Since my diagnosis two years ago I’ve experienced basically every type of dating you can think of; from situationships, to painful break-ups, to a long term and healthy relationship. I’ve found that since I was diagnosed my MS underpinned a lot of how I approached dating, and I feel like I’ve learned quite a lot along the way.
It doesn’t need to be a big deal (unless you want it to be)
I spent a painfully long time thinking and worrying about how to tell people about my MS, especially because I ended up breaking up with the person I was with at the time of my diagnosis because of it. I built it up to be this huge make-or-break thing in my head, and I worried constantly when I met someone new about when we would have ‘the talk’ and how it would go.
Along the way - probably as I started to accept my diagnosis more - I started to adopt a much more casual attitude to this conversation. Instead of feeling like it was this big elephant in the room, I would just let it come up naturally in conversation, whether I was telling an anecdote or talking about my life in general. I think this took a lot of the fear away, and helped me to feel like it was just one part of my life. I’m definitely not saying one approach is better than the other - this is just what worked for me.
Disabled does not equal unattractive
I think sometimes we can feel reduced to a diagnosis, and feel like we aren’t a full person outside of that. We’re constantly being poked and prodded by doctors and nurses, and we can have symptoms that maybe don’t make us feel like the sexiest person alive. The two aren’t mutually exclusive though - your diagnosis and symptoms don’t automatically mean you stop being an attractive human! Taking time to appreciate yourself and your worth outside of your diagnosis can help you feel so much more confident, and having MS (or any other disability) doesn’t automatically stop other people being attracted to you. In my current relationship I feel the most attractive I ever have, and that didn’t come about until around 2 years post-diagnosis.
Additional needs are not a burden
It’s an incredibly ableist, but unfortunately very common thought pattern that any additional or different needs are a burden. This is emphatically not true - you are well within your rights to have additional needs, and for them to be respected and taken seriously. If somebody suggested to me that our first date should be hiking, I would say no as that would just be uncomfortable and painful for me and I wouldn’t enjoy myself at all. This doesn’t make me annoying or hard to please, it just means I’m prioritising my health and not putting myself in pain for someone else. I think there’s a very common thing with people with MS where we will go out of our way or put ourselves in the line of discomfort to make other people happy, which is something we should never feel like we have to do.
Weeding out the wrong people will always be worth it
I think one of the biggest fears we face when discussing our disability within our dating life is ‘what if it scares them off?’. This is a valid fear, but the way I see it is that if having a disability is enough to stop someone dating you, then that person isn’t somebody that you want in your life anyway. You want to surround yourself with people who love and support you, and someone who will run at the slightest mention of a disability is not somebody who will be there for you in any other aspect. It’s alright to give yourself space to be sad for what could have been, but know that they aren’t worth your time anyway.
26, UK, RRMS, dx 2021, Mavenclad