MS changes the dating landscape — from how we meet potential partners to how we navigate ongoing relationships — in a way that can feel like playing a video game.
While some folks meet their soulmates at a young age and have a fairy-tale romance, many people experience the opposite. I fit into that latter category.
I’ve had some temporary successes and plenty of good times, but finding that special someone and staying with them has so far eluded me. I’m definitely not alone in this regard. Many single folks have remarked to me about how difficult they find dating these days. In fact, I’ve been on many dates where the single greatest thing we have in common is that we agree dating is difficult. As tough as dating is on its own, though, it’s even more challenging with MS!
To me, dating with MS is a lot like playing a video game: The difficulty level keeps advancing, making it increasingly harder to win the game. I find that the following aspects of life with MS make it tough to level up my dating game.
Folks with MS often debate when to tell a new romantic interest about their illness. In the early days, after my diagnosis, I didn’t think much about this, but MS is a big part of my life now — and would be for anyone else who becomes a part of my life. Sometimes, though, the very thought of having to explain my illness to someone new is enough to make me give up.
I try to remember that other people have big parts of their lives that are complicated, too. For example, plenty of people in the dating world have children. That’s not the same as living with a chronic disease, but it’s still a significant life situation that can add complexity to dating.
I tend to mention my MS very early because if it’s a dealbreaker (which, to a few, it has been), I’d rather get that out in the open and move on quickly. Also, in my case, I write about my life with MS. A quick internet search will tell any potential mate that I have an illness (along with many potentially embarrassing stories), so I really have no option to hide it.
I’ve spoken with many people who’ve lamented that dating apps have become such a necessary evil. Swiping left or right through people’s photos provides only a basic overview of who they are and encourages us to focus on looks and stats rather than personality and compatibility. It actually makes dating feel even more like a game and not like I’m looking at real people who I might meet.
When I meet someone in person, they can see that I’m much more than the collection of MS issues I may have described over texts. Similarly, when I’m conversing in person, I can get a better vibe for the individual I’m meeting. And the communication between us is much easier. We can see more than each other’s faces, and our body language contributes to better understanding.
I have had much more success randomly meeting someone in a bar or elsewhere than with dating apps, and I’m sure that’s because it’s much easier to see the real and complete me.
A related concern is the emphasis many people put on moving off the apps and into a phone conversation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work well for me.
MS has had a major impact on my cognitive functions and speech. I get confused quickly, I forget things, and I slur my speech a lot — so I avoid talking on the phone. If I were a tad younger, I don’t think this would be an issue, but because of my age, I still encounter many folks who insist on talking on the phone, even when I suggest other options like video chatting.
No matter how promising a person may seem, if they are adamant about connecting by phone before I can even explain MS and the difficulties I have, I usually end up passing on them.
Because of my MS, I’m not able to drive anymore. This not only makes getting to meetups difficult, but some potential partners see not being able to drive as a huge negative. In fact, many people openly say on their dating profiles not to bother contacting them if you don’t drive.
If I have a date with someone more flexible than that, I’ve found I can ease any concerns they might have by letting them know I’ll be arriving by Uber or another form of transportation. I also play up the fact that I just don’t like to drive and prefer that someone else do it and that I’d probably take an alternative form of transportation no matter what.
I’m disabled and no longer work, and that’s a pretty big deal for some people in my age group (I’m 45). Usually, “What do you do?” is one of the very first questions that people ask. For a lot of my life, my career was a selling point in dating, and now my (lack of) work status is an extreme mark against me for many potential partners.
I often overcome this by explaining what I once did for work — I was a software engineer leading a decently sized team doing application development — and what I do now (talking to others about how to live well with MS). I explain that while I may not make the money that I once did, what I do now is much more rewarding and even helps others.
Thanks to MS, I can be feeling decent one minute and then the very next be unable to walk, talk, or even see properly. MS is a very minute-to-minute illness for me. This unpredictability means I often have to cancel plans at the last minute.
As you can imagine, that doesn’t go over very well with everyone in the dating world. I’ve canceled on some people too many times for them to give me another chance. That’s a big reason why I now mention my MS early on — it allows me to explain ahead of time that I may not feel well the day of our plans and that there’s always a possibility we may have to reschedule. I’ve found that people are much more understanding when they have that knowledge ahead of time.
Often, I wonder if I should even be trying to date. I already feel like a burden at times, and the last thing I want is to burden more people. I also sometimes wonder what I really have to offer someone, considering all my issues. However, I eventually realize that I do have a lot to offer.
My illness has made me much more empathetic than I think I would be otherwise. It’s taught me how to enjoy the little things in life. And like a sword tempered in flames, I’ve become stronger.
Playing a video game on a difficult level is more challenging, but it also can make you a better player. You also typically reap more and better rewards for your effort. I think that’s true of dating with a chronic illness as well.
I think my MS has made me a more caring and understanding person and, ultimately, a better partner. It’s also improved my ability to see people for who they are and empowered me to not waste time with people who aren’t as emotionally mature or open-minded as I’d like. So, while my illness may make dating more difficult, I imagine it’s also saved me a lot of heartache and wasted time.
Even if I remain single till the end, at least I’ll know that I’m happy with who I am and what I’ve become. The people I’ve had relationships with since getting MS have been amazing and well worth navigating the issues that MS added to our lives.
Medically reviewed on February 17, 2023
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