How MS Can Affect a Marriage

Addressing Caregiving, Intimacy, Money, and Children

holding hands
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If anything can impact a marriage, it's multiple sclerosis (MS). But with a knowledge of the specific challenges MS poses to a partnership, and how they can best be dealt with, you can have a satisfying and healthy marriage—just as you and your partner deserve.

The Caregiver Role

MS-related disability and symptoms can force your partner into a caregiver role. For instance, some responsibilities that may fall on your partner's shoulders include:

  • Giving injections and medications
  • Helping to protect your energy
  • Taking on more household chores
  • Becoming the primary breadwinner
  • Taking on more parenting tasks
  • Helping you minimize stress

With that, it's important to balance the marriage aspects of your relationship with the caregiving aspects. This is because the caregiver role can shift you as a couple into a parent-child relationship, which is unhealthy for a marriage.

Sex, Intimacy, and MS

MS can cause a host of sexual problems in both men and women. Many of these problems can be addressed with medications, sexual aids (such as lubricants), and other solutions. The key to a healthy sex life is the same as with all couples—open, honest communication.

Pregnancy and MS

If you're a woman with MS, this doesn't change your ability to have a healthy, successful pregnancy. In fact, pregnancy often provides temporary relief from MS symptoms, allowing for a medication-free pregnancy.

Because current MS disease-modifying medications cannot be used while you're pregnant or while you're trying to get pregnant, the main concern is the time you spend trying to get pregnant. During this time, you can't be on MS medication and the chance of relapses increases.

Parenting and MS

MS can create extra challenges in parenting.

If you're the parent with MS, you may not have the energy to fulfill all your parenting tasks as you'd like to. Periods of relapse and worsening of symptoms can impact your family plans and daily routines. Good planning and developing a network of people who can help in a pinch will greatly reduce the negative effects of MS on your parenting.

Financial Concerns

Financial concerns in MS marriages are also common. If you have MS, you may be unable to work, thereby reducing the overall income possibilities. In addition, medical care, medications, and other necessities may impose added costs for you. Good financial planning and asking for help when needed are essential.

Information and Understanding

You and your partner need to be well-informed about the course of MS, as well as the symptoms, especially the invisible ones (the symptoms that are difficult to recognize). For example, cognitive symptoms can lead to miscommunication, misunderstandings, and tension in your marriage. Fatigue can lead to resentment and stress.

By recognizing memory loss, confusion, fatigue, and the other invisible MS symptoms as a consequence of the disease, your partner can become more understanding and accepting.

You should both be well-informed about the latest therapies and potentially helpful complementary/alternative approaches to addressing MS symptoms too. Having this information ready can help in a time of crisis.

Educating Families, Friends, and Co-workers

When people hear “multiple sclerosis,” they often immediately think of wheelchairs. If you have MS and you're ambulatory (not in a wheelchair) and suffering mostly from invisible symptoms, family, friends, and co-workers may not understand how the illness affects your lives.

Educating people about MS is important to generating appropriate responses and support.

Unfortunately, this role will fall largely on you and your partner.

You may consider developing a short explanation of MS and why it impacts your life. It's important to remember too that people don’t usually mean to be insensitive, they're just simply not well-informed.

Planning for Symptoms

No matter what the type of MS you have or the severity, there are many things about MS that you can strategize how to deal with, including relapses and the worsening of your symptoms in times of stress. There is also a host of symptoms that might come and go. By planning for these situations, you can greatly reduce the stress of MS on your marriage.

The bottom line is that it's important to have plans for times when you need to rest and/or you're undergoing a relapse. Realize that the future might shift and change and be as prepared as you can to reduce the stress from this unpredictable disease.

A Word from Verywell

Without a doubt, MS affects marriages, but not always negatively. For many couples, the silver lining of dealing with MS is that it gives them perspective on what's really important, inspiring them to take a more soulful, simple approach to living.

That said, through open, honest communication and good planning, your marriage can be strengthened by the challenges of MS.

Source:

Tompkins SA, Roeder JA, Thomas JJ, Koch KK. Effectiveness of a Relationship Enrichment Program for Couples Living with Multiple SclerosisInternational Journal of MS Care. 2013;15(1):27-34. doi:10.7224/1537-2073.2012-002.