is a former Paralympic athlete who has competed in the Europeans Championship, London Paralympics 2012 and the World Championship games.
However, for the Lancashire-based wheelchair rugby champion, dating is not always simple with his disability.
He recently took to Twitter, ahead of Valentine’s Day today, to say how conversations online take a turn when he mentions he has a disability.
Myles says: “The ‘D bomb’ is my disability. Dating is difficult anyway without a disability, but with a disabled card, it’s even more difficult.”
The 27-year-old has lived with a condition since birth called arthrogryposis, which affects the muscles and causes the joints to bend.
Myles is determined to not let his disability affect his independence and his quality of life.
He says: “A lot of disabled people have adapted to their disability to make their lives easier. For example, if I can’t reach something, then I just climb onto it. I try and adapt to my situation to make my disability invisible. So, we need to look at the person, rather than the chair, or their disability.”
While his sporting career came to a close, Myles was in a three-year relationship with his former girlfriend, until last year.
He has now returned home to Lancashire after living in Southampton for university and is looking forward to a future with a romantic companion.
Originally from Lytham, he currently lives in Preston and works in finance with Lancashire County Council.
When asked for what he looks for in a partner, he mentioned, “humour, intelligence and someone who is up for an adventure”, as some key ideals.
One of the ways that Myles tries to connect with ideal partners is through online dating.
He admits that his long-running sporting career has helped his courting life in the past, as it sets him apart from other dating profiles.
However, women have responded in different ways to his disability when it came to dating.
He says it was easier when he met someone in person than online as his wheelchair often introduced itself. He refers to a picture of himself crowd-surfing in his wheelchair on all his dating profiles, to show that he has a disability.
He also speaks about his disability with women online to check if they are comfortable with it.
The former athlete says: “It’s important for me to be honest, so I always mention my disability again at the earliest chance I get, sometimes it is when I sense the conversation is going well or when we discover common interests.
“I get very different responses, some are sweet but majority of the time, women will never admit that my disability is an issue for them because they will think that it’s not nice to reject immediately.
“But what they will do instead is, they will start ‘friend-zoning’ me slowly, which you can tell in the way the tone of conversation changes, or they will stop responding to my messages altogether.”
‘Friend-zoning’ is a term that is used to regard someone purely as a friend, despite their unreciprocated romantic efforts.
When Pearson goes on a date, he describes how he often feels patronised, especially when his dates appear ‘uncomfortable’ with his disability.
He says: “I found it frustrating sometimes because people have patted me on the head when they greet me or act really strange around me.
“Or, they have told me I am inspirational because I play sport despite my disability, which I really dislike.
“It was all purely because I’m in a chair.”
When asked why this perception still exists, the Myles suggested that women often feel uncomfortable with dating a disabled person because there is a stigma attached to disability.
He refers to popular culture, like TV and social media, and conveys that the lack of media representation of people with disabilities leads to perceptions that they are ‘abnormal’.
The common misconception that arises is that disabled people cannot perform sexual intercourse, or that it is not possible to maintain a healthy relationship with them, he says.
Myles rejects those misconceptions and says disabled people vary in their conditions, and the majority of the people adapt to their circumstances overtime to make their lives easier.
He said: “I think perceptions are definitely changing, it’s getting better.
“As I remember, it was much more difficult three years ago when I was single.
“It is getting easier, but I think it’s just because I am getting older and girls are getting mature? We’ll have to see.”
He also advises people, who have never dated someone with a disability, not to fear a wheelchair as an obstacle, and to ask questions before making assumptions.