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Why I Am Ok Not Getting To Be My Partner’s #1- Self-Care And My Relationship

Disclosure:

This article is a repost! It was originally published as part of a blog series for EasyStand.

I would so love to expand my thoughts on this topic, as they are many, but for now I will just leave things where they are. Thanks for reading!  

 

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I suppose I would call myself a romantic realist. While these traits might first seem in opposition, for me and my relationship they work in collaboration. Let me take a moment to explain what I mean.

 

It was my belief in synchronicity and romance that led me to the love of my life, Riley, who just so happens to be quadriplegic. Romance absolutely plays a main role in our relationship. But at the same time, Ri and I both believe in setting fair and realistic expectations in life and romance. We simply do not have the time, energy or desire to pile any amount of unrealistic demands on each other. Maintaining this realistic ethos works to eliminate many of the selfish behaviors that stand to plague a modern day relationship. Yes, we have ALL been guilty (from time to time) of demanding more than a partner can give. Now, understand that I am no relationship expert, and that I am perfectly imperfect in my realistic approach, but the truth is this- even if I wished it to be so, I will never be the center of my partner’s world- he just has too much going on (and don’t we all?). In my view, that is actually a good and healthy fact of my life.

 

Before Ri and I ever began a romantic relationship (back when I loved him but didn’t know what to do about it), I carefully considered the possibility of a future together. Ri and I knew each other quite well back then. I knew how his spinal cord injury impacted his day-to-day life, and I knew that his needs around care were an absolute necessity, dictating his ability to do anything and everything. I also knew Ri’s life had a certain element of unpredictability- caregivers, pain and from time to time, health complications.

 

As I reflected on those realities, I found myself struck with an overwhelmingly enormous amount of respect towards Riley.

This respect came out of a realization that he was constantly working to perfect his art of self-care, something we could probably all stand to examine in our own lives. I deeply admired Ri’s unapologetic prioritization of his health, his needs, and his wellbeing. Through Ri, I realized that my values around relationships actually began with the ability to care for myself, instead of counting on a partner to care for me or being guilty of putting someone’s needs over my own. After all, how can we give to another in a relationship if our bucket is empty?

 

I didn’t really know any of that before Ri. I thought I did, but I didn’t. I am grateful for Ri’s non-negotiable needs because they remind me that I too have needs, and that I am the one in charge of caring from them first and foremost. It truly took a great love with great needs to illuminate these values that now form the basis of our solid partnership.

 

When we have the freedom to prioritize our own needs, we actually have a greater capacity to show up for our loved ones. So, while it may seem counterintuitive, not being #1 in Ri’s life has left me feeling so adored, so loved and so worshiped. While I know he wants, so badly for me to be his #1, the truth is that I am far happier being my own #1.

 

 

 

 

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Able-bodied sex is on the decline, studies show. Meanwhile, at the Poor House…

Attention! This post is about sexy stuff. Therefore, parents / parental-like figures of Ri and Dre should probably just go ahead and skip this one, mkay? Thanks! 

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And as mentioned above, today on the blog we are talking about SEX!!

I suppose because…you know, wheelchair, paralysis, being GF to my BF quad lover… some assume, ignorantly and wrongly so, that our sex life must be dull. Maybe even non existent! BAHAHA! Oh contraire! And I have noticed over the years that this false assumption somehow creates a safe space for women to ask me some bold, brazen, and borderline inappropriate questions about my sex life—of which I am completely game to answer.

It usually begins with these 2 questions, and the scene could take place anywhere (grocery store, hairdresser, car, etc.):

Question 1 – “Ummm, so does it work? You know, Ri’s thingie?”

Andrea answer 1– “Helllllz yes, girl! Everything works just fine.”

My response elicits a dramatic sigh from my interrogator. Is she really that relieved by this or does she have something else on her mind? 

 Question 2 – “But Andrea, can he feel, you know, the sex?”

Andrea answer 2- “Mmmmhmmmm. Oh, believe me, he can feel.”

Awkward silence momentarily ensues. Either I was too blunt or they are totally confused. Probably both.

And then sometimes, this initial conversation takes an interesting turn, as I find myself suddenly on the receiving end of a full-on sex life confessional, or in some cases…a full-on lack of sex life confessional.

And based on the information I have gathered during those confessionals, I am now going to make a sweeping generalization. I recognize that this might not apply to you, so please don’t get your panties all in a tizzy if you don’t relate, buuuuuuut…

Ladies.

