By Martha Hewett @martha_hewett
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Videographer / director: Jesse Vogelaar
Producer: Martha Hewett, Ruby Coote
Editor: Helen Mckee
Luke David, 28, and Rebecca Gulle, 27, met at a sporting competition where Luke, who has a neuromuscular disease, was playing in 2016.
Despite being together for over three years, the couple often have to dispel assumptions that Rebecca is Luke’s carer.
Rebecca told Truly: “I find it really frustrating when people don’t assume we are a couple or they assume I’m a carer – even though we are holding hands.”
Luke was diagnosed with Nemaline Myopathy at 18 months old. The condition, which causes muscle weakness and hypoventilation, has meant Luke uses an electric wheelchair and a machine to help him breathe.
An avid sports fan and power chair athlete, Luke first caught Rebecca’s eye during a football tournament.
“The first time I met Luke I was watching him play, and I just thought he looked really sexy.” Rebecca said.
The pair hit it off and texted nonstop until Luke finally plucked up the courage to ask Rebecca out, unsure at the time if her feelings were reciprocated.
Luke explained: “Prior to dating Rebecca I didn’t have any experience with relationships. I think my disability affected me in the way that people wouldn’t give me a chance.”
However, for Rebecca, an intensive care nurse, this was not an issue.
“I was just thinking that this hot guy was texting me and we were getting along really well.” She explained.
Unfortunately for the couple, there were some who had a harder time comprehending the relationship.
“I think I’ve had more backlash with [Luke] than I have with any other relationship in my life.” Rebecca said.
Initially, those closest to them would ask intrusive questions about their future and whether their children would have the same disability as Luke.
“I think it was an indirect concern," Rebecca explains. “A lot of people were worried about us, having children and how our home life would look.”
Rebecca, who describes herself as “stubbornly abrupt”, would shut down those concerns quickly.
However, it’s the misconceptions over Luke’s care that appears more difficult to straighten out.
When they first started dating, Rebecca was a support worker which led to many assumptions regarding her role in Luke’s life.
“I don’t do myself any favours – the fact that I’m a nurse and the fact that Luke and I met when I was a support worker.” Rebecca admits.
But early on, the couple decided to keep their relationship strictly romantic and separate from Luke’s care.
“When I met Luke, he was an independent adult and I was an independent adult and we started dating.
“It was really important for both of us to not have that inequality – I wanted to depend on him as much as he depended on me.”
However, the couple still face many instances where people assume Rebecca is there to care for Luke, rather than be his date.
Whether it’s a waiter asking Rebecca Luke’s order or a friend implying Rebecca must be Luke's chauffeur to a football game, the pair are quick to correct any assumptions.
“You kind of have to be like, 'Luke’s the owner of a company. He runs his own business. He’s 28 years old. No one takes him anywhere'." She explains.
For Rebecca, having to switch the mindset of Luke needing someone to babysit him is exhausting, whereas Luke has become used to it.
“It frustrates Rebecca more than it frustrates me because I’m used to that type of language.” He explains.
“I don’t get annoyed anymore because I’m so used to it, but Rebecca really hates it.”
Despite the ignorance that they receive, both Luke and Rebecca are enjoying seeing people become more educated with disability advocacy, particularly when it comes to relationships.
Luke said: “We are seeing a lot of different couples online and we’re learning a lot from their experience.
“That has been really helpful for us.”