Looking for a Relationship

You are single, divorced, whatever and you are looking. You meet a man or woman. You are interested. And you are sick, with MS or a hundred other illnesses. That news can advance rather quickly to the front of your mind. Your condition may be old news to you, but that sinking feeling in your belly says you are sitting on a social bombshell. Probably you expect the worst.
You probably never thought of kissing your employer. This might be different. Matters of the heart can squeeze out most everything else. So what do you say, and when do you reveal the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I am sure there are different schools of thought on those questions. Ann Landers is not with us anymore. For now, I will have to do. But please do not take this to the bank. I am an armature.
You might want to wait until you believe the relationship; is getting serious. That moment can be slow in coming or strike like lightning. I had been burned before, so I told Meredith on our second date. I was boxed in a bit because my failing eyesight raised questions right away. Like, what is that thing against the wall over there? โ€œA piano.โ€ We were at dinner at a new restaurant for us. I figured if she was going to sprint to the fire exit, I might as well know now. If nothing else, it would save the cost of dessert. Meredith did not move and wanted to know more. I took that as a positive sign.
These moments are tough for both parties. For one who is sick, the emotional stakes are high. We might already be doing battle with our sense of self-esteem. Social insecurity hits the healthy, so imagine what it can mean for us. We feel awkward and probably defensive, which puts us behind the starting line. I never got used to that. I feel bad for those who avoid these situations altogether. They are missing out on an important piece of their lives.
Letโ€™s be fair. The other person is in a tough spot. Not everyone is cut out for taking on a life of serious sickness. There is no crime to saying, I canโ€™t handle this. You are terrific, but a life with you might not be. I want children, and I cannot inflict this on them. I can argue that children are adaptable, and bringing kids into a home with chronic illness will make them better people.
There will be no day in court here. Only two adults hopefully speaking the truth. There really is no right or wrong. This should be a good faith effort to communicate openly and stay on high ground. There should be an understanding and no scars. There are a lot of available people out there. I hope all of us never give up.

42 Responses to Looking for a Relationship

  1. Grandma August 4, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    The only times personal health issues need to be shared on the first date are when someone has shared their medical history with you or when you are directly asked.Other than that, a second date is a perfectly appropriate time to reveal. No emotional attachments have been made by then.

    • Richard M. Cohen August 4, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

      agreed.
      R.

  2. Linda Lazarus August 4, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

    Hello,
    Since I first read this latest post I have gone off for several hours and have been crawling my farm hand digging hundreds of fingerling potatoes. I did not answer then but came back to listen to what others had to say. Hmmm. Not much yet.

    While I was crawling and digging, I was feeling really happy that I do not think I will ever have to deal with these questions. Married for 46 years we just dealt with what came along in the 22nd year. All I really know is that it seems to work best when things are stated clearly and then put into perspective.

    No matter how it all turned out, I bet you are the most interesting guy Meredith has met. Nothing can top that.

    • Richard M. Cohen August 4, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

      Shewill think ofsomething.

      R.

  3. Anonymous August 4, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    Remember: Without you the world doesn’t exist. So how do you want to live in that world. You create it, not others. They are just incidental actors in your weird little play.

  4. Dave B August 4, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    I have been fortunate to be married to my beautiful wife for almost 32 years. When I came down with MS 10 years ago, she has continued to be by my side, helping me every step of the way.

    I will say that if anything ever happened to her, I would be lost.

    • Richard August 7, 2014 at 9:19 am #

      Dave-

      You sare a lucky man.

      R.

  5. Grandma August 4, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    My husband and I have been married 44 years. I was diagnosed 19 years ago. He said he will stay married to me as long as I can still do his laundry and cook. He’s a keeper! Luckily we share the same sense of humor

  6. Joan August 4, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

    I’m among the happily married, 25 years, to a good man. The discussion I’m missing here is about the toll disability takes on devoted caregivers. I don’t worry that he’ll leave me, I wonder if not leaving is going to kill him. Disability is just hard on everybody.

    • Richard August 7, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

      I am rteyng to rase the question about how p eop le rs po nd when the kn oe sbout ilness.

  7. MB August 4, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    32 years of marriage for me, too. I was diagnosed nine years ago but only started showing signs of disability four years ago. My husband is a wonderful man who stands behind the “sickness and in health” clause in our marriage.