Either I am simply am a magnet / therapist-like figure for a certain subpopulation of women (and that may be) OR, and I pray not, but there is currently, happening (or not happening) in bedrooms everywhere all around us, an EPIDEMIC of unknown proportions. I’m talking about how bored you all seem to be with your sex life. Or how sex with your partner isn’t even happening at all anymore.

I’m half kidding. But for realz – no time, energy, and /or desire to get it on in the bedroom, even under the most standard vanilla scenario? What gives?

I suspect I know. It’s all the hats women wear.

There’s work, babies, long commutes, budgeting, keeping up with the news, Keeping up with the Kardashians, cleaning, errands, shopping, socializing, wine drinking, self-care taking, and all of that training time for that next half marathon. And of course there is stress. And anxiety. And depression. And medications that treat those last 3 but whose side effects numb the nether regions and decrease sexual arousal (I know. I’ve been there).

Being so busy can disconnect us from the most primal parts of ourselves that yearn for gratification, if we aren’t careful, and our modern day lifestyles appears to be straight up damaging and depleting our libidos. It’s not just my observation – studies, articles and the like are popping everywhere.

Check this BBC story out right HERE, as one example. Or this ONE in the New York Times.

But I, for one, need sex. I need subtle, raw, rough, soft, and everything else in between sex. Erogenous zones are plentiful on any body (disability or not), I do believe, and in our house, they need attention. There are other things I want to say, like how tongues are the great explorers and how it can take a lifetime to deeply traverse every mountain, valley and any area in between on a lovers body, but you know all of this already and I’m not trying to write a romance novel. But this I say, cheesy as it may come across – your greatest adventure does not await you in Thailand, friends, it can be found in your very own bedroom. I promise.

I suppose I am writing all of this with a realization – this quad lifestyle (and probably a lot of my own personal health stuff, though that’s mostly in the past) has shifted a lot of stuff that just isn’t priority out of my life. I’m not saying that I am all that great at accepting that fact, because society sends me a lot of messages telling me to do it all, and be it all. But I can’t. I just can’t. And the moment I think I can and take on too much, I am grateful for the way my unique lifestyle forces me to take a step back. I think I will get into that more in a future post, because that is a loaded topic for me. But either way, I’m feeling good that my priorities in life feel pretty clear and, contrary to what most inquiring minds assume, my sex life, is, as Ri puts it – “EPIC!”

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Last Minute Valentine’s Day Date Ideas for Inter-Abled Couples

Let me start off by saying that for most of my adult life I’ve had a snarky little ‘tude when it comes to Valentine’s Day.

The boxes of cheap chocolate… the heart shaped diamond jewelry…

Not my thang.

And yes, on more than 1 occasion I have completely forgotten it was V-Day (I swear it always falls on a Wednesday – what’s so romantic about a Wednesday?) and decided to go out for a “quick” dinner. Ummm…nope. Not gonna happen in this town.

But 4 years ago or so, cupid pierced me with his gold tipped arrow.

And since then, V-Day is just one more welcomed excuse to spend quality time with my boo. This year, that means we are packing up the old Toyota Braunability Ramp Van for a snow filled adventure weekend over in Bend, Oregon. I’ll share a recap later, but please follow along real time (ish) by heading over to Instagram and following our pals at BACKBONES.

So TODAY is V-Day, right? And that means if you haven’t already crafted the perfectly romantic date for your sweetie, you’re screwed. Just kidding, guys, because I’ve got you covered with these sure to please last minute date ideas.

Last Minute Valentine’s Day Date Ideas For The Inter-Abled Couple (or anyone, really)

Idea #1 – Release Your Inner Artist at Sip and Paint

The concept is simple – you and your sweetie spend a couple hours enjoying a little wine and making a little art. But wait, will this work for the inter-abled couple? Of course, you silly! There is no need to be Intimidated because Sip and Paint classes cater to the masses and are all about having fun. So paint with your hands, paint with your mouth, paint with your feet, who cares! Or better yet, don’t paint at all and use the time to snuggle up close to your date and help direct the creative process.

If you are Portland based, check out these Sip and Paint Shops:

THE LOADED BRUSH wants you to eat, drink, and be merry. Sounds good to me! L.B. offers step by step water color classes for the beginners.

