How to Nurture Relationships When You Have MS
When you have multiple sclerosis (MS), the disease affects those around you as well. It’s no wonder that MS can impact your relationships.
But that doesn’t mean they have to suffer. The following tips can help you not only maintain your close relationships, but potentially make them stronger.
Good communication is essential in any relationship. That may be especially true when one partner has MS. If you’re in a committed relationship, it’s vital for you both to be honest and willing to talk about your feelings—good or bad. Make a pact to talk openly. Hiding feelings or concerns can only make them more difficult to deal with later on.
Let Go of Worries
It’s common for someone with MS to fear being abandoned by their partner after diagnosis. Try not to let worries get in the way of a happy relationship. In fact, research shows that the divorce rate doesn’t seem to be any higher among people with MS. Discuss your concerns with your partner, and talk about ways you can strengthen your relationship. Being together is important—but being happy together is the goal.
Balance the Relationship
Healthy relationships should include give and take from both partners. This is true for any couple. But when one person has MS, relationship roles and responsibilities may need to shift—at least for a little while. For example, if you’re having trouble cooking or doing the grocery shopping, offer to fold laundry or pay bills instead. Tackling MS as a team can prevent the relationship from feeling one-sided.
MS can affect a couple’s sexual relationship in many ways. Financial pressures and changing roles may add stress and squelch romantic feelings. The disease itself can make you feel less than interested. Whatever the reason, don’t let intimacy slip from your relationship. Once again, open communications are essential. Whenever possible, discuss your needs and desires with one another, and recognize that intimacy can include more than intercourse. Holding hands, planting an unexpected kiss, or leaving a loving note can go a long way toward maintaining or even growing intimacy.
Don’t Be Too Serious
It’s easy to get caught up in the seriousness of the disease—especially if you are experiencing difficulties. But give yourself a break from discussing symptoms and doctor appointments to have fun with your partner. Focus on activities that make you both laugh or bring you joy. Rent a funny movie, play cards with friends, or take a drive on a beautiful day. Enjoying time together is an important part of a relationship. Your serious discussions can wait.
Care for the Caregiver
Many people who act as caregiver for their loved one report that the role is deeply satisfying. But make sure that the caregiver’s needs are taken care of as well. Over time, caregiving can lead to other health problems like high blood pressure, physical injury, depression, and emotional burnout. Encourage your partner to rest, exercise, and relax. It will keep him or her healthy as well as physically and emotionally able to be there for you.
See Your Partner as an Individual
Your partner may be your confidant and caregiver, but recognize that he or she needs to live life, too. Allow him or her to spend time with friends and pursue individual interests. It can strain a relationship if one person feels held back. In the same way, find your own passions or meaningful activities. Discussing outside interests can make time spent with your loved one that much richer.
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- Rediscovering Intimacy. Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. http://mymsaa.org/publications/motivator/fall04/rediscovering-intimacy/
- Can Your Relationship Survive MS? Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. http://www.msfocus.org/article-details.aspx?articleID=487
- Dealing with MS in Your Important Relationships. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/living-with-multiple-sclerosis/relationships/index.aspx
- Intimacy. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/living-with-multiple-sclerosis/relationships/intimacy/index.aspx