    What I’m curious about though, is if he were given the “if I knew then what I know now” option, how would he respond? Sometimes that thought keeps me up at night.

    • Richard August 7, 2014 at 9:20 am #

      Dave-

      You sare a lucky man.

      R.

    • Richard August 7, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

      Ask.

  8. Anonymous August 4, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

    My post doesn’t sound right. I apologize. I meant it to convey that life itself is a weird little play, and other people move in and out of it ceaselessly. People do what they choose until they change their minds and do something else. We have no control over that.

  9. Jenny August 4, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

    Divorced in 1999, diagnosed in 2000, married the love of my life in 2004. My husband knew what he was getting into. Unconditional love is amazing! He is my husband…I refuse to call him my caregiver.

    • Richard August 7, 2014 at 9:21 am #

      Lucky you.

      R.

  10. Yvonne August 4, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

    Well, I guess I’ll weigh in for the single MSer’s. Just like I said about employers, don’t disclose until necessary. I was in a long term relationship in which I didn’t tell him anything. I had no visible signs so it was easy. Once the relationship began to get serious I had the talk. But what do you say when you are casually dating? Nothing. If there are no outward signs of a disability have a good time without having the disease as a topic of conversation. Fear of the unknown makes people skittish. Now that I am no longer in that long term relationship and am now on a cane or walker dating isn’t what it use to be. I usually meet people while I’m seated so they have no idea until I have to get up. They usually ask what happened and I lie and say I had knee surgery or something. Easier than explaining MS. Less skittish inducing for both of us. I have lots of good seated conversations but actually haven’t been on a date in 2 yrs. I don’t know who is more skittish, me or them. Whole new world being single with visible disability. Yeah, yeah, yeah we’re all valuable and have worth, blah,blah,blah someone for everyone. It’s tough dating when you know that but all people see is a cane. Hope springs eternal so we keep it moving.

    • Richard August 7, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

      Amen.

      R.

  11. Grandma August 4, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

    You said that all people see is the cane. Well, Is that all you see? Do something crazy so you see something different in yourself. Dye your hair,wear some bright lipstick and a sexy red top! Fake it till you make it! Remember that people want to be around people that make them feel good about themselves. Don’t think about the cane,think about what to say or do to make the other person feel good about themselves. Show them the things you do well. If you cook, ask them over for a meal. Try to focus on your abilities. Tonight write down 10 things that any person would be happy to have you share with them. I’ll bet there are alot more!

    • Yvonne August 5, 2014 at 9:28 am #

      I have no problem with my interpretations of me and no need for repetitive affirmations because I am aware of what I bring to any relationship professional,personal and casual. Let’s not overlook the reality of dating with disabilities. It is harder because the cane or walker or facial ticks is a visual of what many people fear. All the flowery affirmations doesn’t change the realities of the world. Facing that doesn’t mean you aren’t worthy or you have self esteem issues. It means you recognize the obstacles as a single person with a disability. I think that’s the discussion that may be different than what I’ve read on this particular thread. Recognizing and verbalizing the challenge should not be interpreted as giving up. Just adding another perspective in response to Richard’s insightful query about dating with MS.

    • Richard August 7, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

      You str thinking it through and have a strategy. Half the battle.

      R.

  12. Mark August 5, 2014 at 6:19 am #

    Interesting angle on disclosure. I was married with children for twelve years when I was diagnosed. So I have no certain knowledge on the topic. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to respond. Telling the truth always worked for me. Although, saying nothing is not necessarily a bad thing. Waiting until the second or third date seems like a reasonable choice. The couple should know if there is a chemistry building up but no real emotional investment has been made.

    • Richard August 7, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

      I stil think, do it early and get it over. Who wants to invest in a relationship that goes south?

      R.

  13. Bill Garcia August 5, 2014 at 8:44 am #

    I have been married for almost 31 years to a beautiful and wonderful wife. I suspected I had MS for about a year before I told her and my sons of the problems I was having. Their natural response was no you don’t. Well ten year and five neurologists later the diagnosis came. Since then the three of them have been by my side like my shadow. But my wife is naturally the closest. She will scold me like a child if I over do it. She keeps a constant eye on me. With her I feel safe. I can’t say it hasn’t put a strain on our relationship at times because it has. But I think that’s only natural.
    I know she and my sons will always be there but she is the that ALWAYS has my back.

    • Richard August 7, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

      Suppose yiyr diagnosis had preceded children? Assume it would be the same, but you will never know.