BOTTLE AND BOTTEGA offers Sip n Paint at their SW Portland studio as well as pop up venues around town. Bottle and Bottega aims to help you “discover the creativity that you had long forgotten or never knew you had.” Cool!

POP & PAINT is a women owned business offering Sip n Paint classes at pop up locations around Portland, hence the name.

VINEGOGH is located in the heart of Selwood. This is Portland’s OG Sip n Paint.

 

 

Idea #2 – Enjoy a Couple’s Massage Without Ever Having to Leave Your Home!

Mobile massage is legit, you guys. And that is totally awesome because for those with a physical limitation, massaging outside of the home can sometimes be more hassle than it’s worth. And for someone who hates the whole greasy post-massage body having to interact with the outside world thing (that would be me), I love that mobile massage allows one to transition right from massage, to shower, to bed, or to whatever the night has in store. Ya know what I m saying (wink, wink)?

Check out these Websites / Apps for In-Home Massage:

ZEEL offers the quintessential couples massage in the convenience of your house. It’s easy! Book online and then 2 massage therapists with 2 massage tables show up at the same time and place to rub you and your boo.

SOOTHE also offers a couples massage, but the logistics are a bit different. In the case of Soothe, you book 2 back to back massage appointments for you and your boo, and then 1 massage therapist with 1 massage table shows up to work out those tight knots for a couple of hours. This option might be just as convenient for some couples, though in the Poor house this just wouldn’t make logistical sense.

Tip 1 – if you or your partner need some extra time or assistance transitioning onto a massage table, consider purchasing a new or used table (craigslist) and get ready ahead of time.

Tip 2 – I personally have only tried Soothe and had a nice experience. That said I have heard great things about Zeel.

Tip 3 (Riley Poor Tip)- Ri wanted me to recommend that all P.H.L. readers take some time in 2018 and find a skilled massage therapist that will make regular home visits. Agree! Thanks, Ri!

 

Idea #3 – Have Some Dessert Delivered to Your Door!

Shoot. You waited until the last minute and now every restaurant in town is booked solid on Valentine’s Day. What about dessert? Surely there must be somewhere you can go for a little dessert. Think again, my friends. But thankfully, everyone loves dessert and a Rom-Com (Chocolat, anyone?) in bed. I am a practical gal, you see, and I say if bed is where you want to end up with your sweetie on Valentine’s Day, I say make life easy and do the whole dang date from that singular locale. Technology makes this a snap!

If you are Portland based, check out these places that deliver:

PIX PATISSERIE is a little slice of France in Portland. Decadent chocolates, cakes, macarons, eclairs and more. They deliver 7 days a week through CAVIAR.

THE PIE SPOT does pie, cookies, scones, and things of that nature + they have stuff for the gluten free crowd and they offer lunch and dinner options. This northeast Portland based shop offers delivery through AMAZON RESTAURANTS.

SAINT CUPCAKE has the most darling cupcakes you ever did see. And they taste super yums too. Get yours through AMAZON RESTAURANTS.

 

I’m fresh out of ideas, so hopefully something in here will help create a little romance for you and yours! Thanks for reading, everyone, and have a lovely day! See you next time!

Drea

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Celebrating Life and a Different Kind of Birthday

1/9/2018

As it stands, we are 9 short days into this 2018 business and that fact means tomorrow marks Ri’s spinal cord injury anniversary. Yesterday, Riley casually referred to 1/10 as his “new birthday,” which I naturally understood to be his subtle way of telling me he needed a piece of carrot cake. You don’t need to tell this girl twice, Riley Poor, I’ve got you (or at least your belly) figured out.

I make light, but of course 1/10 is an emotionally charged day, for reasons that go beyond Ri’s SCI, even. January, in general, carries themes of birth, death, rebirth, and creation throughout our home. I was considering such matters, the other night, after reading my serendipitously apt monthly horoscope by my faves, Chani Nicholas . And just then, and maybe because I am feeling a bit love sappy, a really special little moment happened, and I couldn’t help but to conclude my night with sticky tears of gratitude drying on my cheeks as I whispered to my sleeping man just how fortunate it really is that life brought us together.

