When you’re in a long-term, committed relationship and dealing with Multiple Sclerosis, it can be hard to navigate the ups and downs of life as a couple. When one or both people in a couple have multiple sclerosis (MS), it can present even more challenges. But with the right balance of support and understanding between partners, couples who live with MS can enjoy rewarding relationships for years to come.

I wish there was a more powerful way to inspire people to get active and enjoy physical activity at every level, and we can’t forget life with MS — it can be as scary as it is exciting.

Heather Peterson, certified personal trainer and MSN spokesperson for MS Daughter.

That thrill is what motivated Lindsey Schlichter to start her MS Daughter Facebook page in 2016. It didn’t take long for her to notice she had a community of fellow sufferers who were, dealing with Multiple Sclerosis, in the thick of their health journey and cheering them on.

I remember days where I would get up in the morning, and I would laugh because it just feels like I’m in my own world. In the midst of that, I’d do some of the hard things for my husband who has MS, and I’d feel like failures at times because I couldn’t do the jobs I’d set out to do.

Schlichter

She made one thing clear in the comments section of a Facebook post about her struggles. Everyone had been there, and she wanted to be a better role model for her kids.

For Peterson, the inspiration started with her daughter’s enthusiasm for running, tennis and the violin.

It’s funny now to look at her,” she says, “but her love and excitement about doing something for the first time was contagious.

Heather Peterson

Dealing with Multiple Sclerosis

Once she joined a running group with other people dealing with Multiple Sclerosis, they all bonded and found a sense of fun, not to mention motivation, to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The running community is one of the only places where MS people are getting together and being active. If I can pass along one message that helps anyone thinking of starting a walking group or starting running with MS feel encouraged by these others, that is my mission and that is my joy.

Heather Peterson

The biggest difference for Peterson has been feeling welcomed as one of many people with a diagnosis, not just a diagnosis.

I prefer to be known as a couple with MS, rather than MS alone. It can feel much more comfortable in my body, and I actually love the amount of mobility I’m gaining. I love having my wanderlust back during the day.

Heather Peterson

And that’s what’s most important. Finding excitement in physical activity, regardless of how many joints you might have to move around.

Fitness isn’t just about doing your workout, losing weight or toning your arms. Fitness should be fun, something you look forward to doing and love doing.

Heather Peterson

Because MS is an autoimmune disorder, neither partner has control over the disease. In fact, the disease can take over their lives, making it much harder to live as a couple. This may be what gives many couples problems in their relationships, because MS can greatly impact relationships, financially, emotionally and physically.

Here are a few reasons couples who are dealing with Multiple Sclerosis may find it hard to be in a healthy long-term relationship.

Dealing with Multiple Sclerrosis
Relationships and MS
Source: MS Trust

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Colleen and Dennis lived together in a long-term, committed relationship for nearly 20 years. But after nearly three years of marriage, the couple fell into a deep emotional and financial hole.

“We ended up going through an ugly divorce,” says Dennis, who revealed the marriage had begun to crumble not because of finances, but because of a “days-in, days-out” mentality.

Based on a generalised theory of how people usually build long-term relationships, Dennis says it seemed likely his wife Colleen would blame him for everything, saying “all I ever did was work, work, work.”

I was basically living my whole life for her.

Dennis

Years later, he still struggles with the memory and the fallout. After a sleepless night, he tearfully recalls; “The night we got divorced, I remember thinking, ‘How do I get out of here?'”

Unable to focus on their future financially, Dennis and Colleen ended up filing for divorce. Although they later separated, they filed for separate personal protection orders against each other to limit the amount of time they could be together in cases of financial hardship.

We basically went through a divorce as a family for chapter and sentence.

Dennis

Colleen, who has MS, cannot work nor go to work. Without a steady income, she spent her days in the hospital, hovering on the cusp of financial instability. Her other medical bills put a strain on Dennis, and he grew increasingly exhausted from dealing with her care.

I don’t know how to do anything except my job, even if it’s racking my brain about how to fix our finances. That’s been our dynamic for 20 years.

DENNIS

Couples working Together

Because they did not discuss their financial stability or future finances with each other, they did not know there were “really good options” for their future financial futures.

Although financial issues were not the number one reason for the divorce, Dennis says that his finances played a role. He ended up paying a lot of thousands in alimony, and child support. Dealing with Multiple Sclerosis can be a messy business.

By contrast, Colleen made up for the financial setbacks with the sacrifices she made toward their children’s well-being.

Here’s what couples say about different aspects of living with MS.

1 Getting on track

I’ve found that my husband is the most understanding, accommodating and reliable person when it comes to trying to understand why something might have happened in the past and how he or I might have made it worse, as well as helping to ensure I’m doing a good job doing things around the house and taking care of our cat, Kristy.

Samantha L

2 Having Fun

My husband and I have always had a ton of fun together doing things together, golf outings, being on our boats (and normally winning!), biking on mountain bike trails, taking ice skating lessons, visiting local landmarks and walking around the neighborhood.

Ryan W

3 Getting a Growth Boost

My husband and I have great communication as to how and when we are doing household tasks. I’ve found that he really rocks during the day, and he can really keep me on track and have a hard time keeping up on tasks at times.

Amy W

4 Keeping your expectation honest

My husband is giver and cherisher. He always gives me my deserved time, and he encourages me to protect and cultivate the success of our household.

Deborah F

5 Tracking Progress

Being with him is almost a strength for me, because I can really see and watch how far and how fast I am making progress! Sometimes he is positive, and other times he is negative, but whenever he is positive and supportive, I know he is doing everything in his power to help me succeed.

Julia L

6 Finding the Sleep Track

I require both partners to stick to one specific bedtime and wake up at that time each and every day. It has proven to be extremely hard when one spouse is getting up an hour before the other. Being on the same page is hard, as we are both striving to live an active, healthy lifestyle. But they take two completely different paths to get there.

Laura P

7 Common Conflict

When we go out with friends, we have different social expectations for each of us. Though I can call my husband and say that “tomorrow is not a good time to see Robin.”. He and I still disagree. The same goes for playing at the park or playing with the kids. We both want to be involved in activities, but do not want to ruin the relationship for the other parties.

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