Dating with a Disease – Part One: Can/Should I?

OK, with everything I’ve written about over the years, you had to know I’d cover this part of my life too. Not because I enjoy talking about me, but because I know this is something on the minds of many people who battle Multiple Sclerosis. Regardless of their age or the severity of their symptoms, everyone is entitled to and usually desires love. I’m no different, and as I recently said, despite some less than great experiences, I very much believe in love. So I figured I’d tackle this subject in several parts and talk about experiences and thoughts I’ve had on the subject. Some of the first things that come to mind when I think about dating with my disease, are the questions “Can I?” and “Should I?”. For people like me, those aren’t as easy as they sound.

Can I really date with this disease?

Depending on your level of progression, that’s a legitimate question. Can I logistically date with MS? This is a disease that is infamous when it comes to mobility issues. Many people use wheelchairs, canes, or walkers to get around. Even those without a mobility aid can have difficulty standing or walking for long periods of time. I’m supposed to use a cane, but, wrongly, I try to get by without it a lot (wall walking, sitting a lot, leaning, etc). So it may not be apparent at first, but getting around is extremely difficult for me (even when I do use the cane). The fact that my issues are not that visible causes its own brand of awkwardness. “Wanna take a walk in the park?” “Um, no thank you, how about we, uh, sit here, yeah, sit here?” Along with that, many of us don’t drive, which makes even going to meet someone near impossible, regardless of the activity.

Mobility isn’t the only issue, temperature is a big problem too. “Let’s go to the beach!” “ Um, let’s not.” “Wait, so what about talking on the phone, that’s a thing that people that date do, right?” “Um, well, we can try, but I’ll be very uneasy about it.” Even having a simple conversation with a new person can be difficult depending on my level of cog fogMaking and keeping plans is a notoriously big problem for those with MS too. People tend to frown on you when you cancel a lot, especially early on in a relationship.

How can I get them to know me?

When I list off all the potential issues, it seems pretty crazy to consider dating someone, right? Even the most understanding of people might have trouble with any one of those issues. That’s a fact, because I’ve seen it with plenty of understanding friends and family, who actually know all about my struggles. Explaining those struggles to someone new is tough, not to mention, who wants to say they can’t do this or that because of their disease? How would that work out for someone like me when there are already a lot of able-bodied folks out there in the dating pool? Sure, despite my issues, I’m a pretty decent guy, but the scary and hard part for me, is how can I get them to know me, and know me for more than my disease? It’s possible, but it certainly isn’t easy.

Should I date with this disease?

This sounds like an easy answer, right? Of course I should, everyone deserves to find love and happiness. That is great in theory, but, I admit, I hate relying on people. Realistically, as I get older, I’ll need to rely even more on people. While that’s true for everyone, it’s a bit more sped up for me. More than the feeling of having to rely on someone else, I fear being a burden to others. When I was married, that was a constant struggle for me. My marriage ended for a lot of reasons, but me pushing her away was certainly one of them. It’s easy to feel like a burden even when you aren’t one. One of the biggest issues for me, is if I really begin to love someone, why would I want to subject them to all of this? All of these problems that can arise from my disease. It’s not a pity party, it’s that when you genuinely care for someone, no matter what they say, you don’t want to subject them to all of that, you don’t want to burden them. That’s a big issue I have.

OK, so what are the answers?

The easy thing to say, is that of course I can and should date. I respect my audience too much to just make that blanket statement though. I think regular readers know that I’m not a sugar coating/forced positivity kind of guy, I try to be more realistic. If you really want find another human being to be with (and believe it or not, there are many people who are very happy without that), then yes, you should do it. It is not going to be easy, but everyone can date. I really do believe there is someone for everyone. Just as it does with everything else, MS will make it a bit more difficult. That’s ok though, because if you battle this disease, you’re already used to things not being easy, so in the long run, you will be fine. As for the “should you?” question, of course you should, it’s ok to be doubtful at times, but remember that no matter what is wrong with you physically, you have a lot to offer. Just fighting this disease makes you a stronger and more interesting person than a lot of people out there, always remember that. So if you want to find love, go for it. As I said earlier, there is a lot more to cover on this topic, so please look out for future chapters of this! (Check out Part 2!)

