The Myth of a Loveless Future
July 2015 Issue
Would you think such a guy doesn't stand a chance on a mainstream matchmaking website? Think again.
Jim Haag, for example, is missing parts of both his arms and part of his left foot as a result of an electrical accident in 1972. He also suffered third-degree burns to about 45 percent of his body, including to his face. In 2002, when he was 52, Jim joined eHarmony, a mainstream dating website. In 2014, he and Eileen, a woman he met through that service, celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary.
Loving a Man With No Hands
Before seeing each other's photo, Jim and Eileen went through eHarmony's system for matching people. They then began communicating through the site.
"There was something different about Jim," Eileen says. "From his writing, I could tell that he was a deep person. I still didn't know that he was an amputee because at that time [the site] introduced people by divulging the inner person first before people saw each other's photos or read about their physical looks."
After they saw each other's picture, the two communicated through the site about three more times before Jim sent Eileen a message saying that he had to tell her "something important" about himself.
Photographs courtesy of Jim and Eileen Haag.
"Did you notice my straps in my picture?" he asked.
"What straps?" Eileen responded. "What do you mean?"
Eileen then looked at Jim's picture again and, for the first time, realized that he was wearing straps that went over his shoulders. "Yeah, what are those?" she asked.
"Well," Jim wrote, "I need to tell you that I'm an amputee, and I lost my hands in an electrical accident."
This confirmed what she was already suspecting- that Jim had been through something traumatic, Eileen says. "Then I thought, 'Okay, so what?' I was attracted to Jim's self-confidence. This was a man who says, 'This is who I am; this is what I've got. I don't have a problem with it. If you have a problem with it, then we need to know that right now.'"
Eileen says that Jim's facial scars didn't matter to her either. In fact, even though the scars show clearly in Jim's picture and later when Eileen met him in person, she doesn't recall noticing them. "By the time I saw his picture and met him in person," Eileen says, "I had already seen him from the inside. I knew his heart. I knew his mind. I knew his character."
When Eileen told her friends about her new discovery, one asked her if she was okay with it or if she was going to end the growing relationship. Her reply: "Heck no, I'm not going to end it."
Another friend asked if she was certain she could love a man with no hands.
"I hadn't really thought about it," Eileen recalls, "but I said, I think it's backward. I don't love a man because he has no hands. I think I love this man, and he just happens to have no hands."
Today, Jim and Eileen agree that his amputations and facial scars have not affected their relationship. "It just disappears," Eileen explains. "Sometimes people ask me what happened to my husband, and at first, I go, 'What? Oh, that's right. They're just seeing his hooks for the first time.' These days, I don't even think about it."
Changing Your Expectations
When someone loses a limb while already in a relationship, he or she often fears that his or her partner will leave. If a new amputee is not already in a relationship, a common fear is not being able to attract a romantic partner because of the amputation.
This is largely a myth, Jim says.
And how does he know this, other than through his experience of finding a wife through a dating venue?
When Jim had his accident in 1972, he'd been married to his first wife for about a year, and both were in their early 20s. Although he was at risk of dying for the first couple of months and spent three months in the hospital, his wife remained by his side throughout the ordeal.
"I was just living day-to-day, waiting for my next painkiller," Jim recalls. "I was totally dependent on her. Her being there every day was probably influential in keeping me alive."
He says that she handled his medical crisis and its aftermath much better than he could have expected, and after he recovered, the two remained married for ten more years.
After that relationship ended, Jim met a woman at church who became his second wife. She, of course, knew about his amputations and scarring from the beginning and was still interested in him. They were married for 15 years.
In addition to his personal experience, Jim worked for several years as an information specialist for the Amputee Coalition, speaking with and meeting hundreds of amputees, and many of them had fears about their relationships or potential for relationships.
"As a new amputee," Jim says, "you're often not secure in who you are yet. You haven't adjusted to what happened to your body, and you assume that other people aren't going to be either. But most of the time, that's not true. Most of the time, other people adjust more quickly to your situation than you do yourself."
Someone who is in a romantic relationship with a person who suffers an amputation is far less likely to abandon the relationship than the new amputee might expect, Jim says, and new amputees who are not already in a relationship are far more likely to find a partner than they might expect.
The Things That Really Matter
"I signed up with eHarmony for 90 days," Jim says. "Within those 90 days, I had 202 matches, and at least a dozen of [the women] I made contact with wanted to enter into a relationship with me."
He says that his amputations and scars didn't even seem to matter.
"If you are a person of character, people are attracted to you," Jim says. "It doesn't matter what you look like or what your disability is. Character takes priority over that. I have a friend who is a quadriplegic who met someone in the medical field while he was in treatment and ended up marrying her. I've also known burn victims whose faces were burned and scarred far more than mine whose relationships survived or who developed relationships later. If you are looking for a relationship and have good character, you will find that person. Amputation alone will not stop a person from having a romantic relationship."
The problem on the amputee's part, he explains, will more likely be his or her own low self-esteem and poor body image after an amputation. Those are big problems, and they could cause the person to intentionally or unintentionally sabotage a relationship.
"The sooner you overcome your negative feelings about what happened to you and what you look like, the sooner other people will too," Jim says.
Still, while Jim and Eileen agree that only a small percentage of people would simply close the door on such relationships, they concede that there are some people who cannot handle a relationship with an amputee or who simply would not want one. The reasons for such a choice vary greatly. Perhaps they simply have a vision of what they want in a mate just like some people want a partner with a certain hair, eye, or skin color, or who is a certain weight or height. Others might be concerned about having to be a caregiver. And yet others might not want to take on the added financial burden that disability can sometimes cause.
While amputees can't control how others react to them, Jim and Eileen note, they can make sure that they present themselves in the best possible light.
"I don't care how good-looking someone is," Eileen says, "when you get to know them inside, they might actually be very ugly. Others can be disfigured physically, but when you get to know them, they might actually be beautiful. It's all about the choices you make inside and your character, and whether you're going to let your experiences turn you into a bitter person or a better person."
Unlike some other people she's known who became bitter after a tragedy, Eileen says that Jim actually became a better person.
"As a result, I really liked what I noticed in him-the resilience, his spiritual connection, and everything else," she says. "I was attracted to all of that. Very attracted."
Rick Bowers is the contributing editor for Amplitude Media Group and Amplitude magazine. He has more than three decades of experience as a writer and editor. He can be reached at .