If you’ve been following my blog, then you’ve undoubtedly heard me speak a lot about my relationship with my boyfriend. It probably sounds like a fairy tale romance, right? Most of the time that’s exactly how it feels, but like any other couple, we face our own obstacles, too.
Prior to meeting my boyfriend, my dating life was pretty rough. I had 3 failed relationships between 2011-2013. My first boyfriend was abusive and would scream at me all the time. He was not at all supportive of my hearing loss. He would tell me I’d never be a mother because of my hearing loss and always make me feel guilty for my hearing loss, something I could not change. Sometimes he would make fun of me for not being able to hear or talk behind my back or use my hearing loss against me. I left after 5 months. It may sound like a short-lived romance, but it was definitely 5 months too long.
My other two relationships also did not see much success. My 2nd boyfriend was extremely supportive of my hearing loss and is a good friend of mine to this day. We broke up because we were in different stages of our lives and in our relationship and it just wasn’t working for us. He was 10 years older than me, so that probably contributed quite a bit to it all.
My third boyfriend was the strangest relationship and the hardest breakup yet. It was long-distance with a much older man (apparently I didn’t learn my lesson from failed relationship #2…). One day he was my boyfriend and the next day he wrote me out of my life without giving me any explanation for 7 months. A year later I discovered he cheated on me. Pretty easy to see what went wrong there…
All three of these relationships ended ultimately for different reasons, but they also all still had things in common: they proved that dating a deaf girl can be a challenge. Some handles it better than others, but it never changed the fact that it was a challenge.
I wrote about how I had a bit of anxiety prior to getting my cochlear implant already. Combine the anxiety from my hearing loss with first date jitters (or any date jitters for that manner) and you got anxiety on steroids. Dating with hearing loss is HARD. That’s why it’s so common for deaf people to date other deaf people. They even make dating sites for deaf people to find each other. Some deaf people completely swear off non-deaf people from dating because they feel a non-deaf person could never relate.
I never dated a deaf person before, but I can definitely relate to that way of thinking. You can’t exactly make a non-deaf person feel what it’s like to be deaf. You can tell them what it’s like, but it’s not exactly the same.
A typical first date for me with any of my exs (or even my current boyfriend) was a lot like this:
- Text or FB the person constantly because I couldn’t hear on the phone
- Spend way too much time coming up with a good place for said first date
- Change my mind about the place 10,000 times because I declare it “too loud to hear anything”
- Finally settle on a place to have dinner
- Smile, say “yes” a lot, and nod because I have no idea what my date is saying at dinner
- Stare at my date hoping he gets the memo to translate everything the waiter is saying to me because I can’t hear the waiter
- Go to see a movie without the caption glasses because caption glasses are awkward and annoying and I don’t feel like dealing with that on a first date
- Stare at a movie screen trying to figure out what the movie is about since I can’t hear
- Glance at my date every couple of minutes to try to read his facial expressions to see whether or not he thinks the movie is good
- Agree with him and try to say some generic comment about why the movie was or wasn’t good
- Wonder if there will be a second date and if there is wonder why because I’m not exactly the greatest date in the world on account of the fact that I can’t hear.
I have to say though, 100% honest, things with my boyfriend now, Larry, were a lot different. Our first date was at Nifty Fifties. I know I definitely didn’t hear every word he said, but I did okay. Our first date was actually on Labor Day, so that probably helped. Nifty Fifties was not very busy that day. If my memory is correct, there was only about 1 other family there. We were relatively alone. And I was super duper duper nervous prior to our date. I changed my outfit about 10,000 times that day. But as soon as I saw him all of my nerves went away. I think when you meet someone really truly special that you’re meant to be with, that’s just the way it works.
This picture was taken moments before meeting my boyfriend for our first date. I spent over a week over-analyzing what to wear for that date…
My relationship with Larry has always been a bit intense. That’s one of the best ways to describe it. When I first met him I didn’t have my cochlear or any plans to get a cochlear implant. I just had two hearing aids that really didn’t benefit me all that much. He definitely got to see the before picture.
Not all of our dates were as easy as Nifty Fifties prior to getting my cochlear. I couldn’t always hear him that well, even if he was just over my house talking to me alone. Some days I just couldn’t hear or understand him that well (in all honesty, sometimes Larry has a tendency to mumble or not speak very clearly, which made it a little more difficult. Shhhh. Don’t tell him I said that though…).
I remember our second date was a bit of a challenge. For our second date we went to eat at The Smash Burger and then went bowling. I couldn’t hear anything at all at The Smash Burger except for the milkshake machine thing. Smash Burger makes excellent hand-spun milkshakes……..but when you’re hearing impaired and trying to hold a conversation with your soon-to-be-boyfriend, they become a little less awesome. The bowling alley wasn’t too much better. We had to wait awhile to get a lane, so to pass the time we played a few rounds of pool. I’m pretty bad at pool, so Larry tried to help me. Except I couldn’t hear him well. This was our second date. Yes he could and did show me what to do a bit, but it was still slightly awkward at times since we weren’t yet a couple or anything yet. Looking back at it now though, it was pretty adorable.
There was also that time we went to Frightland just before Halloween. It was dark and there were long lines to wait to get into the different attractions. Everyone was talking with their friends to pass the time. Larry and I tried to talk and play music. Except I couldn’t hear the music on his phone at all and I couldn’t hear him well enough to speak, either. We were actually trying to play a game, but we gave up because games become much less fun when it takes you 20+ minutes to hear what the other person is saying. When we gave up on the game, Larry looked at me with very sympathetic eyes, gave me a hug, and said, “Wow. You really can’t hear.” He genuinely felt sorry for me. He knew I was going through something hard and difficult that he could not fix or relate to. He did something no one quite did before: showed love, and compassion for me despite my hearing loss. I never forgot that night.
