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Laughing man in brown shirt and woman in brown dress, knelt hugging child.

Relationships can be, and almost always are, complicated. Now, when you also have a chronic and unpredictable condition like Multiple Sclerosis (MS), complicated doesn’t come close to describing it.

Relationships take time to build and nurture, and are often ever-changing, but while taking care of a relationship is not always easy, the result is usually worth the effort. By and large, we are social creatures and forming relationships is a natural necessity. The poet John Donne got it right when he said, “no man is an island”.

My wife and I, you and your significant other – these are particularly important relationships and should not be taken for granted. I was diagnosed with MS nine years after Jean and I got married and it totally changed the dynamic of our relationship, though the change was not immediate - it was a slow burner. Life was not over, but it was different, very different.

My fears for the future were central – would I be a good dad to my two little girls? Would I be able to contribute financially to our household? Would I be able to do my fair share of household chores? Those who know me now would not recognize the man I was back then, and, without Jean, I would still be that man. My ‘outside of home’ life continued as normal, or at least ‘MS normal’. I was never a negative person, but, in the early days, negativity would hit me when I least expected it, and last for varying lengths of time. However, I was lucky that it never dragged me down and Jean stayed by my side throughout. She carried our family when I couldn’t. She saw through my mask, knew what I was hiding and never flinched. She was, and still is, my rock.

Siblings can be an integral part of your life, if you let them. I am proud to say that my siblings and I are close, even though some of us are separated by thousands of kilometers, whilst others are less than 10 Km away. Though I didn’t intentionally exclude them, they didn’t know a lot about my MS life until I started writing about it. I find it easier to write than talk about.

My two daughters were aware from early on that something was different. Not right, not wrong, but different. Because of my MS, they have grown and matured into two wonderful caring, compassionate adults who I, and anybody who knows them, can rely on in time of need. My grandson has never known me any other way and accepts my limitations. He is a major source of my joy and pride, and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

After over 40 years of marriage, Jean and I are living comfortably together. In all those years, she has never made me feel a lesser man because of my MS. As we grow older together and demands for our time change, we find ourselves alone together more frequently and for longer. We are comfortable in each other’s silence; we are comfortable watching many of the same TV programs. Jean is comfortable driving a bit more and I am comfortable driving a bit less. We no longer have two little girls running about the house, so less cleaning. We do have our one grandson so maybe a bit of cleaning and tidying from time to time. I still sit and watch but no longer feel guilty about not doing what was once my share of the chores. We now pay a man to keep our garden neat and tidy, one less job to worry about.

I cannot overstate the value of good family relationships; my relationships have helped me be the best I could be, and maybe even given me the reality check I needed, in times when I thought I was more able than I really was.

Relationships, both personal and professional, are an important part of your MS journey. Like family relationships, maintaining strong friendships can also be a worthwhile effort. Read more about MS and friendships here

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