Some people are born with a disability or disabilities and others suddenly find themselves with one or more disabilities at some point in their lives due to accident, illness or occupational hazards.
In the same vein while some people know their intended spouses have disabilities and either prepare themselves well ahead and have a successful marriage, others get overwhelmed in the course of the marriage. Another category of spouses did not choose to be with mates with disabilities, both live without disabilities until as a result of one accident or problem or the other, they suddenly find themselves with a partner who can no longer see , talk, walk , hear, or do things themselves, just to mention a few.
Some spouses feel disillusioned and frustrated with the demands of caring for the other spouse with disability, and those who can no longer handle the situation then begin to cheat or opt for divorce. But living with a spouse with disability is not an unpleasant experience, a marriage to a spouse with disability can flourish where they love each other and the unaffected spouse understands the affected spouse and his needs along with other tips to live comfortably and happily with the spouse with disability.
Mr Uchechukwu Kalu, a lawyer and Founder of Special Rights Watch said:
"When one partner in a marriage has a disability or disabilities, there is a greater demand for transparency and openness from the spouse without disability. Like myself for example, I do not see and so when you begin to do certain things and you are not explaining what you are doing, and why you are doing them, you create an avenue for suspicion. It might be that you are not doing anything funny but for me the fact that you have not really come up to be open puts me in a position to say who knows what this my wife is up to and if it hurts me in any form, you have created a kind of bridge or gap , a huge pit between you and me and it takes a very long time to convince me that you actually mean well.
"This problem is even more if the person is born with the disability. I am blind but I was not born blind but being in the community I have met people who were born with it."
He said what you need to do to avoid or heal that suspicion is to, "first understand that this person has a disability and therefore I must convince him that I am truly his friend and wife or her friend and husband and must therefore explain to him every step that I need to take. In other words you must let him understand you. When you let him understand you even when you are not there, he or she can go to any extent in defending you.
"Secondly, the spouse with disability should also take steps to let the other spouse know his likes and dislikes. He or she has the primary responsibility of educating the other spouse on his dos and don'ts. For instance if I am visually challenged it is my duty to tell my wife or husband, come if I am walking with you, this is the way you hold or guide me , this is the way you arrange the house for my safety, and this is the way you behave when we go out for functions and all that. Spouses who are aware of their partner's disability before they got married should start the education before the marriage, that helps the one without disability to make up her mind if she will be able to cope in the marriage or not and if she cannot, she leaves the relationships to avoid future problems.
"Most times where there is love, both spouses will flow fine whether the other spouse is on a wheel chair or blind , it is just for you to be there and help the spouse where he or she cannot help himself or herself."
Kalu said in a situation where both have stayed together without disabilities and then one of them gets affected. "The spouses must first and foremost realize that they are already married, only affected by misfortune. The partner without disability must accept it as one of the vicissitudes of life. In other words the disability has come as one of the most unwanted visitors or permanent residence in your home. You must accept it as one of those things we have no control over. The first question to also ask in this category too is: "do the spouses truly love each other as husband and wife?" If the answer is yes, then the next thing is , the other spouse who is affected by the disability should ask himself or herself "did this man or woman freely and voluntarily pick up the current situation?" These are questions that will assist the other person because it is more difficult here than when both partners married knowing the other person to be living with a disability.
"This situation is also more difficult for the affected spouse because the person has led all his life as a regular person and suddenly he or she is thrown into that world of disability, everything is strange to the person and he is still battling with coming to terms with the reality of disability. The other spouse who is unaffected in this case has a lot of responsibility in having understanding, without understanding, it is difficult for him or her to cultivate the habit of patience especially now that the spouse with disability who used to help either with home chores or in the office or raise income for the family can't do so anymore.
"The unaffected spouse must do everything to reassure the other spouse that it is a new world he or she is entering, it is not the end of the world, these has happened to others before etc, this helps give the spouse with disability encouragement to go on. So both spouses need to come to term with that reality and adjust appropriately. There is also need for families on both sides of the couple to assist them and help rehabilitate this person and thereafter life can go on fine." He advised.
Mrs Emmanuela Akiola, Project Coordinator of Initiative for Equal Rights and Access, on her part gave the following tips: "I don't like the use of the word 'coping' with a spouse with disability, I prefer living with a person with disability. Coping seems like you are managing the person or you don't have a choice about it. To do this, you need patience and understanding especially understanding the person's needs. You should know the specific needs of the spouse depending on his or her disability. You have to first of all understand that you are not living with disability but with a person. It is a person's temperament that determines the way the person reacts, so don't judge the person based on the fact that he is a blind person or physically challenged that is why he is doing this or that.
"If you are living with a blind person for instance and you are a careless person , you have to be more careful in organizing your home, you cannot just drop things anyhow the way you like or would ordinarily do with a sighted woman or man."
Akiola who is also married to a person with a disability said, "It is just like any marriage, even in marriages where none of the partners has disability there are issues because we all have our differences. As a couple the basic ingredient is for us to complement each other, so if your spouse has disability, disability itself could be a weakness but your ability to support him or her could be enabling, try to give them their independence, don't try to force things on them. Let the person live as a husband or wife. If he is a husband let him be in control as a husband just as any husband out there. If he needs your help, he will tell you. Don't do it as if he can't do anything on his own. You have to give your husband or wife with disability enough access in the home. People believe if your husband has a disability or is physically challenged that means you have to do everything or most things in the home. That is not true, like my husband is blind but he takes care of things in the house, he repairs electrical faults in the house even my cooker. If as a spouse I don't let him free access to those things and I go outside for instance to call another man to repair my cooker and then say to him "because of your condition there is no point telling you" that brings problems. So like every other marriage you have to communicate properly too. Listen to each other and ask questions where you don't understand." She advised.
Finally, when an able spouse suddenly has disabilities, the unaffected spouse should not be angry about his temper or moods, complaints or inability to help him or her do certain things. You need to be strong, have confidence and hold onto your dreams. Just as Juniper Russo, a writer said, "your partner's confidence in his or her health depends largely on you at this point , so the amount of confidence that you project will have a direct influence on your spouse's recovery, as well as your relationship itself. Do not convince yourself that you will never achieve the dreams that you expected for your marriage. Even if things do not improve or even if they worsen you and your partner will both be happier if you enjoy what you have rather than mourning what you do not have."