Thanks for reading!

Devin

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Comments

View Comments (11)
  • tfs
    11 months ago

    Oh! Devin! Knocked it out of the park again. My heart is so troubled and full that I hesitate to even comment. From insensitve comments from my partner to lunch out with a friend, “How you doing? Good?” Quick seque to another topic. I know I don’t complain when I’m out and there are certain people ( everyone ? LOL ) who just don’t want to know.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    11 months ago

    Thank you tfs! My heart is very troubled and full when it comes to the topic as well!

  • potter
    11 months ago

    I e-mail back and forth with another MSer who lives in Nova Scotia, she married a man that had MS and then was diagnosed with it herself a few years later. Second marriage for both of them, they have been married for many years. If you feel like dating, date and don’t expect future commitments such as marriage. Who knows someone may fall madly in love with you and can handle your challenges. Potter

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    11 months ago

    Thank you potter! Your friend from Nova Scotia may be on to something, as hard as it might seem to some, two people suffer from the disease certainly does bring a foundation of understanding that otherwise is near impossible to achieve.

  • Julie
    11 months ago

    My husband of 30 years left because he “couldn’t deal with my MS” (his words). I joined one of the online dating services. I couldn’t decide where to meet men, I married when I was just 17 so what did I know? It was a struggle for me to decide whether to be upfront about the MS or not but in the end, decided to be open. I dated several men, none of them considered it a roadblock. I married a man I liked but for all the wrong reasons and in the end, the MS was a problem. The marriage lasted 4 years.

    After this last marriage, I decided to date again sounds like more trouble than it’s worth. That was 9 years ago. I would like to date but I don’t. What I would like is a relationship with a man my age without the complications of marriage. But I’m so indifferent to it now I just haven’t made a move in that direction.

    I have no answers about relationships or marriage.

  • mamak1118
    11 months ago

    I just recently decided to date after having been divorced for 4 years. It took a lot to get to the point of actually saying yes to go out with somebody, and our first date was fun. The day after, however, was not. Being out late the night before, coupled with the stress of going on a date for the first time in years, knocked me on my butt the next day. So when he asked me out again, I cautiously agreed, but could we wait a couple of weeks? Fast forward to this past Saturday when I wake up after a very busy week at work and can barely walk, let alone stay awake. So I texted to let him know I wasn’t feeling well, and long story short, he hasn’t reached out again. I know he thinks I was blowing him off, but honestly I’m not going to apologize or try to explain when he didn’t even bother asking. And it was our second date! Is this how it’s going to be? Should I just preface every first date with, “By the way, I have MS and might be too tired to follow through with our plans at times.” Now I’ve closed my dating-site account and have at least temporarily given up.

  • Tess
    11 months ago

    You don’t want MS to define you but it runs your life choices so it sadly is a label that announces an invisible disease. I can’t count the number of people that stopped inviting me to do things cuz I cannot plan anything or I cancel. So in my mind, if some one is interested in you, I say be honest right out of the gate. Before you fall hopelessly in love with me, I have ms and it’s an everyday challenge. Nip it in the bud.

  • grizz951
    11 months ago

    I agree with being honest but I think its sad when friends back away from you because of health issues that is so wrong. I believe its just I sign of the society we live in these days me me I for one would never ignore a friend no matter what.

  • Azjackie
    11 months ago

    I don’t think it should be done. I am not a “Debbie Downer” but this is not MS specific. Think about it. No one wants to be a caretaker in any degree. Illness appears as a chore and no one likes chores.

