Dating has its challenges in the best of scenarios. When you have a disability, especially one that may not be visible, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), it may feel like the scales tip in favor of the challenges. Dating can and should be a fun and fulfilling experience. With the ten tips discussed in this article, you’ll be able to navigate dating with multiple sclerosis with greater ease and confidence.
About multiple sclerosis (MS)
MS is a chronic, autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS). Specifically, MS affects the fatty, insulating tissue around nerve cells called myelin. Damage to these myelin sheaths results in MS plaques (like scar tissue) developing and key electrical signals between the brain and body getting interrupted.
Depending on where in the CNS demyelination occurs, MS can have both physical and cognitive impacts on a person. In some instances, MS can lead to serious limitations and disabilities that drastically impair one’s day-to-day life — including their dating or love life.
10 dos and don’ts of dating with multiple sclerosis
If you are someone with multiple sclerosis, you should know a few dos and don’ts of dating to help you and your partner enrich the relationship.
5 dos of dating with multiple sclerosis
Here are some things you should do when it comes to MS and relationships or exploring dating with multiple sclerosis.
1. Do tell them – but only when you’re ready
The best time to tell a person you’re dating that you have MS is whenever you are ready and comfortable doing so.
That time is different for everyone, and it depends on several factors. Some people will want to tell someone they’re dating about their MS immediately. Some people may prefer not to disclose their MS to a new partner until the relationship is serious, if at all.
Women and men with MS can be successful parents of happy, healthy children. The disease process and treatments to manage MS may pose challenges for some people.
Whether you want or can have biological children may be important to you and the person you’re dating, so it can help to be prepared with the right information. Be sure to discuss conception, pregnancy, delivery, and breastfeeding with your MS treatment team to ensure the safest experience for both you and the baby.
3. Do learn about how MS may affect your family planning
One of the dos of MS and dating is to know that the disability does not mean you cannot have a family, even as it affects your family planning. MS should not get in the way of being successful parents of healthy children.
The question, “Is MS hereditary?” is often asked when considering having children if you or your partner have MS. While MS is not hereditary, there is a genetic component to the disease.
A person’s risk of developing MS is increased when you have a close family member with MS. This genetic component does not necessarily mean you can no longer have a biological child.
4. Do learn as much as you can about how multiple sclerosis affects you specifically
One of the dos of multiple sclerosis dating is to be well aware of the way MS affects you.
MS is a complex and unpredictable disease that affects everyone differently. You should learn as much about MS and how it impacts you specifically. Only then will you be able to explain it to your partner in the best way.
To learn more about multiple sclerosis, watch this video:
5. Do take into account the emotional impact MS can have on your dating life
Living with a chronic disease, dealing with the myriad symptoms of MS, and specifically, MS’s impacts on your personality can take an emotional toll.
Depression, anxiety, and irritability are very common in those living with MS. Its emotional impacts may also include loss of self-esteem, anger, grief, and stress. All of this can get in the way of a healthy relationship and sex life. Counseling or therapy — for both you and your partner — can help address both physiological and psychological issues you’re going through.
Here are 5 don’ts of MS relationships or dating with multiple sclerosis that you should know about.
6. Don’t be alarmed if you experience changes in your libido
Many physical and emotional effects may contribute to a decrease in sexual desire.
Women may experience reduced sensation in the vaginal area and the clitoris. They may also experience heightened sensations that can be painful. Vaginal dryness is also another side effect of MS experience by women that can get in the way of their sex life.
Becoming intimate with someone when you or they have MS may be different than it used to be.
Throughout its disease course, MS may affect the nerve pathways that are responsible for sexual arousal and orgasm. Successful sex may take some trial and error. It’s okay if it just doesn’t work out sometimes. Work with your partner and make adjustments.
9. Don’t become despondent if you encounter sexual challenges
MS can affect your ability to have sexual intercourse or experience the same sensations you once did.
The most common sexual issue reported by men with MS is erectile dysfunction or trouble achieving or maintaining an erection. Additionally, men may experience reduced penile sensitivity and challenges in achieving ejaculation.
10. Don’t forget to maintain balance in your relationship
When one person in a couple has MS, the other person lives with MS too. It’s essential to make sure that both people in the relationship give and receive in their partnership. This balance can be especially difficult to strike when one person is a caregiver. But again, it’s critical to find ways for both people to give and receive in the relationship.
If you have MS or are dating someone with MS, there is absolutely no reason why you cannot have a fulfilling, loving relationship. You may have some bad days between the good days. Dating may require some adaptations and some patience but MS doesn’t have to end your romantic life.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Nyaka Mwanza is a freelance writer for MyHealthTeams. She completed a B.A. in Communications: Visual Media from American University and undertook post-baccalaureate studies in Health/Behavioral Communications and Marketing at Johns Hopkins University. Nyaka is a Zambian-born, E.U. citizen who was raised in sub-Saharan Africa and Jacksonville, N.C. However, she has called Washington, D.C., home for most of her life. For much of her career, Nyaka has worked with large global health nonprofits focused on improving health outcomes for women and children. Nyaka believes words hold immense power, and her job is to meet the reader where they are, when they’re there.