You don’t have to hear to smile and take pictures. He’re a picture of us at Frightland. It was so cold!
Of course it would have been great to meet Larry when I had my cochlear. I always tell people that the biggest mistake I made with my cochlear is waiting this long to get it. However, I’m extremely thankful that I met Larry before getting my cochlear implant. I’m glad he got to see and know me before getting my implant.
When you love someone, you love all of them. Every part, even the parts that can be hard for others to love or accept. Larry loved me even when I couldn’t hear. He accepted it. It was never a problem for him.
Larry always supported my decision to get my cochlear implant. It’s not every day that a girl tells her boyfriend “Hey I’m getting a major life-altering surgery” within the first two months of them being together — but that’s exactly how it was with us. He was so happy and excited for me and he enjoyed learning about it from me.He would outright tell me, “I want to learn from this.”
When I went through everything with getting my cochlear, Larry and I’s relationship was still very much new. A lot of people would say things like “Does he realize when you get this done you’re going to have a magnet on your head? Is he going to accept that and be okay with that?” I always said yes. But at the same time, I was never really sure. I was definitely still in the process of getting to know Larry at the time, and there’s no saying how a person will or won’t react to change or something like that. I mean, when I first got together with my ex I didn’t think he would go on to be abusive towards me, but that’s exactly what ended up happening, unfortunately.
When Larry said he’d stand by me and support me, he definitely wasn’t kidding. He couldn’t actually be at the hospital the day of my surgery due to hospital rules that prohibited non-immediate family members from being there, but the next day he was there with flowers and gifts to help cheer me up and make me feel better. When I was taking strong pain medication that knocked me out and made me loopy, he still loved me. When I had part of my head shaved, a ton of stitches and extra greasy hair due to not being able to watch it for 10 days, he still said I was beautiful.
There were actually days when I looked much worst than this after my surgery and Larry would still say I looked beautiful — and he meant it.
The hardest part of the cochlear implant process was definitely the month after my surgery. During this time I had to wait for everything to heal before I could be activated. I had no hearing in my left ear and only what my hearing aid provided (which was hardly anything at all) in my right ear. I couldn’t watch movies. I couldn’t watch TV. I couldn’t hear music. I didn’t want to leave my house much because I couldn’t hear people outside at all. So we stayed inside and played games and cooked and hung out at my house for a month. I was probably pretty boring and lame, but he always enjoyed spending time with me and never once complained. He stood by me and supported me. When I got upset and frustrated over not being able to do anything, he reminded me of how soon I’d be able to do everything and it would be more than worth it in the end.
We played a lot of Rummy when I was healing from my surgery…and I always won. 🙂
Once I was activated, Larry couldn’t wait to talk to me, to share music with me, and to finally, for the first time ever, get to talk on the phone with me. I explained how my cochlear would take time and it was a progress to learn how to hear things, so he made it his mission to work with me. Within the first week of activation, Larry discovered he could sing to me and I could actually hear him. Singing to me became his special thing, and I loved it. The first night he did it he held me in his arms for two hours in his car outside of my house under the stars and sang Brad Paisely’s “She’s Everything” and I not only hear every word of it — I felt it. I felt that I was his everything. I felt so much closer to him that night, just being able to hear his voice like that for the first time ever.
Our first post-cochlear implant activation date to Smithville. Everyone says I look like I have a crown on in this picture. Probably because I’m the Princess…Larry’s Princess (totally not a Christmas tree in the background or anything…. :-p)
Now I demand that he sings to me. It’s my favorite thing in the entire world, and he enjoys singing to me, too. Music has always been something very special for us that has a way of pulling us closer together. It helped bring us together before my cochlear through sharing our favorite songs, going to the News Boys concert for one of our first dates (also the date where I came home and told him I was in love with him…), and even just discussing it, and now that I can truly hear music and he can sing to me on the phone, it’s brought us even closer together.
One of our first dates… The News Boys concert. We look so different now!
The ability to talk on the phone has opened whole new doors to us that we didn’t even know existed. We can talk more on a daily basis now. Larry is a truck driver, so before our communication would sometimes be limited since obviously he can’t text and drive. However, with modern technology such as his radio or headphones, he is able to make his phone hands-free and talk to me. We prefer talking on the phone to texting now because it’s so much more personal. Last week I got sick and wasn’t able to speak well so we couldn’t talk on the phone. We both missed it so much and agreed it was much better than texting. I missed the sound of his voice. I missed his singing. I couldn’t hear his voice that well and he didn’t really sing to me prior to getting my cochlear.
My cochlear implant journey is a journey that Larry and I have been able to share together. He’s been with me every step of the way. He’s been with me before I got implanted, when I was implanted, and now that I’m activated. He’s supported me throughout it all and learned about it all with me. It’s opened many new doors for us and definitely strengthened our relationship. We are teammates that support each other through thick and thin, and he’s definitely been an MVP during this journey.I’m so blessed to finally have found a man that can handle me whether I can or can’t hear, because Larry knows that regardless of how well I can or can’t hear, it doesn’t change the person I am. He loves me with and without my ability to hear. (However, of course we both prefer it when I can hear…definitely makes the communication thing a bit easier and more enjoyable. ;)).
My cochlear implant journey has been a long, yet quick process all at once. It’s been a roller coaster ride even more intense than Kingda Ka, and I know he’ll be first in line to see the next thrill it brings us. He’s been one of my biggest supporters and fans, and I’m very thankful to have him in my life and blessed to see how the cochlear has helped us to grow even closer together.