Ask Ada: I’m Disabled. Should I Settle For Less In Love?

Plus: Ada's advice for a sister worrying that her brother-in-law is isolating her sister during lockdown

Welcome to Ask Ada, Folks’ bi-weekly advice column for people impacted by health issues or disability. Want Ada to help you with a problem? Email Ada at or tag @folksstories on Twitter with the #askada hashtag.

I’m Disabled. Should I Settle For Less In Love?

Dear Ada,

I am 41 years old and I’ve been in one terrible relationship after another. I, at one point in my life,  felt that I had to accept men that were less than my standards because I am legally blind. I’ve tried using every opportunity to continue building myself and trying to inform the general public and my family and friends that I am just as normal as everyone else. It doesn’t matter that I’ve got an advanced degree or that I’ve done really amazing things in my life which has made me the person that I am today but moreover, I’m treated like I’m a blemish on the world. 

I’ve been told that I should either be alone or take what I can get because men aren’t going to accept the fact that I have a disability, legal blindness, and want to date me. I feel as though I’m going to die alone and it scares me. I don’t have low self esteem nor am I unattractive but I feel defeated and like God along with the rest of the world has abandoned me. 

I have a fourteen year old son who loves me to death, but I need adult conversation and companionship from a grown man. I’m not sure what to do. I’ve been on dating websites and all of those men have either been weirdos or they’ve got problems that I can’t even begin to explain. I’m not sure what to do but I feel alone in this journey. What should I do?

Whoever told you that you should take whatever type of man you can get (because they won’t accept that you are legally blind) is a fool. And the idea that you should settle for someone who isn’t to your standards is ludicrous.

Let’s stay with the thought about standards for a minute. The only person who can decide what you’re willing to accept in a relationship is you. 

Tune out anyone else’s opinion here, and get crystal clear on what it is you’re looking for in a partner. What kind of person do you see yourself being with? What are his interests? What types of activities do you do together? How does he treat you? Don’t forget to also ask questions such as: What are you not willing to accept from your partner? What would turn you off? What have precious partners done that you know you don’t want in your life any more? The answers to these questions will determine your new standard for future partners. 

The idea that you should settle for someone who isn’t to your standards is ludicrous… Don’t settle for anything less.

Don’t settle for anything less.

Once you’re clear on what you want in a partner, then I suggest being really open to how you’ll find these men. Pandemics don’t make dating easy. If you’re not comfortable with dating websites, what about joining online clubs, conferences, or virtual meetups that aren’t at all related to dating? You may meet people with similar interests, education levels, and even more importantly, emotional availability. Check with friends — not the ones who you feel as if you need to explain your worth to. I reckon those aren’t friends at all, and you should remove them from your life — and let them know you’re open to be matched with men they may know who are available. And make sure to let them know what you’re looking for. The time has passed on dates that leave you feeling defeated. Now you want true connection.

And while the following advice may be annoying, it’s also very true: love comes when you’re not looking. Be open to the possibility, but take the pressure off yourself.

Love comes when you’re not looking. Be open to the possibility, but take the pressure off yourself.

In the meantime, I suggest beefing up your opportunity to connect with other adults, and I don’t mean for romance. You feel alone and abandoned right now. That is the most important part of your message, and it needs to change. Sure, friendships aren’t the same as romantic relationships. I get that this suggestion isn’t what you want to hear, but it’s practical and something you can implement now. Connect with your family, your son, your dear friends and spend time with them. Challenge each other to do something new or learn something new together. Don’t count them out. To feel less alone, sometimes you just have to let more people in.

Could My Brother-In-Law Be Using COVID As An Excuse To Cut Me Off?

Dear Ada, 

My sister just had heart surgery, and because of the pandemic, no one was allowed to visit her at the hospital. She had some mild complications and was sent to a rehab facility temporarily afterward, and again no one was allowed to visit her. Thankfully, she was just able to return home and has the help of a visiting nurse. 

Here’s the problem though: her husband isn’t allowing anyone to visit her, and tells us that she doesn’t feel well enough to video conference with us either. I haven’t seen or heard from her since before the surgery and now I’m worried about her safety. Why isn’t anyone letting me see or talk to her? How can I get in contact so she knows that I care?

I’d like you to pause for a moment and question whether you have actual reasons to be concerned about her safety or your anxiety has just taken hold of you.

It seems like everyone is following best practices here. Your sister’s condition requires her to limit exposure to the outside world in normal circumstances. Yet, here we are facing a worldwide pandemic. It’s even more important to keep her in a “bubble” of sorts.

When it comes to the hospital and rehabilitation center — they’re just following protocols. At this time, no one should be visiting guests, especially those with lengthy recoveries ahead of them. It seems as if your brother-in-law is just following suit. He’s trying to limit her exposure by keeping her home, and unfortunately for you, keeping others out. This seems like a well-educated choice on his part.

As for video conferencing, depending on the complications and how long into the recovery process she is, your sister very well might not want to take visitors. She may be napping more frequently, feel weak, or even mentally sluggish.

Have you tried directly telling him you’re concerned for her safety? What about reaching out to any other siblings or close friends for their take? 

I’m concerned that you’re worried for her safety. You don’t bring up any previous issues of him being controlling or physically or emotionally abusing her, which makes me think she’s probably okay. And it seems as if you’ve been in contact with him, so I’m not worried that he’s shutting you out. Have you tried directly telling him you’re concerned for her safety? What about reaching out to any other siblings or close friends for their take? 

Before you start this conversation, think about what will make you feel better. Do you need to physically see her? Will a quick phone call with her ease your concerns? Determine what type of contact or information will make you feel comfortable.

If the conversation with your brother-in-law doesn’t go over well, or other people are worried for your sister’s safety, request that the local police department do a wellness check, though it’s unnecessary involve them unless you’re certain she’s in danger.

Are you facing a problem that is being complicated by a health condition or disability? Folks’ advice columnist Erin Ollila wants to help. Email and tell us your problem.