Love Triangle: Me, My Lover, and MS

So it’s finally happened. After two-and-a-half years of searching online dating sites, going on about 50 first dates; engaging in some bizarre email exchanges and phone conversations; encountering scammers posting fraudulent profiles; participating in some normal, pleasant but brief email exchanges; and enduring some dramatic break-ups after only a few dates, I have been seeing a man for three months now and all is well.

It does little good to analyze why. This might surprise those who know me as someone that tends to overthink things. It’s just that I don’t want to jinx it by talking or thinking about it too much. This relationship is so different from any I’ve had before—and with someone whose mixture of qualities and attitudes I would have spurned in the past—that I scarcely know what to tell people who demand an explanation, let alone a basic description.

The ironies are numerous. We have very little in common, less than I’ve had with anyone before. We couldn’t be farther apart on social, religious, and political beliefs. But we do enjoy gardening and various home projects, and our visits always include a promenade through Lowe’s. He is an average guy in that he shows his caring by doing things for me, or what he calls being useful, rather than directly expressing feelings. This quality used to frustrate me to no end in my youth, back when I stupidly wished men would be more like women. After making a major attitude adjustment twenty years ago, I now accept and appreciate the differences. We grocery shop together, run errands, make love, watch television. Most important, there is an effortless respect and diplomacy, and reasonable expectations. We live an hour’s drive from each other, he in Ohio and I in Michigan, and his ever-changing work schedule limits us so that we only get together two or three times per month. We are both laid back and have a live-and-let-live attitude. Note that I have not mentioned disease in this formula.

Enter another irony. Disease didn’t come up in the above description, but that is not to say disease is not an important component in our chemistry. He suffers from allergies so numerous that there is not a single food group that is safe for him to eat. His medical condition, like MS, is invisible. He understands feeling constantly ill and in pain, and like people with MS, he has educated himself over the years about how to manage his illness, which he does beautifully and entirely by using natural supplements, no doctor care, for which I deeply admire him. It comes up frequently in conversation, a natural thing that only a person with a chronic illness could fully accept and understand. He knows nothing about MS, but he is kind and considerate and helps me when I need help. I don’t feel a great need to talk about MS with him because he is already there for me in the ways that people should be for each other in the most general sense. And although this makes me feel like a “normal” person, I also feel a little nudge of neglect and mild concern regarding my MS, as I should be feeling freer to talk about it with his encouragement should the relationship move to a more serious level. This happens to be a pattern in my love life that has more to do with how much I defer to a man and allow his stuff to take center stage. But like so many other things in life, I am less able to muster up much worry about this with regard to the future, I just don’t have the energy anymore. I see this as a good thing.

So how does the love triangle factor in to all this? It is simply that MS has been my constant companion, my body the conduit that makes demands for attention, sympathy, and care. That relationship will never end, so adding another human being to this intimate arrangement requires quite a bit of negotiation and compromise. Oddly, this challenge has improved my motivation to take better care of myself. My lover is the reward for adhering to a regular stretching and exercise regimen. The more limber I am, the stronger my core and legs feel, the more energy I’ll have to stroll through Lowe’s, to enjoy eating out, and to participate more fully and passionately in love-making. No matter how you cut it, it all results in more feel- good chemicals flooding my brain. I’m happy and he’s happy.

You might even call this a foursome, he with his condition that will never leave him and I with mine. Managing largely by ourselves has given us an independence that can border on aloofness with one another. Perhaps the most significant result of my journey with MS is that I have, at last, latched onto someone who isn’t needy. Neither am I. The final irony is that neediness and high expectations were the qualities I was attracted to in my able-bodied years, but not now. Multiple Sclerosis is too jealous a lover to allow me to indulge anyone to the degree I indulge it.

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