Dating Someone With Multiple Sclerosis

How & When to Talk About Your MS

"There is a guy that I have been interested in for over a year who finally asked me out last month. We have gone on four dates – we have a lot of fun and really enjoy spending time together. I think it is going to get more serious soon. I haven’t told him that I have multiple sclerosis, since I didn’t want to scare him off. Now I am nervous that I have waited too long. What should I do?"

Some people are comfortable discussing their multiple sclerosis (MS) with everyone they meet, while others feel that this is private information meant to be disclosed at just the right time.

This situation is made a little more complicated when it comes to dating. We want to find a balance of honesty and reserve while trying to figure out how we feel about someone. So when is the best time to disclose your MS to a date?

Disclosing Personal Information

I happen to be one of those people who are pretty open about their MS status, especially since I started writing about the topic. Actually, I probably tell far more people far more information much sooner than I need to.

However, many people do not feel quite as compelled as I do to disclose the fact that they have MS to everyone whom they encounter, especially in the already strange and fragile world of dating. As this reader mentions, this predicament leads to a catch-22: you don’t want to freak potentially interesting people out before your first date, but waiting for a while to see what develops can lead to a person with MS feeling like they have been withholding information from the other person.

This situation can be especially stressful if you really like the other person and think it might develop into something more serious.

The Right Time to Talk About Your MS

There is no hard and fast rule about the ideal time to disclose your MS to someone. If you aren't open about your MS, however, you might feel more comfortable waiting until the second date.

By this time you've probably figured out that you want to continue seeing this person, and he or she will have discovered how great you are. Clearly the mutual interest was enough to at least lead to a second date.

The second date is often when more information about one another is disclosed, anyway. The first date is all about impressions and being on your best behavior, whereas a second date is less about facades and allows you feel more comfortable being yourself. The second date is when some of the “real” stuff can come out. No one really expects to find out about a bad credit score, a learning disability, a past broken engagement or weird food preferences on the first date.

There is no "right" time to be upfront about your MS. You get to decide. But on a second or third or fourth date, you'll probably feel more relaxed about the situation and be able to accurately express yourself a little better about tough topics in general; not just your MS.

How to Tell Someone You Have MS

There's no reason to feel embarrassed or awkward. Telling someone you have MS is as simple as telling someone you have MS. However, a little planning never hurt anyone. Here are three things to keep in mind:

Plan your speech. Keep it short and sweet, but really plan and practice what you want to say about your MS. Remember, most people don’t know a great deal about MS, so you should be prepared to give a little background about the disease. Openly discussing your prognosis and your attitude toward MS will make your date - or anyone, for that matter - feel more comfortable asking questions.

Be prepared for "dumb" remarks. Again, most people don’t know much about MS, besides what they've seen on "The West Wing" or in interviews with celebrities like Montel Williams and Jamie-Lynn Sigler. Your date might have questions that you think are downright ignorant, but be patient and understanding.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between being less-than-knowledgable versus insensitive.

You might never need to tell. If you don't like the person there's no reason to tell them. Clearly if your date is a jerk you never want to see again, there's no need for the "big reveal."

Why You Might Want to Wait

Some might advocate waiting until you truly know that you want to have a future with this person to tell him or her about your MS. Only you know the specifics of your situation, so if you want to wait, that's fine. Maybe you're taking the relationship very slowly, or you haven't been definitively diagnosed with MS, or you're not quite sure that you really like this person. These are all good reasons to keep things to yourself until the time feels right.

However, waiting too long can add extra stress, especially if either of you has shared other personal information. For some, it may seem like you've been hiding something or being dishonest, but that's nothing that can't be backed up by a simple explanation. Address your reasoning behind waiting to talk about MS in your disclosure "speech."