I have not always been in a happy relationship as I am now. I was bullied a lot in high school due to being the only girl in my class.
This experience led me to distrust men outside my family.
After school, I went to college where I first met the man who was to be the first person I fell in love with. Like me he had learning disabilities and shared similar difficulties and it did not take long before we fell in love and went out together. All went well for a few weeks but mid-way into the relationship he began to try to control me. Clearly stopping at nothing to get his own way even at the expense of my hobbies and friends and at times my temper. Finally, my mum and dad stepped in and our relationship ended.
It took a long time before I found the confidence in my heart to trust men in the same way again. Then in 2008 when I was helping at a work meeting, I first met Paul Buckingham. He also has learning disabilities. At the meetings, I soon got to know his sense of humour.
Early in 2010, I started doing voluntary work at one of the local day centres. It just so happened that Paul also went to the same one. We soon got to know each other through either talking at the centre or on the bus in the morning or evening.
Paul began to flirt with me soon afterwards saying that I would have to find a boyfriend and that I had a secret admirer. It did not take me long to work out it was him. Finally, Paul asked me to go out with him and after some thinking I said yes.
We had ups and downs. Me and Paul spent a lot of time getting to know each other and meeting each other's families. My family were happy for me and gave me advice whenever they could.
Then one day in 2012, I got the surprise of my life. Paul proposed to me. By this time, I felt I could trust him fully and said yes. My family were thrilled at this news. In Summer 2013, we started to think about setting the date and planning the wedding. My parents were very supportive of this and offered to pay the upfront cost for the licence and deposit. My mum helped me to find a good place for a wedding dress and suggestions for bridesmaid dresses by showing me where to look. With help from my mobile hairdresser I even got my hair looking in good shape too.
It was hard work but eventually plans for the big day came together and on 14th June 2014 me and Paul were married. The day itself was a great success and was attended by our many family members and friends some of whom had travelled a long way to get there for the day.
Me and Paul continue to love and support each other to this day although we have had our little disagreements, but then what marriage doesn't? We get home help and support to manage our bills and keep our house in order but also they give us advice if we ever need it.
All in all, supported loving has been a great success to me and Paul and we are now living married and happy together. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of people with disabilities who are married. Me personally, I think this could be down to the lack of support readily available to people like us. Most of the support we had came from family and close friends and a bit of research on the internet. With more promotion and awareness of support to get into a relationship, getting married could happen for more people like me and Paul who love each other.
The views expressed in the Supported Loving blog are not necessarily those of Choice Support.
Contact Dr Claire Bates for more about the Support Loving Campaign.