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Relationship Tips for People with MS

By Matt Cavallo
From cards to chocolate to flowers and jewelry, we exchange gifts as a way to profess our love. We are taught this in elementary school and the tradition grows and changes as we get older and our adult relationships evolve. What happens if in the evolution of a relationship, you or your partner is diagnosed with a devastating disease like multiple sclerosis?

All of a sudden the conversations change, the relationship evolves in a different direction, and often times, holidays such as this past Valentine’s Day can take on a new meaning. When a relationship changes because of MS, a holiday such as Valentine’s Day becomes a perfect opportunity to check in with your partner about how the disease process is affecting your relationship. Here are three tips that will improve, rekindle or help the start the conversation to strengthen your relationships with MS.

Learning opportunity – Your partner wants to know more about your condition. Some symptoms can be invisible and hard for another to understand, even if they are the closest person in the world to you. Take this opportunity to tell your partner how you are feeling. Ask them if they have any questions or noticed any thing that they want to talk about. It may seem difficult to talk about, but the easiest way to make an invisible illness visible is to communicate the things your partner may not see. If you open up and share these feelings, you both will be glad you did.

Overcoming intimacy issues – Intimacy is not just a physical action. Fatigue, the way you feel about yourself and your illness, and yes, physical limitations can all affect your intimate relationships. Often times your partner will silently worry whether or not they have some ownership in the change of intimacy within the relationship. It is only natural to blame yourself when things change. Intimacy issues are also the most difficult issues to discuss with your partner. However, if you are able to talk with your partner about your intimacy issues you will feel a weight lifted off of both of your shoulders.

A thoughtful gift – We all love to give them and we love to receive them. However, when the relationship changes because of MS, a thoughtful gift may be the opening you need to start the conversation about symptoms or intimacy. Maybe you both went on a memorable trip or concert and have some really great pictures together. Put together a thoughtful album, scrap book or decorative coffee mug. When they open that gift, the door opens to talk about the relationship. Sometimes hard conversations need a kick-starter. A thoughtful gift could make all the difference in starting that conversation that has been so tough, for so long.

A thoughtful gift may open the door to a conversation about invisible, tough to understand symptoms or delicate subjects like intimacy issues. While these conversations many times go unspoken, once you’ve had them you’ll be glad you did. And your partner will too.