Dating with a Disease – Part Four: Some Explaining to Do
In a previous part of this series about dating with a disease, I discussed the pros, cons, and general thoughts that go through our mind when it comes to disclosing to someone that we have a disease. That agonizing decision, despite being important enough to be its own article, is actually the easy part. Once you decide to tell someone, you need to figure out how to not only tell them, but to do it in an effective way. Not such an easy task when it seems like most of the world has no idea what something like MS is (and again, why is this on an MS site? I feel a lot of this applies to many chronic illnesses). I mean, most people who have MS for a while still have friends and family that don’t really understand what it does to us. So trying to enlighten a potential love interest, all without scaring them off, is not going to be the easiest task.
How deep do we go?
How detailed we get really does have a lot to do with when we decide to disclose. I’ve had some first dates where I’ve mentioned it (thrilling first date banter!) but not gone into a lot of details. Particularly when it wasn’t as big a part of my life as it is now. So, before I was considered disabled. It’s much easier to consider the disease just an unpleasant part of your life when you are still working, when you still have a career. For me, it was very much a part of my life, but didn’t define me as much. Now that it’s taken my career and I’m considered disabled, I don’t want to say it defines me, but it is a much bigger part of my life. I’m in a situation where I simply have to discuss it, which feels so, awkward for me (but, hey ladies, on the plus side, at least I’m not not working because I’m unskilled or lazy, right? I’ve gots skills, education, drive, all those things that used to lead to success for me, but, my body won’t let me fully use all that anymore or all at least, not all at same time). So how in-depth we go when explaining our disease to a new paramour really does depend on how much the disease affects us on a day-to-day basis.
Note: obviously there are discussions to be had about the future of life with the disease, marriage, kids, all that. But those will be covered in separate installments. Besides, slow down, it’s early in this relationship!
So how do I do this?
When it comes to explaining the disease to a new potential new love interest, I like to start with the basics. It’s an autoimmune disease, so my own immune system is attacking my own body. I then explain how it eats away the myelin around the nerves and what that does, often using the good old phone charger example that I trotted out over here. I give them the basics and then explain how it affects me each day, in the simplest of terms. Things like I take an injection every day or go get an infusion once a month, I have trouble when I get hot, etc. It’s a bonus if they ask questions (advantage alert, that’s a great way to gauge how interested they are, now everyone has that!). I’ll even offer to send them a few links on the topic, if they want. (OK, maybe that’s why I’m still single). The ones that are really interested in you tend to do some research on their own, and even come back with questions. That’s straight up flattering to me at this point in my life (I’ve said before how I think learning about our disease is the best thing someone can do for us).
Assess the situation
So as with most parts of dating, explaining our disease to someone really does require us to assess the situation and go from there. Being able to read social cues isn’t always that easy for someone with MS, but remember that every conversation should be just that, a conversation, a back and forth, not a lecture. Recognizing if someone really wants to learn about your disease is important when dating, just as offering up some details is important. Whether you like it or not, MS is part of your life, and anyone who is vying to be part of your life needs to have some basic knowledge about it.
Thanks for reading!