4.16.2018

When You Should Tell Your Date About Your Diagnosis

Part II of Ask Me Anything About MS

My next question from my "Ask Me Anything" series, comes from

Joe, who wants to know: 

When is the right time (if any) to tell someone you are dating that you have MS? First date? Second? The honeymoon?

Answer:

This is a tough one. Modern day dating is hard enough, but dating when you have a chronic illness like multiple sclerosis (MS), adds a whole new layer of anxiety to the process.  

If like Joe, you're wondering if you should keep MS a secret as long as possible, you're in luck, because technically MS can’t be confirmed, like 100%, without a brain autopsy, so, you could actually sail through the honeymoon and just wait until you’re a dead ghost to disclose your diagnosis. Let’s put a pin in that for a sec. For those who are inclined to a more open approach, there are a number of things to consider. 

Normally, this is the part where I say, don’t take my advice, ask your doctor, but doctors find partners because, well, they’re doctors. That’s usually enough to close the deal. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to remind you that I’m just a blogger with a MacBook. You don’t have to believe everything I say. 

Now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you that I am smugly married, and didn’t even have to bamboozle The Banker to the altar with that whole let's see what the coroner says routine. He was eyes-open aware of my MS long before we tied the knot. Better still, he knew he was getting a good deal. We both were. 

But the complicated truth about relationships and multiple sclerosis is that for some, MS is too much. For as many couples who have successfully navigated a partnership where chronic illness is involved, there are at least as many who have crashed and burned, or failed to launch in the first place. Okay, I made that statistic up, but it feels right, and I already told you this isn’t a scientific journal. I did however, do some research. 

After a difficult divorce, my friend Carrie was dipping her suspiciously numb toe back into the dating pool. After years of sketchy symptoms, Carrie finally received a diagnosis of MS while she'd been seeing someone for a couple of months. When she told him her news, he told her she had “too much on her plate to be dating”, which Carrie knew was code for “I’m not into sharing my plates”, and that was the end of that. 

Shocking, right? 

Of course not. For whatever reason (stigma, family pressure, fear, lack of understanding, lack of imagination), MS can be a deal-breaker, and 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. 

My Ride-or-Die Brooklyn Bestie.

The good news is, there are people who can roll with MS; and those are the best people. Not because they’re heroes or some other bullshit, but maybe they’re a little more open-minded, a little less afraid, a little more willing to say yes. They’re the people who realize that nobody gets out of this life alive; might as well enjoy the ride. 

Knowing the lid to your pot is out there doesn't make disclosing this kind of intel any easier. But I'm here for you. 


Like, do you want me to tell them for you? That costs extra. 

Here are my top free tips for telling your future lover you have an incurable disease:

Buy some time 
Dating is about tricking the person you want to have sex with into thinking you’re perfect, and then slowly revealing your many, many flaws once they’re hooked on you like Miss Vickie's chips. If your MS is invisible you have the luxury of a little more time to keep things classified, because you don’t have to explain away a mobility aid or a limp, so figure out if you’re actually into this person before putting yourself on the line. Because:

It’s not herpes 
I mean, if you also have herpes, you definitely have to disclose that sometime between now and when your genitals meet, but you don’t owe it to anyone to tell them about your MS until you’re ready. Even if you use mobility aids, it’s up to you to determine when someone else deserves to know something so personal.

Be cool 
Do not schedule a We Need To Talk moment. How you tell your prospective partner will have a lot to do with how they interpret the news. They will mirror your attitude, so don't be weird. If you believe MS is going to ruin your life and makes you a less desirable partner, so will they.

Don’t apologize 
You are not damaged goods. Fuck that. Don’t let anyone allow you to question your worthiness of finding love. 

Get ready to get real 
Your partner might have his or her own secrets to barf out. Vulnerability begets true confessions, and you may find yourself hearing all about their bad credit, hoarder tendencies, or unfortunate tattoo. According to something definitely factual I read on the internet, 96% of people are keeping secrets. So, think about that. Maybe your secret won't seem so bad.  

Educate 
Be ready with some resources you can recommend (cough, Tripping On Air). It's hard to believe, but not everything on the inter webs is legit, and you don’t want anyone deep-googling worst case scenarios. Try to be chill, as you may have to field some dumb questions and a confused "But, you look so good! 

Hold-up 
It probably took you awhile to come to terms with MS. Thoughtful people who consider all possible outcomes make good partners, so allow some time for them to figure this out. 

Check yourself
Remember you’re a prize, and if you’re met with someone who only has tiny un-shareable plates, don’t take it personally. Some people will be scared off, and that’s their journey. It’s not you, it’s MS. Drink a bottle of Beaujolais with your bestie and continue swiping. 

As for Carrie, she kept putting herself out there. She found herself crushing on a new guy. 

Mid-relapse. 

He was crushing on her too, but oblivious to her health status.  When he finally asked her out, she was literally weak in the knees. She accepted his invite just as he noticed the bandage hiding her steroid IV site. When he asked what she’d done to her arm, a million potential lies swirled in her head until finally she just went with the truth; she was being treated for an MS flare. He said “Oh”, and they went back to discussing dinner plans. 

They had seafood. They went to Morocco. They’re getting married later this year. 










PS Thanks for sending all your great questions. Slowly, but surely, I will get to them all. 

Follow Tripping On Air  on Facebook. 


8 comments :

  1. Thanks, Ardra.
    I was "seeing" a lady. Went out with her for the third time when she asked me where this was going. I didn't feel a connection, so in order to give her an escape, I told her I had MS. She took the escape with alacrity and I never saw her again.
    I have an unfortunate tendency to be more honest than I should. Right now, I reveal to my partners that I (i) am a student (ii) own a condo in a decrepit part of town (iii) do not own a car (iv) ride a bicycle (v) am addicted to improv. Those are enough to scare any woman off. If she still accepts me, I would reveal the ultimate dealbreaker: MS.

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    1. Joe, please re-read the section Be Cool. What you should be saying is that you're a life-long learner, own real-estate in a pre-gentrified neighbourhood, and that you're athletic and environmentally conscious. As for the addiction to improv, that might be the true deal-breaker. Save that until after you reveal the MS.

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  2. Oh yes, when it comes to educating the masses (or at least a spouse). When I was staying in an ayurvedic hospital, my neighbour was a lady from Vancouver. When I knocked on her door one day, she was bawling her eyes out. Turned out that her husband had been googling "ayurveda" and yelled at her over Skype for going through bloodletting, leeches, enemas, etc. They don't do any of that in modern ayurveda (they may give you an enema - I got away with a dose of laxatve). But when people try to educate themselves using google, they stumble on the worst-case-scenario.

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    1. seems like they have bigger problems than ms to sort out

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  3. Ardra - I've been happily attached for years but had to write because this post is just perfect - and hilarious to boot. This 'series' of question answering is such a great idea. When your book comes out - make sure these posts are in it!!

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    1. Aw, thanks Barbara. Glad I could make you laugh!

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  4. All I can say is that you are amazing! funny! incorrigible! I just found your blog today and I love it! Thanks for the laughs...

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    1. Thanks for reading! I'm so glad you found me.

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