Just For Women - New Year, New Love

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News January 2018

Our faith can be tested in the time of enduring our greatest afflictions, one of which is, “Will I ever date again, be married or have children after my injury?” The answer is a huge, “Yes!”

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It’s truly hard to put a price tag or value on a situation until you’ve truly experienced it. A new year can give us the opportunity to see our strongest faith. Our faith can be tested in the time of enduring our greatest afflictions, one of which is, “Will I ever date again, be married or have children after my injury?” The answer is a huge, “Yes!” With the opportunity of a new year, it’s time for those looking for love or wondering if they can have children to reach out and turn their wonder into reality. 

Dating Post-Injury

Before I give you tips on how to get out there, let me tell you about myself and my love life. After being paralyzed on June 23, 2009, in a hit-and-run accident, the so-called guy I was dating just disappeared for those first few months. I wondered, “What did I do?” Was I that hideous that he couldn’t even look at me? Then, several other guy friends came to the hospital. What I would find out is not all men are as shallow as the guy I was with prior to the accident. 

While I was in the hospital for six months, there was one special man who would fly over and visit me. All I thought during this time was, he’s just being nice. Why would he want to date me, looking like this? My self-confidence was definitely not as high as it usually was, but to my surprise he asked me out. I said yes. He was and is an amazing man, but I felt like he was treating me like I was fragile and would break. I wanted to be treated the same way that my guy friends were treating me. So, I didn’t have the heart to break up with him. I started treating him differently, hoping he would break up with me. He had an amazing heart and kept putting up with it. This made me feel even worse. Finally, I mustered the courage to tell him to please leave me alone. Not my finest moment. 

The following week, I arrived back home and immediately went back to work. I found a new sense of confidence. As I started going out with my friends again, I noticed if I didn’t treat my chair as a big deal, the guys didn’t notice it either.

Finding “The One”

The next year and half, I tested the waters, dating different men. I just hadn’t found “the one.” Then, this handsome model named Shannon asked me out. I replied, “I’m sorry. I’m just not looking for anything right now.” He was persistent and asked me out several more times. With each no, he still came back. I started feeling awful, so the next time I saw him, I asked if he would like to have coffee with me. He agreed but thought it was to talk business. Later that day, I asked if he wanted to go boating with me and my family. He came and met my parents before I arrived. As if it wasn’t bad enough that he was meeting my parents by himself, my mom asked if he wanted a “rough inner tube ride or an easy one.” He replied with “rough,” and my mom ended up throwing him 20 feet out of the inner tube. Things only got worse from there. He asked me to dinner, and the waitress spilled her entire tray of food on us. Then, deciding we should try one more time, he invited me to a movie night with his roommates. A few minutes into the movie, Shannon was sitting directly behind me, propping me up. I started having muscle spasms and tried to warn him. But the spasms were so severe that they threw me backward — right into Shannon’s nose, shattering it. Afterward, he sat on the floor, rocking back and forth, saying, “I should have listened to you!” Well, he’s listened every day since then. We’ve been married for six years and have two gorgeous little girls. We’ve had our share of trials like any couple does, but if you communicate, love, have faith and loyalty, any relationship can make it through the storm. 

Relationship Tips

Tip 1: Find your self-confidence and show others that you’re still capable of doing anything that you did before. You just do it differently now. If you don’t see the chair, then others will eventually stop seeing it, too.

Tip 2: Take a chance. Not all of them will be perfect, but one day you will find the one who’s yours. Just because one is a jerk doesn’t mean they all will be. 

Tip 3: Never give up and never lose who you are in the process. Never change for someone, unless it’s something you truly want and is for the better.

Tip 4: When you find “the one,” communicate. Communication today is a lost art, so make sure you are truly communicating your feelings. Have faith, love, loyalty and confidence. Remember to think each day, “I’m strong, I’m beautiful, I’m intelligent, but most of all I’m capable beyond measure.” You’re capable of finding love, the job of your dreams or even being a mother. 

A new year gives people a glimmer of hope — hope that the future is brighter. Your life is your masterpiece, and I pray this year you find the beauty in it.

Starla Hilliard-Barnes is an inspirational public speaker, journalist, author, founder/director of Moving Forward Adaptive Sports, model, actress, wife and mother. 


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Just For Women - New Year, New Love


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