Being single and trying to navigate your way around the world of dating is challenging for anyone these days. But it can be especially difficult when your life comes with additional complications, like MS.
When I first started dating after diagnosis I was encouraged to enter the world of online dating. I was terrified. I didn’t know when to disclose my MS, if at all. I didn’t know if it would potentially scare someone off or act as a barrier of some sort. I honestly just wasn’t sure how to handle any of it, because I didn’t know what was right or wrong. But what I’ve realised over the last 3 years is there’s no rule book when it comes to dating and instead you just need to do what’s best for you.
I'm by no means an expert when it comes to dating but these are some things I’ve learned for myself. Maybe they can make things a little bit easier.
Am I actually ready to date?
Have I come to terms with my MS? Am I in a good place in my life? Do I have a strong support network? If I answer no to any of these questions, is dating what I need right now?
One of my main sayings when it comes to dating is ‘if you aren't happy on your own, you won’t be able to be truly happy with someone else. Get your own life and love it first, and then share it.’
After all, if we love ourselves and look after ourselves, we’ll have more to offer to someone else.
Be honest with myself
The first step to finding something with someone is to start by being honest with myself about what I’m really looking for. Entering the dreaded dating scene and letting someone in, even if you don't have MS, is a big step. So it's important to work out who you are and what you want before you go for it.
Do I want to find a long-term relationship or have a bit of fun? There's no right or wrong answer, but this conscious acknowledgement can be crucial to how we decide to interact with future dates.
Tell them about the MS when I’m ready
I like to get it out there quite early on when dating but that’s because I'm a pretty open book when it comes to my MS. But I don’t think it really matters if it's the first date, sixth date or twenty-sixth date. Of course, honesty is key but the only right time to tell someone is when you're ready.
Try not to worry about how they’ll react
This is something that I’ve struggled with. But I've realised if I’m worried my date won’t be able to handle my condition, they probably aren’t going to be the right person for me anyway. Some people just don't have what it takes to handle someone's health issue.
The people who are worth your time, effort and energy will understand that you have good days and bad days. They’ll see that we’re so much more than our condition.
Be open about bad days
Holding back information can lead to fear, guilt, and even resentment. These can be difficult feelings when you’re trying to build a relationship with someone. Sharing things and being open about how I’m feeling on my bad days is an opportunity to invest in the relationship in a meaningful way.
Help them help me
When a relationship is new, you’re both learning about each other and how you can support one another. I talk to the person I’m dating, being as open as I can and tell them what I need when I need it. The people who are sincere and serious about dating me seem to appreciate the direction and they’re more equipped to support me when I need them to.
There’s no manual for navigating the world of dating with MS, but there are plenty of ways to make it that little bit easier. Maybe what I tell myself works for you too.
Above all, I always remind myself that everyone has challenges in life – MS just happens to be mine.