8 Tips For Dating A Deaf Person
There’s no use pretending that dating someone who’s deaf will be without its challenges. Which we can pretty much say about dating in general. Dating someone with kids; dating a colleague; dating someone who believes that the government has put tracking devices in their fillings… All types of relationships can be tricky.
It is, however, important to do your research before you begin dating someone who is hard of hearing or completely deaf. Before jumping in head first, make sure that you know the things they expect from you and what type of support they may need.
Here are 8 tips to help you be a better, more equipped partner when dating a deaf man or woman.
1) Be patient
You should always be patient with your partner whether they have a disability or not. Understand that the way you usually communicate with other people won’t apply with your deaf partner.
You might have to repeat things or explain things that they missed. Or, when they communicate with you, you might initially have trouble understanding their deaf accent. It’s important that you don’t make them feel as though they’re a burden.
2) Always face them and speak slowly and clearly
Deaf people rely on lip-reading to understand spoken language, so you should always face them when speaking, and ensure that you’re in a well-lit environment. It’s imperative that you speak more slowly than usual, and try to enunciate your words, i.e. speak clearly.
So if you’re someone who likes to mumble a lot, try keeping that to a minimum. It makes you a better speaker, and it will help you communicate more effectively with your partner.
Slowing down can also prevent misunderstandings, which happens often and can have some unfortunate outcomes.
3) Use gestures and other non-verbal communication
Chances are you haven’t learned to sign yet. For the time being, you can develop your own relationship signing with your partner, by using gestures as often as possible.
Wanna go shopping? Point to a grocery bag. Hungry? Rub your stomach. Need to use the bathroom and you think you’ll be a while because the curry you had for dinner is wreaking havoc on your stomach? Well, I’ll leave that one up to you.
There are many such gestures you can define together through regular use. It saves you both time; your partner won’t constantly have to stop and read your lips, and you won’t always have to slow down to get your point across.
Utilize pen and paper and other forms of written communication to get your point across. You’ll be texting a lot, so get comfortable with the written word. One-word replies won’t cut it in a deaf-hearing relationship, so if you’re usually guilty of this, get ready to become a wordsmith.
4) Be willing to learn sign language
If your partner uses sign language in their everyday life, then you should be prepared to learn their language. Learning the language of your loved ones shows how much they mean to you, as it takes a lot of dedication to learn a whole new language enough to communicate in it.
At the very least, learn some basic signs like “I love you”, “What’s wrong?”, “Thank you” etc. This won’t take much to learn, and the more you use them, the quicker they’ll stick in your memory.
There are plenty of free online resources to help you learn ASL (American Sign Language) and BSL (British Sign Language), plus many of the other popular sign languages out there (of which there are many. Remember that each country has its own sign language, and they all differ from each other).
5) Learn about deaf culture
As with every community, the deaf community has its own culture, which they are very proud of. They have particular customs and traditions that you should know when you are in their presence.
One such custom in ASL is that a deaf person has to give you your signed name, you can’t designate your own sign.
6) Don’t be condescending
Please don’t be the person who, when trying to communicate with a non-English speaker, shouts in English. It has never worked with spoken foreign languages, and it certainly won’t work with a deaf person.
Also don’t be the person who tries to dumb things down for their deaf partner. They don’t need you to speak to them like they’re five years old – they’re just as capable as you of understanding complex ideas. Just because you might have to slow your speech down in order for them to read your lips, doesn’t mean they’re dumb.
7) Don’t treat their deafness as a disability
This concept might be alien to you, but if you spend enough time in the deaf community you’ll realize that they don’t consider their inability to hear a disability or ailment. Instead, they see it as a special attribute that gives them a unique insight into the world.
Some people may not want to be treated differently, so it is important that you don’t treat them like they’re handicapped. They are capable of doing almost anything a hearing person can do, and don’t need to be wrapped in cotton wool and shielded from the world.
Deafness isn’t a disease, and it’s not a reason for you or anyone else to pity them.
8) Let others know so they can accommodate your deaf partner
When visiting people as a couple, it’s only fair to tell them beforehand that your new partner is deaf. It’s no different than informing people you’re visiting for dinner that your girlfriend/boyfriend is a vegan.
This will enable them to be better prepared to communicate with your partner. They can do things like alter their speech to allow for lip-reading, and remember to face them when speaking.
Dating someone who is deaf doesn’t mean you have to be their interpreter or babysitter all the time; they are capable of doing anything any other person can do with some accommodations from time-to-time.
You can still have as deep a relationship with them as you would with a hearing person, so there’s really nothing to be afraid of.