Warning: before you read any further, this blog post might be sickening sweet/cute. You might puke a bit. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I’d like to share a glimpse of my love story today. I’ve already spoken many many times about how getting a cochlear implant helped me to strengthen my relationship with my boyfriend. I mentioned how supportive and amazing he’s been. But I want to focus a bit more on the before and after story here and also clear up some common misconceptions about how the deaf/hoh community forms romantic relationships or engages in dating in general.
I had my first real boyfriend when I was 21. Sure, I technically had a boyfriend before then, but I don’t think it really counts (I was only 14…a freshman in high school and we hardly ever saw each other after school — not really “dating” per say). It was the first experience I’ve ever had with serious dating and how my hearing could effect my relationship. It was a terrible relationship. My boyfriend at the time treated me very poorly. If I didn’t like or agree with something he would violently shout at me. My hearing (or lack thereof) only made things a hundred times worst. He had no patience for me at all. If I needed something repeated, especially more than once, he’d get very frustrated at me and scream and make me feel bad. Our relationship ended up getting very verbally abusive, and after spending just 5 months in it I began to not only feel worthless and unloved, but scared. I did the smart thing and left the relationship before he had the chance to hurt me beyond what his words already did to me.
This night made me wish my cat was my date.
I had two more relationships after that. One was very short and ended simply because we were not on the same page. We had a 10 year age gap in between us and had different backgrounds, pasts, and ultimately, futures. Simply put, we were not going anywhere. My hearing didn’t make much of a difference in this relationship either way, most likely because the relationship started and ended all over the course of a month. However, I will say that he was not a bad person and we are still friends. In fact, he’s helped me out a little with my writing career by introducing me to other writers looking to talk to deaf/hoh individuals. Just like how with hearing people some relationships just lack chemistry and don’t work out, the same is true for the deaf/hoh community.
The deaf/hoh community is also not immune to drama, cheating, and heartbreak. In my third relationship, I had all three. My boyfriend at the time always seemed pretty supportive of my hearing impairment. Sometimes he would even share with me news stories about new technology and other articles about cool things happening in the deaf/HOH community. I fell in love with him int he craziest, most twisted love story imaginable. When our relationship was at it’s peak I learned that he wasn’t into it quite as much as I expected. He was actually cheating on me the whole time, and not just that — he was getting married to the girl he cheated on me with!
But just as any hearing person can fall in love, out of love, and in love harder than ever before, so too, can deaf and hoh individuals. And that is precisely what happened when I met my current boyfriend, Larry.
I think that when you meet the right person that you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with, you just know. That’s how I felt the first time I met Larry on OKCupid back in May of 2014. So I did what any girl would do when she falls hard for a boy and doesn’t know what he’s thinking or feeling — I got scared, freaked out, and ran away (okay, maybe no sane girl would do that…but I never said I was sane, did I?).
They say if it’s love to let it go, if it comes back it’s yours and that’s how you know.
I had to make a couple of mistakes before I could get it right. I think that’s true for most people in relationships whether they be hearing, hard of hearing, or deaf. That was definitely the case for me. But I did come back around, three months later and Larry was there waiting for me. We picked things up right where we left off. The past doesn’t even matter a bit.
This second time around I knew I was lucky. Most guys wouldn’t come back for a girl that has essentially abandoned them and left them in the cold with no explanation three months prior. But Larry’s different. I always knew that. That’s why I loved him. I made sure to hold on so tightly and never let go this time around.
Larry and I tell everyone we took things slow and took our time to develop a friendship before we got together. That’s kind of debatable though now when we both look at it. For me it was taking things slow compared to my last relationships. But we had our first day on September 1st and 12 days later made it official.
This was our first picture together, taken just a couple hours after we officially became boyfriend and girlfriend
One thing that is different for those who are hard of hearing/deaf and those who can hear when it comes to dating is first dates. I think they are always a bit nerve-wrecking for anyone, however even more so when you can’t hear. You not only have to worry about what you’re going to wear and not sounding stupid, but you have to worry about your hearing, too. Normally when I am planning a first date with someone I stress about picking a good place. Movies aren’t good because of course you can’t really talk, getting caption glasses are a bit of a hassle and very awkward especially for a first date, and without caption glasses I can’t hear anything at all. The mall is so much loud noise I couldn’t even hear myself think. Dinner seems pretty safe, but even that called for much stress and anxiety because I always had to choose a place that was almost guaranteed to be quiet — which when you’re planning a date on a Saturday night seems nearly impossible. It definitely can’t be a place with a bar, that’s for sure.
It took me about 3 weeks to figure out what to wear for our first date…this was the result.
With Larry choosing a place wasn’t as hard as it was for most people I’ve dated in the past. I knew I wouldn’t something laid back and fun so we could be comfortable. Chuck E. Cheese was my dream first date place, but I could never convince anyone else that it was a good idea and Larry was no different. So I compromised and chose my second choice place — Nifty Fifties.
I had been to Nifty Fifties for the first time a few weeks prior for my mom’s birthday and did okay with being able to hear. Not 100%, but compared to most restaurants I did okay so I thought I’d be able to get by pretty well.
Larry and I’s first date unexpectedly ended up falling on Labor Day, and it couldn’t have worked out better for us. I guess not many people think of going to Nifty Fifties for Labor Day. We were some of the only people there. It was quiet and I could hear him fairly well, even after lunch when we went outside to play mini golf. My nerves went away pretty quickly and he became my best friend within about 2 minutes of meeting him.
It’s safe to say after that initial date the question wasn’t “Will there be a 2nd date?”, but rather… “When can I see you again?” .