I will share with you that I call Riley my Ribear, in part because he’s big, he’s strong, and he has a thick head of brown fur-like hair. But you see, when I was a child, I had this brown teddy bear that I just adored. He was perfect, despite the fact that he had a big gash right down his midline where his seam had split open revealing the soft, pure white stuffing he was made of. I really can’t recall my teddy not having that gash – it seems it was always there and from time to time I would lovingly patch that wound up with a bandaid or two. We all have our wounds and for some, they become so all consuming that they turn our insides sour. But for Riley and my teddy  (do you know what happened to that teddy, mother?!?) that’s just not the case. Ri’s the kind of bear that is filled with pure and sweet honey, and he isn’t afraid to reveal his wounds with an open and graceful heart. Sometimes, when he doesn’t know I am watching, I catch him revealing that pure gentle spirit in the most beautifully subtle ways.

So a couple nights back, I was reclining in bed and getting ready to / but not quite ready to sleep. I still had the TV on (bad habit to kick in 2018 me thinks?) as Ri drifted off into Ri snoozeland. It’s typical for Ri to start his dozing before me, which is a good thing as he stirs awake quite frequently throughout the night and gets up really flippin early in order to make it off to work at a reasonable hour as I, on the other hand, often sleep in. Ri’s snoring is my favorite bedtime lullaby, and when he kicks it into high gear my mind becomes peaceful and my eyes grow heavy. So I flipped the TV off and settled into the darkness that is officially our room now that we purchased total black out shades (yes! game changer…treat yoself). Moments later, a huge snore seemingly startled Riley awake. Or so I thought, based on the fact that he began humming the sweetest little something of his own composition for the next 30 seconds or so. I listened for a few and then opened my mouth to tell him goodnight and that he was the sweetest goddamn man on this planet, but he hummed right through my interjection. And then, without pause, he let out a seriously legit snore and continued on with his sleeping for the night.

Riley had been humming in his sleep, you guys. Who does that?

This, coming from a man whose pain and spasticity and paralysis accompany him to bed each night and are there by his side again each morning. He tells me it feels like his body is locked in concrete. He tells me that a lot of his body feels like my foot feels when it has fallen asleep and is just starting to wake up. That’s what many would call torture. At night, he waits to wake me until he absolutely must – mostly because his spasms have left him in a contorted position that he is unable to work his way out of. It isn’t like this all the time, but it is that way more of the time than he will ever admit. And somehow, between all of that nonsense, Ri hums in his sleep and wakes each morning with a smile that would impress anyone that is awake at such an ungodly hour.

And I guess that’s the end of my story, point being that despite physical pain and limitations, the spirit can transcend.

I want to take a moment to thank the amazing community of people that saved Ri’s life 9 years ago and have continued to nourish his body and soul through your unfailing friendships and palpable support. Each of you mean so much to me.

Thanks for reading. Ri and I wish you each love and happiness in 2018.

Andrea

He’s so badass!

 

 

 

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True Life at the Poor House

Source: True Life at the Poor House

Written by Drea

Hi! Allow me to introduce my family. We, (Riley, Andrea + Quill- cutest. dog. ever. seriously.) are the Poor’s.

We are a mid 30’s couple living our life of Riley (do you see what I did there!?) in our ever evolving/always a little bit under construction wheelchair accessible ranch home in Portland, Oregon. This blog is our love story and all the real life stuff that goes along with it.

Here is a little background to set the stage-

Ri and I took a leap into love a few years back and we have been totally stoked on our life together ever since! Now, it just so happens that Riley is in a wheelchair. Ri had a spinal cord injury 8 years ago and as a result, he is quadriplegic. Perhaps I will explain the specific physical implications of that in a later post, but for now, google can provide endless information about spinal cord injuries for those interested parties.

I, personally wouldn’t say that our life is much different than that of any young couple. We have all that normal stuff- wake up, go to work, feed the dog, cook dinner, watch movies…And we also have all that fun and exciting stuff that comes with being in love (use your imagination for that part). Of course, there are hard times too :(.

People often ask- How does paralysis /wheelchair life /stuff that comes along with Ri’s spinal cord injury affect your relationship? 

If I had to be honest, which I promise to do so henceforth, I would say that truthfully, it touches every square inch of our life together in some way, shape or form. Ri’s physical needs surrounding his injury define how we move about in this world as a couple because they are the non changing variable. Put differently- they set the beat, but together, we write the rhythm. And my life with Riley is absolutely music to my ears.

Poor House Love is a blog about Living and Loving. We thank you for reading and hope you will Like, Comment and Follow along with us!