Ms is ruining my marriage

Ms is ruining my marriage DEFAULT

My partner has MS and I'm thinking of leaving her

My partner of nine years has multiple sclerosis and now finds walking unaided difficult. I've been thinking about leaving her. Staying means accepting the end of so many hopes: having children, travelling and progressing with my career. We do so little and seem to have nothing to look forward to. It seems like a stark choice between going, or eventually becoming her carer, which I already am to a certain extent.

I still love her and we are great friends. If I did go, I would still be around to help her, though I find it difficult to see how she would cope without me. She often says I should leave and that she has to have this life but I don't. I am seeing a counsellor but I still feel that I could avoid taking any real action for years.

Make the best of it

If you truly loved her, you would be working out ways to make both your lives as good as they can be under the circumstances. The stark fact is that when we embark on anything in life, be it a relationship, a career or having children, we are taking a risk. How desperately sad for your partner to be unable to gain comfort and security from you and to feel that she has to tell you to leave. What would you do if you left your partner, had a baby with someone else and that child was born with a disability? Whatever action you take now, make sure it is something that you will not feel ashamed to look back on in years to come.
A, via email

I was terrified too

My wife has had MS for 20 years and has been a wheelchair user for the last 10. I don't remember making a conscious choice to stick it out, although I do remember being terrified by the future. After the diagnosis, we stopped putting things off and probably had more fun than we would have had if we'd both been healthy and stuck to conventional careers.

Get carers organised, claim the benefits to which you're entitled and call on the support of colleagues, friends and neighbours. MS doesn't have to mean that you can't have kids. Talk to the doctors - I know people who have had children after contracting MS. Becoming the main carer for your partner does change your relationship. That has been the hardest part for me - you have to work out new ways of being together.

Some dreams will die and you must let them go. If you stay, you can focus on the many good things that are still possible and get immense satisfaction from doing them despite the difficulties. I don't claim any moral superiority because I stayed - I didn't experience it as a choice and I would never criticise someone who took the other course; we are all different.
RT, via email

Keep talking

I've had MS for 25 years and can barely walk. I continue to live my life to the full (career, family, friends, travel, fun) with the support that is available from medical professionals, social services, the MS Society, MS Trust and so on. MS takes away spontaneity but with planning, most things are possible.

Talk to your partner. Never assume that just because she has MS that she doesn't have the same aspirations.
SLJ, via email

Act decisively

I also lived with someone with this remorseless disease. We were together twice as long as you have been and I eventually decided I had to go. Any love that we once had had shrivelled and died by that point, but leaving her was still the hardest thing that I have ever done. I can't see this being any easier for you given that you say you're still in love and "great friends".

If you want the things you say, then you need to act decisively. Recovering from a break-up like this will take time and it may not be as easy as you think to build another relationship that offers you the stability and understanding that you will need to realise your hopes and "still be around to help". If you love your partner, recognise that she will always be there in your mind.

The guilt that you will feel may become worse. The alternative is to stay and adjust your life to the limitations her condition imposes, but accept this out of love. Help is available, although you will always have to fight for it.
AM, via email

Next week

My wife has decided that she would like to have a third child - we're both in our mid-30s and already have two under the age of four. I feel that our family is already complete, given our income, house size, general state of exhaustion and the lack of time we get to spend together.

Until a few months ago, there had been no suggestion that we should consider a third child, but, following a pregnancy scare, we were both pretty upset when we realised there wasn't going to be a baby and I was initially supportive of the idea of actively trying again. I would rather concede defeat than risk a break-up. Am I being unreasonable in "denying her her right to a third child"?

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How Multiple Sclerosis Can Affect a Marriage

There are many challenges that marriages and devoted partnerships can face over the years. And while you or your partner being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) may not be the most difficult, the disease will likely have some impact on your relationship. While MS can be disruptive and emotionally draining for both of you, you can certainly grow closer to each other and learn how to support one another while living with this condition.

Be prepared with an understanding of the specific issues that MS brings to a partnership and create a plan to manage adversities as you continue to build a satisfying and healthy relationship.