  • silverfarr
    11 months ago

    I did not date for a full 8 years after my diagnosis at age 22. The person I decided to go out with was someone who I had known for 13 years. He was aware of my diagnosis, but at that time I had been out of ‘the chair’ for nearly 2 years. I hardly had ANY symptoms except for vertigo, double vision, numbness and occasional spasticity in my legs, and some hand pain. Our courtship was short, and we married 25 days after our first date.

    I had a stable career as a letter carrier, and my pay was very good. But around 6 months after we married, suddenly he lost his job. That was okay, because I was very well paid … but it was another 6 months before he found another job, in a different (short lived) career. Nearly our entire 8 year marriage consisted of mine being the primary income. Through the years, I began exhibiting more outward symptoms. He began to seem embarrassed when my legs would tremor in the presence of others… one time he even GLARED at me and asked, “Can’t you STOP that?!?” I got the feeling he didn’t like working, and was embarrassed that people knew he was being supported by someone who had a disability.

    Then when we had been married 8 years, and he was gainfully employed, he suddenly announced that he was leaving me, because “I need another sort of wife in my career.” I knew what the real reason was … I was an embarrassment to him.

    I did date after that relationship ended. But I was very forthright about the progression of my disease. I had to be certain that I would not get into another situation like the previous one. I also made certain that anyone I dated had a secure income. I dated one wealthy man who also had MS, because I KNEW he was most certainly aware of the downfalls. However, that was ANOTHER disaster. In that case, I was more able bodied than him at the time, and he was very demanding about my accommodating him, yet he wasn’t to keen on what I needed MYSELF. He lived in an affluent mountain community about an hour and a half away, and seemed to think that on my rotating days off, I could drop everything and come to him. He was independently wealthy, and as such, did not have an understanding that doing my very physical job, gave me an enormous amount of fatigue. I couldn’t get off work, pack a bag and drive an hour and a half to spend the night and the next day, then turn around and drive home in time to rest and awake at 4:30 the next morning then go work. When I explained my dilemma, he childishly acted like I wasn’t ‘willing enough’ to be present when he needed my attention.

    I got out of that relationship immediately. A few months later, I started dating another letter carrier, who I married 4 months later. He had a stable income, knew what physical problems I’d be faced with, and was up for it anyway. We have been married nearly 17 years. My MS has progressed quite a bit, but he is patient and understanding … though not always ‘kind’ about things. Many times I find him focusing more on what I CAN’T do, than what I CAN do. I retired 11.5 years ago, then when he retired 9 years ago, we moved to a remote, small community about 1.5 hours from my daughter. He uses my MS as an excuse to say I can’t make the drive to visit her, save for a few times a year … but he won’t drive me himself, because he doesn’t want to ‘interrupt his plans’. Not even for birthdays & holidays. When he DOES let me go, he complains that the drive and visit ‘takes too much out of me physically’. Our physical relationship suffers because I have difficulty caused by my symptoms. He has complained on many occasions, that he is saddled with ‘caring’ for me. Though he REFUSES to allow me to do anything beyond housework.

    I know I’m a burden, so I never complain … but sometimes it’s just hard. I used to volunteer in our small community, because at least then, I felt like I had some self worth, but he complained and complained that I spent too much time volunteering, so I stopped. Sometimes it feels like my death, when it comes, will be a relief for me, and a release for him.

    Anyway … yes you can have MS and date, but be aware of the difficulty that being in an actual committed relationship can cause. Remember that the person you end up with will become your caregiver, which may not end up being all compassion and understanding.

  • Julie
    10 months ago

    ahh silver, I think you are selling yourself short. You are NOT a burden. Anyone that thinks that you are doesn’t deserve your time. Give yourself more credit for what you have given to your relationships.

    I also worry that you think your death will be a relief. Please don’t think that. One never realizes what a loss their death will be felt. I hope you have more supportive friends and family than your partners have been. Keep in touch with others that have MS. They are a great support for understanding what we are going through.
    Julie

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