      R.

  14. Theresa August 5, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

    I dated my (now) husband for 8 years, expecting that we would be married. Then he was diagnosed with ppms and he felt that he was not worthy of marriage. Admittedly, I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I convinced him to marry me. I have never regretted it, although it is hard to watch someone you love deteriorate. We are raising our kids to help out around the house more. The great thing about my husband is that he doesn’t let what other people think slow him down. If he wants to do yard work in the front yard, he does it. He might fall over and have to wait for someone to help him up, but he won’t let that stop him. His attitude helps us live life as a family.

    If I was ever single again and looking for someone to date (God forbid), I am quite sure that I would only be interested in a man who has gone through something very difficult in his life. I don’t think that I could tolerate someone who does not realize how lucky he is to have the life he has.

    For the single people with illness, don’t count yourselves out of the dating world. Your attitude will count for a lot.

    • Richard August 7, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

      I agree.

  15. Amy Corcoran-Hunt August 5, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

    The spouse has had juvenile diabetes since age 9. On the second date, I get the speech and a tour of an insulin pump: “you might as well know about this now.”

    Obviously I didn’t care.

    Fast forward, we get hitched, and 7 years later I go from 5’8″ and pretty darn good looking to sitting in a wheelchair, every bit of my 51 years apparent.

    Not easy. Where we’ll be in 10 years? Well, who knows that ever.

    I never had to make the disclosure decision myself. But the spouse had a real opinion way back when. If someone has running away in them, it’s good to know fast. Food for thought.

    • Richard August 7, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

      Agreed.

  16. Yvonne August 6, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    Appears as if I I am the only divorcee in here with all the happily married folks. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Sarah August 6, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

      No Yvonne, I’m right along with you. I agree with everything you’ve said. I’m divorced and would love to meet a good man who understands the situation and who genuinely cares. I’m also a single parent. These two realities aren’t very attractive to a guy who could get a healthy woman with no children or health issues. It’s just the way things are today. People see what they see, and feel sorry for us, but that’s about as far as it goes.

      Our situations are what they are, and we’re just being honest. Of course, if I would get engaged with the outside world, my chances might improve. But, for the most part, I try to avoid every social situation like the plague. I have a hard time breathing, especially in this heat. If any of you have seen Richard in any of the interviews he’s done, my breathing along with speech is labored like his. Then there’s the cane on really bad days, and wobbly/drunken-like slow walking without the cane on better days.

      You really lucked out with Meredith, Richard. Of course, it helps that you are a tall, good-looking man, and the stars all lined up and put Meredith in your path. Then again, after seeing you both on Dr. Oz, it seemed as though she already had her eyes on you at work ๐Ÿ™‚

      I wish you could start your own show. I look forward to seeing Meredith’s, but yours would, naturally, be of more interest to us MS’ers.

  17. henriette August 6, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    You married-to-someone-perfect-people are a tad of a bore. (kidding) It’s a whole different ball game out here in the trenches of dating that I entered after a long-term relationship with someone who ‘kinda’ understood. I have had guys totally freak out when I tell them, then the ones that you can just see it in their eyes. Maybe I should start a new dating site: single-lesionaires.com. Seriously, everyone with someone who understands MS should be grateful, grateful and grateful.

  18. Geof August 6, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    I am lucky enough to be married to a nurse. Nurses in general seem to have a different view point on disease, but maybe it is just my wife and her former coworkers. They seem to be so matter of fact oriented that fear of the future is often mocked.

    Still, I feel I have my winning lottery ticket in my wife. I said throughout dating, it doesn’t matter how many times I have been wrong while dating, I only have to be right one time. Early indications are looking good(10 years is I hope still “early” in our marriage).

    I am just trying to make sure I am not in the half of lottery winners who end up bankrupt. I note the stat which said MS patients are twice as likely to divorce as people without MS. Great. Like, the odds were soooo good before with every other marriage ending in divorce. Still, I got my winning ticket, and the risks to a good marriage are good problems to have because it means there is a good marriage to be at risk.