The Caregiver Role

MS-related symptoms and disability can push the healthier partner into a caregiver role. When you have MS, some responsibilities that may fall on your partner's shoulders include:

  • Giving you injections and medications
  • Helping you when you are low on energy
  • Taking on the lion's share of the household chores
  • Being the primary breadwinner
  • Taking on the majority of parenting tasks
  • Helping you minimize your stress level
  • Being careful not to lean on you for emotional, financial, or practical support

This uneven distribution of responsibilities can shift you from feeling like equals into what seems more like a parent-child relationship, which is unhealthy for couples. Be sure to address the responsibilities that come with living as a couple, keeping in mind that you don't necessarily have equal levels of energy and physical stamina.

Both of you need to understand that the partner who has MS is bringing value to the relationship, even if that value can't be measured in dollars and heavy lifting.

The love, empathy, listening ear, and unique personality that a partner with MS offers the marriage and family life are just as important in building an emotionally healthy relationship as the more measurable contributions that the partner may provide.

That said, it can make sense to relax your standards when it comes to a meticulous home and a perfectly coiffed yard. Learning how to streamline, automate, or even eliminate some tasks from your life can help keep both of you sane.

Sex and Intimacy

MS can cause a host of sexual problems for both men and women. Issues can include diminished libido and lack of energy for sex in both men and women with MS. Men especially can also experience impaired sexual functioning, especially during MS exacerbations.

Additionally, you may feel less confident about your attractiveness to your partner, particularly if you developed your symptoms after you had already committed to your relationship.

All of these factors can lead to frustration and even perceived rejection from your partner.

Some sexual issues can be addressed with sexual aids, such as lubricants. Medications, including antidepressants, can help, but some antidepressants can impair sexual functioning. Practical solutions, like getting enough rest, can help as well.

The key to a healthy sex life is the same as with all couples—open, honest communication. If either of you have concerns, you should talk about what's bothering you in a constructive, solution-oriented way. Working with a therapist to facilitate that conversation can help.

Don't hesitate to seek help from a licensed professional. Sexual problems stemming from MS can be managed and you can maintain healthy sexual intimacy for the long term.


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, and most women can have a medication-free pregnancy.

That said, you need to carefully plan your pregnancy and postpartum period. You can't take MS disease-modifying medications while you're pregnant, which means you can't use them while you're trying to get pregnant either. You need to work with your healthcare provider on a plan to discontinue your MS medications (and possibly other medications that you take) whenever you might become pregnant.

Another issue is that many women experience worsening symptoms or an exacerbation after giving birth. Disease-modifying medications may not be safe if you are breastfeeding, so you have to consider this as you make your decision about breastfeeding or resuming your treatment.

To navigate these periods well, it's best for partners to be on the same page about these realities so decisions, once made, can be fully supported.

During the times when you aren't taking medication, your chance of having an MS relapse increases. This means that you need to be prepared in case you experience an exacerbation during the months when you are trying to get pregnant or when you are taking care of a newborn baby.


MS can create extra challenges when it comes to parenting, which can, of course, affect a marriage.

If you're the parent with MS, you may not have the energy to fulfill all your parenting tasks as you'd like to, which may put excessive pressure on your partner. Periods of relapse and worsening of symptoms can also impact your family plans and daily routines, adding to this stress and even, perhaps, breeding resentment.

Careful scheduling and developing a network of people who can help in a pinch can greatly reduce these negative effects.

And don't forget that parenting is about providing love, guidance, acceptance, and imparting values to your kids. What you can give your children in this regard is far more important in building their character and resilience than the things you might not be able to give them because of the limitations posed by your MS.

Living Your Best Life With MS

Financial Concerns

Financial concerns are also common when one partner has MS. The disease can interfere with your ability to work. This may necessitate taking a job with fewer demands, such as less travel or less demanding responsibilities, which may reduce the family's overall income.

In addition, medical care, medications, and other necessities may impose added costs for you. Good financial planning is essential.

That said, it may make sense to reframe your attitude about money. Maybe you don't need to live in the most expensive home you can afford, or maybe you can choose to drive an affordable car—in fact, if the partner who does not have MS can be relieved of the pressure to keep up with high expectations in terms of earnings and spending, this can help you both enjoy each other more.

