Multiple sclerosis is an obnoxious intruder that can invade a relationship and erode a couple’s sense of togetherness faster than you can see it coming. MS is unpredictable, from symptoms that fluctuate on a daily basis to fears of the unknown when looking toward the future.
MS often pushes the limits of our sense of normalcy while placing extra demands upon a marriage, partnership, or friendship. Dealing with the effects of MS may require a multitude of adjustments as each person, and couples together, begin to create a ‘new normal.’
While MS can come between two individuals within a relationship, it can also bring partners together. It’s important to remember, however, that MS doesn’t need to become the focus of the relationship. Here are four simple ways to strengthen the relationship and keep MS in its place.
1. Maintain Focus
Life changes dramatically, through no fault of your own, when MS blindsides you. While you are faced with the physical insult caused by MS, you and your partner both face the emotional and financial impact of the disease. It will take time to adjust to an ever evolving life as circumstances change, but in the meantime it’s important to remember who you are as a person. Don’t let MS become the focus of the relationship. Also, know that it’s okay to resent MS, an insidious thief of independence of all sorts, but try not to resent the person diagnosed with MS.
2. Open Communication
Unless you are telepathic, remember that neither of you are mind readers. Share your deepest thoughts and feelings and avoid the temptation to shield your loved one from your concerns and fears; that goes for both partners. Bring things out into the open and work together as a team to find solutions, or simply to share empathy and support.
If you are experiencing symptoms such as depression, tell your partner, otherwise he/she may miss the signs. If you need extra assistance... ask. If you are entrenched in caregiving duties, don’t forget to engage with your partner in other subjects and activities. Most importantly, communicate clearly with your partner to reduce the feelings of isolation each of you may experience from time to time.
3. Show Appreciation
Don't fall into the trap of taking each other for granted. Just because your partner always does the grocery shopping, mows the yard, or does the laundry doesn't mean that you shouldn't tell him/her how much you appreciate it on occasion. When your spouse/partner living with MS exerts extra effort to keep things going at home, take time to notice and let her/him know how much it means to you. A heartfelt “thank you” goes a long way to solidify a relationship.
4. Keep the Romance
Without romance, which is very good for the soul, you might as well just be roommates. Grand gestures or elaborate plans are not necessary; romance can be found in the smallest acts. Hugs and kisses when least expected, a stroke of the hair, a whispered, “I love you.” Cuddle up on the sofa together, light some candles, play soft music... you know where to go from there.
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