Dating with MS can be tricky at the best of times. But with the addition of a global pandemic, all bets are off. We’ve all now adapted to life online and cosy dates in restaurants are once again off the menu, is there still a right or wrong time to bring up MS to a potential partner? And how much does it really matter?
I decided to dip my toe back in the dating scene last summer as restrictions were easing somewhat. I signed up to a couple of sites after being encouraged by a friend and spent a good few days swiping left and right until I got chatting to a PR executive not far from me. We had lots in common, the photographs they’d sent looked amazing and I had high hopes. We spoke on the phone and discovered even more in common, so my hopes were high when we arranged a Zoom date.
I felt fairly confident. By that point I’d had Zoom PhD tutorials, Zoom book club meetings, Zoom neurology appointments and many more. I logged on, eager to get to know this amazing person even more. Well, let’s just say that some people still upload photographs of themselves that are either decades old or edited to within an inch of their lives. Not only that, they could barely look me in the eye and the conversation stumbled and faltered. They complained about the lighting in my house and a dodgy internet connection. We logged off. A day later, I received a text from them telling me they ‘couldn’t deal with my MS’.
Honesty is key
A convenient excuse. It hurt even more that they hadn’t been honest the whole time. I have always been upfront about my diagnosis. Some of my friends with MS prefer to wait a few dates, but I like to put it on the table early. It’s not that it’s the most important thing about me; it’s the same as telling a date that I work in the construction industry or I’ve got a 21-year-old son. Being open early about my MS is an excellent way of weeding out people who just aren’t worth the effort. If they’re not prepared to learn a little more about how I live with MS, then there is little point in taking things further.
A little bruised from that date, I started swiping again and met another guy. Sadly, it was a similar story. I had mentioned MS before we had met for the first time, he seemed to have no problem with it. So, we met in a park and had a coffee. Within hours, he texted and said that he wasn’t ready to date. Was it the MS? Was it really an issue with him? I’ll never know, but it did seem to be the main focus of our conversation, despite me trying to steer it away into more interesting topics.
Hope for the future
Almost a decade from my diagnosis, I am fortunate that I now live well with MS and I am comfortable sharing that part of myself. Despite the setbacks I’d faced on my first few dates, I refused to change my stance and gave it another go a few months later, older and wiser. I would mention MS within a day of connecting online. Most stopped the conversations instantly, but one simply replied, ‘and?’ I liked him immediately. With lockdown restrictions, we are meeting for the first time in real life in a fortnight, but have had numerous Zoom dates, hundreds of texts and countless phone-calls.
Even with the pandemic as a backdrop, I am hopeful we can make the transition to in-person dating. We have all been through a traumatic time over the last twelve months, adjusting to being captive in our homes, more reliant on others, working out what is and isn’t important in our lives. Something about this sounds very familiar! Now many, many more of us are going through the same experience, surely this will be the basis for a more understanding relationship, moving forward?