Unpredictable Disease Course

MS is variable and not everyone has the same experience. There are different types of MS, and no one can predict your disease course.

Some symptoms are obvious, such as vision changes and muscle weakness, but others, often described as the invisible symptoms of MS, are more subtle. For example, cognitive symptoms, depression, and stress can all lead to miscommunication, misunderstandings, and tension in your relationship. Fatigue can lead to resentment and stress.

A United Front

If one partner has MS, both partners are living with MS. It helps if both of you are well-informed about the latest therapies and lifestyle strategies for managing the disease. Maintenance therapy and treatment for an exacerbation are different, and it is good to know what to expect in case a relapse occurs.

Of course, there's your shared life with MS and your life with MS in the rest of the world, too. When people hear “multiple sclerosis,” they often immediately think of being wheelchair-bound. If your symptoms are less apparent, family, friends, and co-workers may not understand how the illness affects your lives.

How MS Affects Your Social Life

It's important to remember that most people don't mean to be insensitive or judgmental—they simply might not know what to say or how to act.

Sharing what you need to share (and want to share) about your MS is an important part of coping with your condition. As a couple, you may consider developing a short explanation of MS and why it impacts your life.

You can agree with each other when it comes to who you can lean on for help when you need it and how to ask for that assistance. You can also both be mindful of the difficult people in your life and be prepared to support each other if friends, family members, or colleagues are particularly hurtful when it comes to your MS.

A Word From Verywell

Without a doubt, MS can affect a marriage, but not always negatively. For many couples, the silver lining of dealing with MS is that it adds a deep perspective about what's really important, inspiring couples 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.

Thanks for your feedback!

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How Love and Marriage Can Survive MS

I sometimes say there are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who do not. And although, in these times of polar political separation, I am loath to be one who divides our lot — that is, people with multiple sclerosis (MS) — into two camps, for the purposes of this piece, there are two kinds of people.

There are those for whom MS was already a diagnosed part of life when their current relationship began, and there are those for whom MS became a new third wheel after the coupling was established.

Of course, there’s also a subset of people who have experienced both a former relationship during which MS was diagnosed, and a current one that began after MS got its hooks in us. I fall into this group.

When Love Blooms Before MS

When we think back on the early days of a budding relationship, it’s hard not to smile and long for the time of total infatuation, creeping hours before the next meeting, and a seemingly endless supply of sexual energy. Particularly if symptoms or a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis aren’t a part of life as love blossoms, young relationships can nearly burst with potential and expectation.

A healthy relationship that has a chance to form, mature, and advance before the onset of MS can stand a strong chance of absorbing the shock and persistent attack of the disease. One that has preexisting fissures — obvious or subterranean — mayn’t fair as well.

One benefit to a couple who experience the symptoms and diagnosis of MS together is that they have time to work through and strategize together as a unit — a definitively lopsided unit, as each contends with different sides of the scales, but a unit all the same.

RELATED: 9 Signs You’re in a Healthy Relationship

When MS Precedes a Love Connection

When one person has lived with the disease before meeting a new person and entering a relationship, things can be quite different.

Meeting and courting with MS in the room is like one partner owning a vicious dog that has contempt for its master. That is not to say that relationships are impossible, only that the third wheel in these relationships has loose lug nuts and often steers a couple well and dangerously off course.

Add to that the coping mechanisms and MS life skills a person who has learned to live with the disease on their own will have established, and the difficulties compound. Like a foreign language, these can be beyond comprehension to a new partner.

If there is a benefit to the post-MS relationship, it is that a potential partner can learn about the disease and its place in an alliance. This doesn’t guarantee success, but counters the surprise effect it can have on an established couple.

My Post-MS Love Story

My wife, Caryn, and I recently celebrated 11 years married. We met over 14 years ago, and I've been living with my diagnosis for nearly two decades. MS was not only there when we met — at a 40th birthday party that was also a National Multiple Sclerosis Society fundraiser — but it was also a significant and regular part of my life, beyond just the symptoms of the disease.

