MS and Relationships

You've just met someone you're interested in and when you're deciding how long to wait until you call her again (not more than one day!), you also wonder how — and if — to broach the subject of MS. Do you get it over with right away or wait until it's absolutely necessary? There's no right or wrong answer here, but there are certain factors you may want to consider when thinking it through.

It's All about Self-Esteem

You've heard it before, but it's true that MS is only part of who you are. There's a whole lot more to you than your diagnosis; your memories, skills, hobbies, interests, and feelings are also part of who you are. You'll want to make it your goal to be comfortable with yourself, to believe wholeheartedly in your value as a human being and potential partner to someone you love. This can take some time. Learning to live with MS is a process of self-discovery. Sometimes you have to test your mettle, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and go the course for a while until you come to a place of acceptance. There may not be a magical day when you wake up and feel perfectly comfortable in your own shoes; it's more a process than it is a moment. But you'll know when you're there. You'll feel pride in your ability to overcome obstacles; you'll see MS as one piece of the puzzle that makes up your complexity rather than a hurdle you're constantly trying to jump over.

Essential

Pay close attention to your self-esteem and make sure you take care of all of you. Work at your career and your hobbies. Cultivate the special parts of you that make you unique. When you feel comfortable and at peace with yourself, you will inevitably reflect that to others.

In his book, Healing the Shame That Binds You, John Bradshaw says: “Total self-love and acceptance is the only foundation for happiness and the love of others. Without total self-love and acceptance, we are doomed to the enervating task of creating false selves.”

Self-acceptance means loving yourself as you are, including all of your thoughts, feelings, and actions. It also means showing yourself some compassion. Experts say most people are kinder to others than they are to themselves, so pay attention to your own internal dialogue. Are you kind and patient with yourself or is your inner dialogue critical and overbearing? It's important to turn the negative thoughts about yourself into positive ones. If you want to change your life, change your thinking.

You are solely responsible for your own happiness. Knowing this, you can start to pay attention to your needs and desires and make sure you are doing all you can to nurture your happiness quotient. Self-assessment is important here; you'll have to know what makes you happy first and then find ways to include those things in your life. Since MS may sometimes limit your choices, find alternate ways to do the things you love.

Take Care of Yourself

As children, many people are taught that the purpose of life is to take care of others. They learned to “behave” and to be “selfless.” Consequently, there are people who have no idea how to nurture and care for themselves. Give yourself permission to be your own best friend. Take good care of your emotional and physical health.

So, what does self-esteem have to do with dating and MS? While most everyone feels unhappy with themselves from time to time, people with MS and other chronic illnesses are prone to feelings of low self-worth and a lack of self-confidence. Believing that their body has somehow failed them, not feeling as if they've adequately reached their goals in life, dealing with financial difficulties and intermittent symptoms — these are some of the issues people with MS may face that take a toll on their emotional health.

When it comes to dating and relationships, feeling good about who you are is one of the most important aspects of attracting and sustaining a healthy relationship. You want to cultivate a strong sense of individual worth that does not rely on others for its nourishment. High self-esteem is not only important to your well-being, it is also attractive to others.

Keep in mind that low self-esteem can also signal depression, so it's important to get help if you're feeling low for more than a week or two.

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