Heart of Dating welcomes Chris and Emily Norton to the show today. Chris and Emily are the center of a handful of viral videos! Chris went through a severe spinal cord injury in 2010 while playing football in high school and is a quadripilegic who uses a wheelchair. Three years after his injury, he met his wife Emily online. Even though the relationship may have faced some challenges, Chris proposed to Emily right before their college graduation. A video went viral of Emily helping Chris walk across the graduation stage and then again of him walking down the wedding aisle. Emily grew up in Iowa and while in high school she was in a mentoring program to mentor foster kids in the area. Chris and Emily both had a passion for foster care children and since getting married they have adopted five amazing girls, a 20-year-old and a sibling group of four sisters (ages 10, 9, 6, & 3), and have fostered a total of 18 children.
They created the Chris Norton Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people with spinal cord and neuromuscular disabilities by providing opportunities that would not otherwise exist. They also wrote the book Seven Longest Yards about their story and have an upcoming film being released later this year.
Did you have any hesitations about Chris being in a wheelchair when you first met?
- Emily said that she truly saw Chris as a person first and wasn’t focused on his disability.
- For her, she saw how his disability made him better by making him a more positive person and she saw he wasn’t going to be phased by the difficult things in life.
- She was curious about how he navigated life by having a disability.
- Chris was confident regardless and that helped Emily see past that.
What did it look like to battle thoughts of insecurity through having a disability in dating?
- Chris said that he first had to start loving himself.
- He said he finally realized it wasn’t about what he could do physically and more about who he was as a person.
- Through that realization he said he gained the confidence in knowing he could be worth it for someone.
- He was determined to not just be the guy in the wheelchair, but for others to see him as simply “Chris”.
- He encourages everyone to see past the physical challenges someone may face.
- Emily reveals that when she did start dating Chris, some friends and family did have some concerns,and she did have some fears while in the relationship, but overall she was able to overcome them.
How did you change your mindset about your relationship and circumstance?
- Chris had to get into the habit of focusing on the good.
- They had to both be open-minded about the relationship to face obstacles that other couples didn’t face.
- They had to be open in communication about the reality of the situation.
- In facing insecurities, Chris had to learn to combat them. He recognized it was just fear that he was wrestling.
- Being aware of insecurities and not acting on them was extremely important along the journey of their relationship.
How would you encourage someone to be open-minded to dating someone who may have a disability?
- You don’t want to box God in to what He can do in your life.
- The unknown isn’t scary, but missing what God has for you is.
- Don’t let fear control you or hold you back from something incredible
What are the passions you share and how did that impact your relationship?
- Chris and Emily being able to do something together, such as working with foster kids, has made them closer.
- Being able to serve a greater vision for the kingdom of God is one of the most beautiful and beneficial things a couple can do.
- Selflessness is key in serving and being able to serve, especially as a couple, is so fulfilling.
- Being selfless helps them serve each other in their marriage as well.
- Emily and Chris talked about the struggles they had to face in their marriage and how they had to push each other to move forwards.
- “Relationships are uncomfortable and there are hard moments. It takes a lot of work, a lot of communication, and a lot of being there for the other person” -Emily Norton
What is your final nugget of dating advice?
- Put God first. A relationship does the best when God is first.
- Have open communication and don’t bottle things up.
- What breaks a relationship isn’t conflict, but unresolved conflict.
- “Don’t treat people how you want to be treated, treat people how they want to be treated” -Chris Norton
Get Chris and Emily’s book HERE