In our time together, we have established a joint approach to living with MS that respects the very personal nature of what the disease does to my body, while acknowledging what my symptoms, and my reaction to those symptoms, does to us as a couple.

We have code words and signs we use in public and have incorporated into our response protocols for experiences we have shared. We’ve laid out something of a constitution of guiding principles for how we as a couple — if not always how each of us, individually — plan to cope with MS-induced situations.

Nothing about living with an ever-changing disease is easy, but having a shared and established philosophy on the books has been of great benefit to both she, me, and us … as well as the dogs, I suppose.

RELATED: Share Your Relationship Tips on MS Tippi!

Wishing You the Best in Life and Love

Multiple sclerosis has either interloped your current relationship, was baggage you brought with you to a new love, or, the hopeless romantic in me expects, will be for you in a future encounter. That same romantic is sad to acknowledge that not all relationships — current or future — will survive multiple sclerosis.

Whether you and your partner have found (and continue to adapt) the required tools together, or your other half met you as you carried your box full of skills, the knowledge that more tools will be needed, that two sets of eyes can find those aids better than one, and that each side of a relationship may require different work with different tools at different times, has been helpful to me and mine.

As Caryn is oft to tell me, “It’s just what we do.”

Wishing you and your family the best of health.



My book, Chef Interrupted, is available on Amazon. Follow me on the Life With MS Facebook page and on Twitter, and read more on Life With Multiple Sclerosis.

Is Alcohol Ruining Your Marriage?

Did MS Ruin My Marriage?

It’s not my intention to write a depressing article here, but I want to be realistic. While some people need to read about ideal situations and positive messages, some prefer to hear about everything, the good and the bad. The realities of life, no matter how rough they might be. I’m one of those that needs that, I need to see that other people experience the rough times like I do. I find some comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one. This topic of relationships and MS hits home a bit as my marriage has ended. I waited some time before diving into this because I needed time to reflect. I wanted as clear a mind as possible about the subject.

Did MS ruin my marriage?

Longtime readers of mine know Aimee, I’ve interviewed her and she’s even talked on video with me about MS and how it’s affected our lives. Many have praised her handling of life with my disease. To this day, I’m thankful for all the help she’s given (and still gives) me. Living with someone in my situation can take its toll though (as it has with other women I’ve lived with prior to Aimee). I can’t stress enough that it’s not any one person’s fault, at least not in my situation. I do think, however, that the stress and situations we’ve dealt with because of my MS did alter our relationship. Requiring help, constant memory issues, being seen in pain, being seen when I’m very vulnerable, mood swings, not being able to do the same things and attend the same events. The list goes on, and they all contributed a bit. I’m not the same person I was when we met, physically or mentally.

All of this took a toll on me, as well as on her. Over our time together, my condition slowly worsened, I fell out of shape, and I began a constant battle with the demons in my head. Being on disability has left me feeling inadequate in so many ways. As I’ve said previously, I was raised with a strong work ethic, I’d built a successful career, and it was a big part of my identity. Since that was suddenly stripped away, I’ve been lost. All of that had a massive impact on my marriage. So many times I would tell her how she deserved better. I put her on a pedestal, and so many times I felt guilty being with her because I felt like she deserved to be with someone who was her equal, someone better than me. In many ways, I pushed her towards this, I pushed her away constantly. I even encouraged her to be with the person she left me for, because I wanted her to be happy, and because I felt (ok, feel), like I don’t deserve that happiness (though I didn’t expect this particular outcome). As cliche as it sounds, I can’t help but feel like I did something to deserve my disease and everything it’s brought (and with that, that I didn’t deserve her). Even though I’ve counseled so many people with MS and assured them that they shouldn’t think this way, I still fell into that trap myself.


Marriage ruining my ms is

My Husband Was Diagnosed With MS a Year Into Our Marriage

“I remember Peter called me from a conference and said, ‘Something’s wrong with my leg. It feels numb.’ ”

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spouse with ms

One Philly woman describes what it’s like to have a spouse with MS. Photograph by Andre Rucker

This story is one piece of our Marriage Stories feature, a look inside real-life Philadelphia marriages. Here, Denise and Peter Mariotti, married 33 years, share their story.

