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Dating apps: Chloe’s story

Chloe, 22, shares their experience of online romance along with some tips for navigating dating apps as a Queer Non-Binary Disabled Person.

I remember downloading my first dating app when I was around 14 (yes, it was one specifically targeting 13-17 year olds).

Everyone else was doing it and I felt like I needed to be involved, but it wasn’t until I was around 17 when I started wanting a more genuine romantic relationship. I think now looking back, most of this want was because of constant peer pressure, being one of the ‘odd one out kids’ made school life hell so I tried to do as much as possible to try fit in.

I also longed for the type of love you only see on the big screens.  

Navigating dating apps as a Queer Non-Binary Disabled Person can be quite tedious for several reasons. It can be difficult to find someone truly genuine, that matches my preferences – that I can hold a good chat with, as well as being able to understand my needs as a disabled person. I always struggled with feeling like I can’t expect someone to accommodate for them as they don’t know me, but I think it’s a necessary part of dating as a disabled person because it allows the other person to understand and you can see if they are willing to accommodate you. 

I’ve had dating apps almost continuously on my phone for the past 4 years now and I’ve never had much luck on them, at least in terms of finding a lasting connection in real life. I’ve had the online romances but it’s very superficial and they never lasted long.

For me, I feel I need to connect with someone face-to-face rather than solely online.

But it can also be really daunting getting outside or going on a date as a disabled person because of our support needs, the inaccessibility of some spaces and the possibility of needing a companion. 

I felt like I could never go on a date because I struggle to go outside alone and once I got my head around the fact that the right person will understand, it honestly opened so many more doors. Although I haven’t set up any dates through the apps, I have had a couple of dates from the likes of social media with someone accompanying me – I like to have someone attend the venue with me, meet my date and then my companion will sit a couple of tables away, readily available if I need some support.  

One of the things I really struggled with at the start of my dating app journey is what I feel is almost an addictive feeling to online connection.

But it never quite satisfies your need for connectivity because, I feel, we need this in real life! This addictive feeling is very similar to “doom-scrolling” and it’s because we receive dopamine for completing these tasks (scrolling, swiping, matching, etc).

The initial stages of dating release a very high level of dopamine, this creates an “online honeymoon phase” and quite often, I find either myself or the other person becomes “bored” of the online connection and this is linked to the decrease of dopamine and in turn, the decrease of time spent on the connection. 

I’ve found the following things have helped me dating as a Queer Non-Binary Disabled Person:

  • If you need a companion, be honest about it  
  • Have honest, open communication; the right person will stick around 
  • Be unapologetically yourself; express yourself and don’t hold back because you’re more likely to find someone who is going to accept you for who you are 
  • Don’t be worried about the number of matches; focus on quality over quantity 
  • Try to limit yourself to 15 minutes of swiping and maybe an hour or two a day on the apps 
  • If you feel comfortable to do so, try attending local events  
  • If you’re worried about conversation, make a note of a few questions you’d like to ask or some topics which you would be happy to talk about
  • Keep in mind that, most of the time, your date will be nervous too 
  • Finally, remember that dating isn’t the be all end all; treat yourself and take yourself on dates too 
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