I’m a single man, 50-plus, diagnosed at 47 with multiple sclerosis - an incurable, irreversible and progressive condition. Yet I seem normal and capable of being in a loving relationship.
Most people with MS have spinal damage that disables them.
However, in my case, it affected my brain causing stammering and wrong use of words.
My memory was also damaged. Those problems have now almost completely abated.
But the possibility of another relapse looms.
When I start a relationship, when and if should I break the news about my invisible disability?
Past cases have indicated that the possibility of a relapse decreases when the patient reaches the mid-50s.
Also, my diagnosis was unusual because of my gender, age and ethnicity. Yet I know the effect of my having MS on potential partners.
When I told one woman I was dating that I had MS, I never heard from her again.
To lessen the possibility of relapses, doctors prescribe medications with unpleasant side-effects that make it very apparent that you’re ill.
I don't take such treatments now.
Since there’s a possibility that I might get very sick, should I reveal the diagnosis at the start of a relationship or when it’s on the verge of becoming a serious and committed relationship?
When to Speak Up?
As soon as you’ve had a few dates and feel mutually attracted – but before feelings are discussed – is the time for honesty about your illness.
Share your information about the disease/treatment as well as the particulars that make your case different and hopeful of periods of relief from any worse symptoms.
With that openness between you, a woman who’s come to like you may still be comfortable with a relationship and willingness to see how things go.
However, if you wait to speak up about this until the person you’re dating is ready to be exclusive, it may be seen as unfair deception. And that’s a deal-breaker.
We got engaged after five months’ dating, moved in together and had a son, now age three.
We encountered conflict shortly after moving in. We’ve been attending three different couples’ counsellors over three years and my partner’s felt that two of them were biased in my favour and the other wasn’t experienced enough.
He’s also been attending counselling on his own. I’ve been seeing another counsellor for two years due to my estrangement from my toxic mother.
My partner wants to find a new couples’ counsellor. I’m emotionally and mentally exhausted from talking about the same issues with no resolution.
When does relationship counselling become redundant?
Nothing changes, and there’s also the cost of ongoing counselling. Should I agree to his finding a fourth counsellor or is pulling the plug the only solution?
I usually recommend counselling a lot, to help resolve problems. However, without some resolution and benefits over time, the purpose is lost and, as in your case, it can become counter-productive.
Yet “pulling the plug” isn’t the next step, when taking a defined, purposeful and limited break can give you both the distance needed to do some thinking on your own.
By “defined” I mean mutually agreed, “purposeful” means thinking hard about what you respect and admire about each other, whether there’s love left or able to be revived, and whether breaking up is a real choice or just giving up.
FEEDBACK Regarding May 22nd column:
“I was shocked by your response to hurt and confused whose partner had lied about having children and a wife.
“It’s one thing if they were dating and getting to know each other. It’s another thing all together when they’re living together and she has become financially dependent on him.
“She is in an incredibly vulnerable position and the first words that she reads from you is that yes, she can forgive him. Come on! There are red flags all over this.
“You were irresponsible to not tell her to move out, stay out and get a job. Only then could she slowly start to determine if the relationship can be saved. And let’s be honest, most likely it can’t.
“A man who wants a 1950s homemaker and also lies about not having a wife and kids and tells her he has never been in a relationship, is a dangerous person. He manipulated her to feel that she was the “one and only”. I would tell her to be very, VERY careful.
“Please read what you wrote again and perhaps write an updated response.”
Tip of the day:
Don’t wait too long when dating to confide a personal illness. It can be seen as deceit.