I met my husband at a mutual friend’s wedding. He was the best man, and I was the maid of honor. He was a very, very handsome guy, still is, drove a little Italian sports car, the whole thing. He wanted absolutely nothing to do with me, but our friends kept trying to get us together. Long story short, we dated for about three years and got married.

It was a fun life, our first year of marriage. But I remember Peter called me from a work conference and said, “Something’s wrong with my leg. It feels numb.” I didn’t really pay much attention until he came home. When I saw him get off the plane, I’m like, oh, something’s wrong. He was almost dragging his leg. We weren’t even married for a year — I was 28 and he was 31 — and he was diagnosed with MS. But his symptoms subsided, which often happens with that disease. So it was a terrible diagnosis, but it wasn’t really impacting our lives very much at that point.

When our youngest daughter was born, Peter started to experience more symptoms and began to need a cane to get around. Then he moved to a walker, then a walker and a wheelchair — like, a normal wheelchair — and now, he can’t get around without being in his power chair every single day.

I think if you asked him, he would say the thing that frustrates me the most is that chair — it’s a giant electric wheelchair, the limousine of wheelchairs. He was a crappy driver when he used to be able to drive a car, and he hasn’t improved at all in driving a wheelchair in my beautiful apartment. He’s constantly banging into a wall, banging into a door, scraping something. I am always furious with him about that.

We have made a very good life for ourselves, but I’m 59, he’s 62, and it seems unfair that we can’t do things together that our other couple friends are able to do, like pick up and go away for the weekend. Our friends invite us down to Florida all the time, but Peter can’t do that, and I don’t really want to go by myself. I have a lot of work events, and he can come with me, but getting him in a tux and being at a function where people are dancing the night away isn’t fun for him, and it’s not fun for me. But I can’t focus on that. It’s just not what our life is.

There are many days where I’ve thought, Please don’t make me do this one more day, and I’m certain, God love him, that he actually thinks that more often than I do, for many, many reasons. But together, we get through it all, and we pull each other through. We kick and scream and holler at each other sometimes, or get frustrated — with the disease, not the person, but that’s not how it always comes out — but I just think we have been so incredibly blessed in our lives, despite this crazy, horrible, rotten, lousy disease that we both hate. People always say to me, “I don’t know how you do it,” and I’m like, well, I have the same issues in a marriage as you do. The same ups, the same downs, it just has this extra little complication. I won’t say it hasn’t been hard, but it’s actually pretty okay with me.

Published as a part of a “Marriage Stories” feature in the April 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

SL: \


Hi Angie

I recognise the carzy lady as I think a lot of us went through that. Much caused by anger, fear, disapointment and stress. I am fortunate in that my husband has supported me through some of the most awful times and I am constantly amazed that he stayed. That said many friends proved to not be friends partly because they did not want to be associated with this mad person, partly because they did not/could not understand MS never mind the symptoms and partly because they were not true friends from the beginning.

I am a competitive person so right from the start I told everyone about my MS diagnosis. Well walking like a drunk meant this was a good idea but also because my speech was slurred and words often evaded me alltogether. Work quickly became impossible, I could not stay awake, so I did not get chance to become, I spent several hours during the day in the land of nod. Then I became angry which I now know was me grieving for what I had lost (competitive swimmer, cyclist, wlaker etc). Unfortunately, this lasted for three long years. I did recognise the need for counselling which my GP organised and although I quickly realised this was a lot like the training and coaching I had received is still proved helpful, if only to stop me looking inwards and to accept.

A Counsellor will do all the things you are wishing for without any payback or repercussions - you can rant, cry whatever you need to do. This is necessary so that you can move on from grieving to accepting. Without this important step you will not be able to rebuild and live your life. You deserve to live your life. Do not allow what others have done or decide to do to ruin your chance at a new life. That is what you need as the old one is gone. I cannot see how you would ever forgive him if there was a reconcilication but even if you could how would you know that until you can think more clearly?

You are not responsible for other peoples actions but you are for yourself and your future. I wish you well and hope that you get through this with grit, determination and the knowledge that the MS family is here for you.




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