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We all know that love and relationships can be hard, but what about when you add multiple sclerosis (MS) to the mix? Well, with an effective MS treatment plan, and some additional tips, tricks and the right support, people living with MS can still enjoy their lives and love in all its wonderful forms. That’s why, with the help of our LLY bloggers, we’re diving deep into the topic of love and relationships with MS.
An MS love story? Pursuing romantic relationships with multiple sclerosis
So, after the challenges of receiving a multiple sclerosis diagnosis and finding the right treatment, you hopefully feel confident and in a space to pursue new relationships. For LLY blogger Karen it was through online dating that she took a plunge into romantic love and she has some great tips for navigating the dating world with MS. These include:
When that special connection (or even a relationship) starts to blossom, one might wonder when is the right time to share with a partner that they are dating someone with MS? This one’s simple; there is no right time! Sharing medical details is a deeply personal decision and should come at a time that feels comfortable and authentic to you. Although Karen originally decided not to share her MS diagnosis when dating, she discovered over time that being upfront took away any awkwardness she felt later. When the time feels right, you may find this article helpful to navigate this conversation with a special person about your diagnosis.
And while effective MS treatments mean it’s possible to live a full life, it’s still important to be prepared for those especially awkward times when symptoms might interrupt – yes, we’re talking about sex! Exploring sex and sclerosis in a consensual and curious manner is key to feeling fulfilled and learning more about how you want to experience safe sex in your relationship. Remember to consult your doctor for advice on contraception and how they may impact MS to support you in pursuing your needs and desires.
Pregnancy and starting a family with multiple sclerosis
Starting a family can be an exciting part of any love story, including an MS love story. But fertility and getting pregnant with multiple sclerosis may feel uncertain, especially if you’re dreaming of starting a family. However, with the guidance of a specialist and the right MS treatment plan, people living with MS can embark on the journey of parenthood with confidence and hope for the future. If you’re feeling ready to explore this path, Dr Sandberg-Wollheim is on hand to answer all your MS pregnancy-related questions here and here.
When the time came for Karen and her partner to consider whether they wanted a child together, they made sure to have open and honest conversations about biological clocks, MS treatment, genetic risk of MS in families (they discovered that their increased risk is very small), caring for a baby while managing MS symptoms and more. While Karen and her partner ultimately decided not to proceed, they recommend that everyone makes a decision that feels right for them and to stay in contact with their MS team throughout any decision-making process, including pregnancy, birth and beyond.
Building and fostering relationships with family & friends
With or without multiple sclerosis, relationships with your family and friends can be just as important (if not more so!) than with a romantic partner. It is likely that multiple sclerosis will have an impact on these relationships, but with a safe, effective and tolerable treatment plan in place, people with MS can continue to connect and build meaningful relationships.
Gaby, another of our LLY bloggers, wondered why her friends didn’t ask her about MS, worrying that they didn’t care. It was only in confiding with a close friend that Gaby realized her friends simply didn’t know how or what to ask. She now takes on some of the responsibility to bridge this gap by speaking openly about her symptoms and has also found comfort in making new friends within the MS community who have a shared experience and can provide a different kind of support. Similarly, Karen found her trust in her friends dented after a “don’t play the MS card” experience but is learning once again to be more open to building friendships. She offers these helpful questions as starters to help the MS conversation flow and how to explain MS to family and friends.
And what about work colleagues? It’s entirely up to you if you want to share your diagnosis or not –but sharing may help your team find reasonable adjustments to make work more manageable. Check out this advice for telling your boss about MS.
Loving yourself through highs and lows: Self-love and multiple sclerosis
And finally, to the most important relationship of all – with yourself. A diagnosis of MS is overwhelming and life-changing but can be a chance for growth and resilience. The way you feel about yourself and your body can be affected – and sometimes, self-love may seem unthinkable with multiple sclerosis. However, with the right support and a flexible treatment, you can regain confidence and enjoy more freedom now and in the future.
Recognizing that it is normal to feel low, angry, and frustrated at points while living with multiple sclerosis is important and our LLY bloggers have plenty of advice to share. Birgit acknowledges that it’s not always easy to hear “stay positive” from others, but that learning to see the bright side and celebrating small wins can be incredibly valuable. She’s also found meditation to be a great support tool to prepare for the day. For Willeke, putting things into perspective gives her the ability to look at what’s happening in her body and find the silver lining. Journaling, creating a bucket list and digitally unplugging for periods of time have all helped her to keep the glass half full.
Sadly, up to half of people with MS can experience depression at some point, including LLY blogger Jamie who shares her experience here. It’s incredibly important to recognize when you are feeling down and to reach out for help – whether it’s from a loved one, your MS community, or a healthcare professional.
Let love blossom – take back control of your life with MS!
While we can’t help you to find love and friendship, we hope that the advice from our LLY bloggers can help you navigate love and develop strong and healthy relationships, in all its varied forms, while living with MS. Try the Your MS Questionnaire to help better understand and manage your MS symptoms so that you can live and love to the fullest.
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