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What concerns might a couple have following a multiple sclerosis diagnosis?

Fear of being abandoned by their partner and worry of becoming a burden are two natural reactions that may occur when someone learns they have multiple sclerosis (MS). If these concerns are acted upon instead of voiced, the relationship may become derailed.

The fears of the partner who accepts the role of primary caregiver should be addressed as well. Often, these partners' first concerns are about their ability to sustain the required level of caretaking over the long haul as well as how to maintain a balance in their own lives.

The couple that successfully negotiates the demands of multiple sclerosis (MS) is well aware that symptom flare-ups and exacerbations may require periodic role adaptations. A study in the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing found that healthy partners often shift roles the most. While women tend to focus on keeping their husbands involved, functioning and independent, men typically try to protect their wives' energy. They learn to give injections with the least amount of bruising and pain, take over household chores and accompany their wives to medical appointments.

These role changes can bring about potential hazards. Although MS can conjure up supportive and nurturing qualities in partners, caregiving should never evolve into pity. Also, partners should not sacrifice their own needs and desires so much that they lose themselves in their spouse's illness. When this happens, the relationship itself dies. The caring partner should maintain personal, appropriate boundaries to refrain from over-protectiveness and to preserve the independence of both parties.

It is important to acknowledge that the care partner also experiences losses in terms of role and relationship changes, career and financial difficulties, and reduced physical intimacy. Each of these issues places additional strain on the relationship.

Dr. Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine Specialist

You may have many concerns as a copule following a mutliple sclerosis diagnosis. When it comes to stressors that you cannot change, acceptance is your only alternative. Many things in life are beyond your control, but you have a choice as to how you handle and react to them. Focus on those things you can control.

So, what can you control when it comes to your life and having MS? It's a good thing to think about, because the answers you come up with will largely determine how well you manage your condition.

Staying healthy by eating well and exercising regularly is a good way to control the overall state of your health. You can also agree to focus on the positive things in your life. Education and commitment are also stress relievers. Stay on top of new treatments and therapies and commit to your medication regimen. It's also important to see your specialists on a regular basis.

Adapting to the unavoidable things that cause you stress can help you regain a sense of control. See the challenges before you as an opportunity for personal growth—as well as the growth of those around you.

Continue Learning about Living With Multiple Sclerosis

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.