I wanted to put a few thoughts down, given what I have read on the other thread about a poor guy breaking up with his girlfriend, over MS and the very strong opinions being expressed by others. I'm not wanting to venture into anyone else's relationship but to just give my own views on the matter of being in a relationship when at least one party has MS. What I have to say is based on my own experiences.
Background - I'm in my 50's and have been married for nearly 26 years. I was first diagnosed with MS 25 years ago, ie 9 months into our marraige when my wife was 6 months pregnant with our first child. At the time my wife was understandably, absolutely distraught about the future. However, after a while things settled down and life moved on. For 15 years you would not have known that there was anything wrong with me. Life and our marraige was good. We have 3 wonderful children. However, for the past 10 years, my MS has got slowly and progressively worse, during which time I have gone, on an EDSS scale from about a 2 to 6.5. For the whole of our married life I have worked full-time, supporting my family as the sole bread-winner.
As I say, our relationship was excellent for many years but as MS has progressed, things have become more problematic. Initially there were just heated arguments or occasionally things being thrown around the house. A couple of years ago, I had a cup of hot tea thrown over me and I had to be taken to hospital by ambulance. More lately, things have settled down - but there are usually snide comments such as 'You have ruined my life', 'You're not a proper husband', 'No one else would want you' etc etc or maybe a roll of the eyes or some huffing as I am struggling to perform a relatively basic task such as getting my handkerchief out of my pocket or holding my knife and fork properly in humid weather. Mostly I have learned to live with all this. Maybe my wife is simply keeping her options open that I'll either fade away into the sunset or I'll make a miraculous recovery given all the wonderful things I am hearing about on ThisIsMS. Fudamentally though, I suppose my wife like me is just treading water, not knowing what to do.
Whilst deep down I am confident that my wife and I love each other, clearly we would prefer things to be very different. It is human nature. You only have one life and you need to make the most of it. I would wish no ill on any partner of an MSer and can completely understand anyone walking away from a partner with MS. When you boil it all down and peel away the layers of gloss and rhetoric, we are all fundamentally self-centred. If you disagree, then maybe you might ask yourself as to why there are so many starving kids in Africa.
Where my marraige is going is anyone's guess. Who knows? But thinking about being married is a bit like being alive. Just because you are alive today, doesn't mean you will live forever. My wife and I were both very confident of our relationship many years ago, however things change and I am not confident about the future. I'm therefore a little bemused when I read of others expressing a view that they will be together forever after one partner has had MS for 6 months or a year or 2 years. Confidence is fine but MS hangs around for a long time.
Anyway, the subject here is 'what I'd do differently' and although a little tongue-in-cheek, maybe my thoughts might interest others.
1. Firstly, I would not get married or involved in any deep and permanent relationship until I was confident that my MS was well and truly in check. Bromley and Dignan have assured us that MS will be history in 4.5 years, so that might give anyone thinking marraige, a target date to work with.
2. I would give my MS complete and absolute attention - Priority No. 1.
3. I would strive to become financially self-sufficient ASAP, in order to meet the challenges of the years ahead. This also means no dependants (wife, kids, dogs etc), no school fees, draining household expenditures etc.
4. I would travel the world and see all I wanted to see.
5. I would do whatever I wanted to do in terms of study, career, recreational pursuits etc ASAP.
Maybe MS should be considered like being in prison for a while. And when you 'get out' you can then whoop it up and have a family, kids etc. Also, we should not tell any partner/lover etc of our MS unless we really have to. In the interim, if you have to address your sexual urges, maybe we should not get too involved. If you get really desperate, there is always Thailand or you might even get lucky and do a Ralph Fiennes.
I could go on and on. Clearly I am being light-hearted in some of my comments (North Americans to note). And I'll probably get flack. But I think you can see what I am trying to say - that I believe when you have MS, then you need to make a Special Plan for Your Life
- something which others don't necessarily need to do.