Even without multiple sclerosis, finding love is rarely simple or easy. But someone great is out there — right now — waiting for you to find them.
Welcome to Ask Ardra Anything, an advice column about life with multiple sclerosis from blogger Ardra Shephard. Ardra has lived with MS for 2 decades and is the creator of the award-winning blog Tripping on Air, as well as the hashtag #babeswithmobilityaids. Got a question for Ardra? Reach out on Instagram @ms_trippingonair.
Is it possible to find love with MS?
— DruBlue, MS Healthline community member
The short and simple answer is yes. Absolutely, 100 percent — without question — you can find love with multiple sclerosis (MS).
That’s the good news. Of course, even without MS, finding love is rarely simple or easy.
One of the reasons you might be wondering if love is possible with MS is that it’s hard to imagine what we can’t see.
Movies, television, and mainstream media have failed the disability community by excluding examples of chronically ill people as sexual and romantic partners in the stories they tell. That can have real-life consequences on how we see (or don’t see) ourselves.
Anecdotally, I want to show you the receipts and introduce you to my friends Carrie, Sherry, and Tish, who all found love after an MS diagnosis. I’m happily married now, but I too was diagnosed years before I closed the deal with my partner.
While I don’t believe those of us who’ve found love with MS are unicorns, I do acknowledge that dating with MS can be complicated.
Many years later, I still remember the heartbreaking post-diagnosis feeling of who will love me now.
Looking for a long-term partner is a process of narrowing 7 billion people down to 1.
Your MS diagnosis may help shrink your pool of prospective matches a little more quickly than someone with (temporarily) perfect health.
The difficult truth about relationships and multiple sclerosis is that, for some, MS is too much to handle. For as many couples who have successfully navigated a partnership where chronic illness is concerned, there are at least as many who have crashed and burned, or failed to launch in the first place.
For whatever reason — stigma, family pressure, fear, lack of understanding, or lack of imagination — MS can be a deal breaker for some.
If you find yourself up against this mindset in the dating world, don’t waste your time. MS is tough. MS is not for everyone. Move on.
The good news is, there are plenty of people who can roll with MS. Not because they’re saints or heroes, but maybe they’re a little more open-minded, a little less afraid, a little more willing to say “yes” to life’s uncertainties.
Knowing the lid to your pot is out there doesn’t make navigating the path to love any easier, but there are some things you can keep in mind when dating with a disability.
Know your boundaries
Many people prefer to lay their MS cards on the table right away — and that’s OK. The right time to disclose your diagnosis is when you feel comfortable.
But remember, MS isn’t contagious. That means you don’t owe anyone an explanation about your MS.
If your symptoms are mostly invisible, you might find it easier to keep things classified. But dating during a pandemic means getting together in person isn’t only strongly discouraged, it’s practically illegal depending on what level of lockdown you’re under.
Use this time to your advantage to get to know someone virtually before deciding how much of your health intel to divulge.
Consider how you share your diagnosis with your prospective partner.
Your tone and vibe will have a significant impact on how your news is received.
If you lead with the attitude that MS is a part of your life but that it doesn’t make you less fit for romance, the odds are better that your news will be received the same way.
People believe what we believe about ourselves.
Vulnerability leads to greater intimacy.
If you need a roadmap to get you started, experiment with the viral 36 Questions For Falling In Love, as featured in The New York Times, which suggests that sharing secrets can put you on a fast-track to finding love.
Resist the urge to apologize
Too often, those of us with MS find ourselves apologizing for things beyond our control.
You have as much right as anyone to be in the dating space. Take up as much room as you need, unapologetically.
Take a deep breath
It’s not easy to put yourself out there.
Give yourself a pat on the back for prioritizing your personal life, and recognize that not everyone will be able to imagine a life that includes MS. It’s not you, it’s MS.
Take a beat and know that love can happen when we least expect it. Approach the dating scene with confidence and great expectations.
Don’t settle — ever
People with disabilities experience higher rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, and abuse. You deserve a healthy, safe, and loving relationship.
If someone tries to convince you otherwise, they’re lying.
Modern dating is difficult at the best of times. Add chronic illness and a global pandemic to the mix, and looking for love can feel like more trouble than it’s worth.
However, loneliness can be a real problem for folks with MS, and science tells us that the physical and psychological toll of MS is lower in people who have strong friendships and loving partnerships.
You don’t always have to approach dating like it’s a job. Have fun and enjoy connecting with new people, regardless of whether they turn out to be “the one.”
But don’t give up on your happily ever after because you have MS.
Someone great is out there, right now, waiting for you to find them.
Ardra Shephard is the influential Canadian blogger behind Tripping On Air — the award-winning, irreverent, and funny insider scoop about life with MS. Ardra is a story consultant for television network AMI and has partnered with Shaftesbury Films to develop a scripted series based on her life with MS. Follow Ardra on Facebook, and on Instagram where Yahoo Lifestyle reported that “@ms_trippingonair is the number one chronic illness account to follow.”