I’d love to say that all of our dates, especially pre-cochlear implant, were as easy as that initial first date. But that most certainly was not the case. As I wrote yesterday, bowling pre-cochlear implant, which is what we chose to do for our 2nd date, was a bit of a challenge. We couldn’t really talk at all and it got a bit frustrating. However, unlike my first ex, Larry never got mad at me for not being able to hear. He always looked for ways to help me and support me. He never once yelled at me, belittled me, or made me feel worthless. He always did what any great boyfriend should do — loved me.
Larry and I have been through a lot in the 11 and a half months that we’ve been together. We seen the strength of our relationship tested time and time again, even before we started dating! Within just a couple of days of us reconnecting, I began seriously considering getting my cochlear implant. From day one he was always very supportive of me saying, “No matter what you choose I’ll support you every step of the way”.
Of course, when you’re in a new relationship and everything is going well you really want to believe that, but you can never really be so sure. People say they are going to do things all the time, but that doesn’t mean they will do them or that they really truly believe that. Take for instance the case with my first ex. He told me he loved me, that he’d always be there for me, and he’d never hurt me. I believe our relationship turned abusive within three months or less of dating. Needless to say, his words were all a bunch of empty lies.
But it was different with Larry. He not only said it, he proved it.
I got scared a lot especially as things started to move forward more and more with my surgery. When I got down to about a week before my surgery I panicked frequently. I would sometimes text Larry in tears asking him things like “Are you sure you’ll still love me if I do this? Do you realize I’ll have a magnet stuck to my head? Will you promise to help me with this?” He always assured me he’d help me through everything — we are Awesome Sauce and Applesauce — and more than that we are teammates — we get through everything together.
Awesome Sauce and Applesauce, forever teammates, forever lovers.
Larry always got so happy and excited for me whenever I had a new update. He was always working when I had my appointments, but he was always the first one to get the news. He wanted me to get my cochlear every bit as much as I did if not more. Larry also always helped me to be confident and more positive. When I would get scared and wonder whether I was making the right decision or if the cochlear would even work Larry always reassured me that it was God’s will and that everything would work out great and he was always right.
After my surgery Larry stayed true to his word and was always by my side. He was on the road throughout the week, but he always texted me whenever he could and visited me on the weekend. The first time he visited me after my surgery he bought me flowers, a card, and a small stuffed animal to cheer me up. I was very self conscious about my appearance since I had part of my head shaved, a ton of stitches, and was unable to watch or comb my hair, but he always told me I looked beautiful…and they weren’t just words — he meant and proved every word of it.
When you look like this and your boyfriend still calls you beautiful, you know you’ve got a keeper.
Healing after my surgery was a process and presented some challenges for us in our relationship. For one I got dizzy and drowsy a lot for the first couple of weeks. I couldn’t stay awake for long periods of time or even really sit up at all. The first couple of times he came over post-surgery our visits were very short because I’d fall asleep straight away or get dizzy. He also had to wait over a month before kissing me. We were both too afraid that I might get hurt if I tried to kiss him, especially since it hurt to move my mouth due to the pressure it put on my ear. But he didn’t complain not once, he understood and stood by and supported me.
Post-activation was and is a whole nother new journey for us. Unlike how most YouTube videos show it, I didn’t just get switched on and have everything perfect — I had to really learn how to hear things. I had my mom working with me on different words and sounds and Larry working with me a bit more on general communication — my phone skills to be more specific. He made me overcome my fear of the phone by calling him on a daily basis. This was essential for us since he is a truck driver and can’t text and drive for obvious reasons.
Larry and I definitely had our share of laughs with my cochlear, too, especially in the beginning. A cochlear implant is a magnet — so like most magnets, it’s going to stick to metal. My boyfriend has a metal truck. My cochlear implant can and does get stuck to it on a regular basis. There’s been many times when at the end of a date we stood outside of his truck, kissed each other good by, went to move and somehow my head ended up getting stuck on his car door. These times were never awkward, but funny. I think that when you can laugh at things like that in a relationship and not get embarrassed or feel awkward, it’s a sign that you’re in the right relationship.
We’ve enjoyed the journey of discovery together as well. Larry can hear anything normally, but he gets a kick out of watching me because he knows that it’s new for me. He’s not selfish in what he can hear, but rather, he wants to share it all with me. When I first got activated it was almost like a game for us. He played me bagpipes, celtic music, native american indian music, let me listen to the sound of coin change falling, and bought me a couple of rubber duckies (which currently live on my desk at work to make me smile during hard days) to listen to because I was so amused by the sound of the squeaking. When he went on vacation he even bought me back a bell as a souvenir because I was so amused by the sound since it was something I could never hear prior to getting my cochlear implant.
These ducks now live on my desk at work and make me smile whenever I look up at them and remember why I have them…
I realized that throughout my cochlear implant journey (which is far from over — in fact, I don’t think this is something that can ever really end in my life, it’s constantly expanding), I not only fell in love with Larry and enjoyed celebrating victories, sharing nerves, anxiety, and all of the roller coaster of emotions it gave me, but Larry fell in love with me, too. The things that would’ve seemed like a hassle or a problem with other people are nothing for Larry. Larry never minds having to help me adjust my cochlear, holding my case for me when I need to take it off for amusement park rides, or just being a source of comfort for me when I need it. He realizes that it’s all a part of his job as my boyfriend, and this is a job that he is very proud of and I don’t think he would want things any other way.
There are some things in life that are universal. We all live, we all die. We all smile, we all bleed. We hurt, and above all, we love. Sure, being deaf/hoh and/or getting a cochlear implant may change many things in your life, but it doesn’t change your ability to fall in love. And it most certainly does not make you love-less or unworthy of love. When you find the right person, they will love your for the person you are, not for your ability (or lack thereof) to hear or even the devices you use to hear. They will love you for you, every single inch of it. And that’s exactly what I found in Larry.