  19. Mike August 6, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    Another great blog, I mean look at these responses! I was going to reply and then I deleted it and decided to wait. The truth is I don’t think I would be good at dating even if I was perfectly healthy. I am far from that, I am married, how I couldn’t quite say. Luck I guess, same luck that gave me this disease just the other kind. I feel for you single people out there. Married life is great but like everything else its work. There are no free lunches in this life. A marriage takes two people working towards a common goal. Easier said than done when getting out of bed getting dressed and every other thing most people take for granted leaves you with nothing left in the tank. Try staying “connected” feeling like that. I’m not saying I am not very lucky to have a loving wife who knew long ago what this diagnosis could someday bring. But its hard to have to watch her become the breadwinner and watch all of her friends get to stay home and play house. That can take its toll and somewhere along the way you have to pay. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, there are no happy endings whether your single, married or divorced. There are just endings plain and simple.
    P.S. Honey if you read this I think you are the best thing that has ever happened to me and I would be lost without your love and support.

    • Richard August 7, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

      Nice.

      R.

  20. Nik August 6, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

    I got it, an MS dating site! Who would better understand MS than another person with MS?
    Well, I happen to be one of those boring, happily married folks. But, I have to tell you, I keep wondering when my husband is going to bolt for the door! So don’t think just because we are married we don’t have major problems too. My immediate thought with my diagnosis was that he was going to run. Why would I think that? We’ve been quite happily married 18 years and have a 12 year old son. Well, I can’t tell you why I thought that, but its probably just the fear of the unknown. That being said, we all know that someone we fall in love with could get cancer or even hit by a car tomorrow. So I think we just need to remember there are no guarantees in life. If you want to meet someone, I say get out there and do it! As I sat in my Drs office today I noticed some pretty good looking candidates. No rings (but that doesn’t always mean anything) ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Richard August 8, 2014 at 7:42 am #

      Why in theworld would your husband bolt for the door? He has it all. I realizer you never know, but I think you can sleepwell.

      Best,
      R.

  21. Yvonne August 7, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    I keep myself busy and attend social functions whenever my fatigue permits. I am extremely conversational and go to happy hours with or without friends. Sitting I am engaging but once I grab my cane to leave people disengage or avert their eyes.so as not to stare. It doesn’t stop me from going or engaging people. Just makes me more aware that my life has changed from the social butterfly to the cautious caterpillar. One more MS adjustment. *sigh*

    • Richard August 8, 2014 at 7:45 am #

      Join the club. We are not going to change people. This is about their fears or discomfort. I hope you don’t take it personally

      R.

  22. JoanBee August 9, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

    I’ve been with the same woman for 27 years. This year was the first that we were allowed to marry legally. She asked me, even though she knew what a nuisance I am. And that I have MS too. We tied the knot in June.

  23. River August 17, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    Hi all- I have been reading Richard’s blog for quite a while now but have never posted. Typing is hard for me but I have to respond to this inquiry.
    I was diagnosed with MS in 1996 when I was 36 and married with 2 children. My husband was a kind gentle man and yet I chose to get divorced from him 2 years after my diagnosis. Why….. Many reasons but I did not feel that that relationship was going to help me stay healthy.
    I was wrong and within a year I had gone to a full time cane, needing a scooter or walker for any treks over a block.
    I wanted to date and went on dating sites. On my profile I was very honest about having MS and about my strengths as a person. I met many a nice man on these sites and many wanted a relationship and we’re not at all deterred by my disabilities. I however did not find myself attracted to them. I quickly needed a wheelchair full time and continued to run my business and remain upbeat and social.
    I met my love at a craft festival I was working at. He knew or thought he knew what he was getting into. After 10 years of watching me continue to progress downward, we got married and yes, we have our hard times. He has to help me in life to function and it is hard but he does it.
    Yes, you can date and meet a partner when you have even the meanest of diseases. There are some amazing beings out there and try to bring your best self possible out there when able.
    By the way, I still run my business with paralyses from the waist down and a right hand that doesn’t work as well as I’d like. Do I want to give up many times- yes!!! But I’m still going!

  24. Melodie January 1, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

    I was divorced, had a suspicion I had MS, but no confirmed diagnosis & was feeling pretty down because I was using a cane, & most men ran in the other direction when they saw it. I was talking with my daughter about it one day, who at the time was also single & in her 20 something wisdom pointed out to me that I was actually more lucky than the average person on the dating scene. She said my cane was a measure, if a person saw it & still wanted to date me, it was a good thing, if they ran in the opposite direction at the site of it they were someone I didn’t need in my life. I say I have to agree! And I did find a wonderful man who married me, knowing full well what was coming.