Marriage, Relationships & MS
The topic of marriage and relationships while living with MS is something I hear about often, so I wanted to touch base on it a bit. Even though I’m in my late 20s, I have been married since I was 18. I do have friends who have MS who are in the ‘dating scene' as well, so I’m going to share as much as I possibly can with everyone.
Managing MS and relationships
I think the first and most obvious thing to say is that managing MS and marriage/relationships is not easy. I’m not saying that it's easy in the first place, but if you throw a chronic illness, like MS, into the mix, it can cause complications and be very hard to deal with.
Overcoming challenges in my marriage
Like every relationship, there needs to be love, support, respect, and trust, among many other things. I’ve had people come to me for support when their relationship ends due to MS specifically, which, in my opinion, is just wrong. It really brings out your significant other's true colors. If someone decides not to be with you because of MS and its complications, then it shows how weak they are, and you are better off. However, that’s easier to say it than it is actually dealing with it.
I’ve had many people/friends comment about my marriage to my husband, saying how we’re so strong and committed and they want a relationship like us. I do appreciate the compliments, but let me just say that it is in NO WAY easy, whatsoever. Just because people see us as this strong, loving couple, that doesn’t mean that we don’t deal with our own issues. We have overcome them, yes, but you both have to have the WANT to make it work.
Working through the issues
My husband literally just asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was writing an article about marriage and MS, and how some people’s significant others leave them because of it. His response (edited for language): “If I can get married when I’m 20, and I’m now 31 and can make it work through everything we’ve been through, then they are just sissies.” Now, he didn’t use the word sissies, but you get the idea.
Coming from someone who got married young, had kids young, a lot of people are surprised that my husband and I will be celebrating 11 years of marriage this December. But why is that so shocking? You have to both want to make it work. I’m not saying it’s all sunshine and roses having MS and dealing with that as a couple, but you have to work through the bad.
We didn't ask for MS
The person in the relationship living with MS didn’t ask for that. They didn’t plan on that to happen. We are already punished enough by our own bodies from the disease; we don’t need and really, at times, can’t handle the disease leading to the end of a relationship.
I pushed my husband away after my diagnosis
So, if you’re reading this and you are in a relationship with someone who has MS, please be patient, especially if they are newly diagnosed. Because when I was first diagnosed, I ended up pushing my husband away because I didn’t want him to have to deal with my MS, too. We’re not trying to be mean or hurtful, but for me, I was trying to give him the opportunity to not have to deal with my diagnosis. He didn’t know why I was pushing him away at first, but he finally confronted me about it, and we had a talk about it. I also spoke to others living with MS about it as well.
When to tell a new partner about MS
The bottom line is, if you’re going to be in a relationship with someone with MS, you have to realize what you’re getting into and what all it means. So, if you’re just starting to date someone, when is the right time to tell him or her you have MS? That’s a hard one, and I think it varies from person to person and situation to situation. If I was still dating, I don’t think it would be something that I would come out and say right off the bat. That’s not because I’m embarrassed about my disease, or that I’m trying to lie about it. I just think that I would wait past the first date for one. I mean, the date could be horrible and you could just not be compatible, so why even bring up the topic and try and explain it in the first place?
I don’t think that there is a timeline in which you should have to tell someone you’re dating that you have MS. I think it should be brought up when the time calls for it, or you feel that it’s the right time to mention in. Don’t let your MS define you as a person completely. You are still YOU, you’re just Mighty Strong as well.
Intimate relationships with MS
Now, to touch base on intimacy and MS. I will also admit that this has caused issues in my marriage. Now, I’m not trying to cast a bad light on my husband or our marriage, I’m just telling you the flat out truth. I’m not saying it caused a HUGE argument, but after my diagnosis and certain symptoms I deal with, it did cause issues. I tried to brush it off, and just try and work through it, but then I realized that sexual dysfunction is an actual symptom of MS. However, that wasn’t the issue… (TMI, sorry!)
Fatigue and intimacy
The issue was mainly my fatigue. That sounds so cliché, but it seemed that every time I lay in bed, once my head hit the pillow, I was out for the count, snoring and all. There was also the issue of pain/numbness/spasms, which caused issues as well. At first, I was embarrassed and didn’t know how to really talk to my husband about it, but eventually, we had a sit down chat about it, so that he could really understand where I was coming from, and that it wasn’t me trying to be distant on purpose.
Every relationship is different
I think when it comes to marriage/relationships and MS, it all varies between relationships. What I’ve been through, and how we’ve overcome it, doesn’t necessarily mean that it would work for others. I guess my best advice would be to communicate. Maybe even write it down, so that you don’t forget what you wanted to say.
Just know that you aren’t alone in any of your struggles, especially in regards to marriage/relationships and MS.
Does anyone else in your family have MS?