Interabled Couples Criticize Dr. Phil for Saying You Can Be a Lover or Caregiver, Not Both

Dr. Phil sitting between two interabled couples. Both male partners are in wheelchairs. Their female partners are sitting next to them.
Dr. Phil sitting between two interabled couples. Both male partners are in wheelchairs. Their female partners are sitting next to them.

Interabled couples are sharing their love on social media following a “Dr. Phil” episode that aired on Tuesday in which Dr. Phil claimed that an able-bodied woman dating a disabled man “can be his lover or you can be his caregiver, but you can’t be both… It won’t work, 100 out of 100 times this won’t work.”

Titled “I Swiped Right on My Quadriplegic Boyfriend,” the show featured Bailey, who has C5, C6 quadriplegia following an accident 11 years ago, and his girlfriend and caregiver, Harley.

The episode began with Dr. Phil asking audience members if they would date someone in a wheelchair and then if they would date a disabled person if they required full-time care. Dr. Phil then displayed the results, 58 percent said they would date a wheelchair user and 29 percent said they would date someone who required full-time care.

“You’re a young, single, attractive female. Out of all the people that you can choose, why choose someone in a wheelchair?” Dr. Phil asked Harley before having Bailey come on stage. Harley explained her attraction to Bailey, adding: “We make each other happy.”

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The couple reached out to the show due to the tension surrounding Bailey’s care. Because they live in a rural area, the couple said they found it hard to hire a qualified assistant to help.

“I didn’t want her to be my caretaker,” Bailey said. “Where we live, we live so far from any kind of caretaker and the ones we have access to, they’re no good.”

Harley began assisting Bailey over the course of their relationship, becoming his full-time caregiver after failing to find someone reliable.

“I’ve dealt with this kind of situation a lot,” Dr. Phil said, noting he’s worked with people who have brain and central nervous system injuries. Dr. Phil then told Harley she had to choose between being his caretaker and his girlfriend.

“There are a lot of people that can be his caretaker, but there are not a lot of people who can be his girlfriend and his lover,” Dr. Phil said. “It’s not your job. You’re either going to be his lover or his caretaker. It’s way above your paygrade. You’re not skilled for that either.”

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Disabled people and their partners were quick to respond to the episode. On Thursday, YouTubers and interabled couple Hannah Aylward and Shane Burcaw shared a video explaining why they declined to be on Tuesday’s episode of Dr. Phil. After watching Aylward and Burcaw’s video, disabled designer Matt Plummer shared a photo of him and his wife Bethany to show people that interabled relationships work, that you don’t have to choose between loving your partner and caring for them, and tagged Aylward and Burcaw.

Aylward then created the hashtag #100OutOf100 and shared a photo of her and Burcaw.

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The hashtag was then shared by Burcaw. “We thought it was a great way to show Dr. Phil (and his viewers) that many relationships that involve caregiving are successful,” Burcaw posted.

From there the hashtag took off. Others quickly followed, sharing photos and tweet about their relationships.

After asking Harley to choose between being Bailey’s girlfriend and caretaker — she chose to be his girlfriend — the episode switched to Bailey’s behavior. Feeling like a burden to Harley, Bailey told his girlfriend he wants to be put in a nursing home to die. Dr. Phil then played a video from Bailey’s brother who said Bailey needs to work on his anger issues because he is pushing everyone away.

The episode featured other guests including another interabled couple who shared how they make their relationship work. The wife and able-bodied partner in the relationship told Harley she is a wife first and caregiver second. The show ended with advice from life coach Mike Bayer, who said he’ll assign someone to help Bailey finish his master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and change the way he looks at his life.

It’s important for people with disabilities as well as able-bodied people to see that interabled relationships can and do work. Any relationship, regardless of ability, requires caregiving, and disabled people take care of their partners just as much as any other person does.

If you would like to share your interabled relationship, you can do so by posting your thoughts or couple photo with the hashtag #100OutOf100.

Update: This article has been updated to reflect how the hashtag started.

The Mighty reached out to representatives for the “Dr. Phil” show and have yet to hear back.

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