Saturday, April 5, 2008

Divorce and Multiple Sclerosis

Since a number of people are searching the web to find out the statistics of divorce in marriages with one partner having multiple sclerosis, I thought I'd add my own lessons to the mix. I believe they could help anyone reading this, not just those of us with MS.

When I was diagnosed in 1978, the future was bleak unless I had "a light course of the disease." There were no FDA approved drugs proven to lower the incidence or severity of attacks--not until 1993 with the approval of Betaseron.

In 1984, after my first husband had an affair and left me in divorce (after fifteen years of marriage) I was trained by the Denver chapter of the National MS Society as one of their first group of peer-counselors for others with MS. I learned that the rate of divorce for those with MS--at that time--was very high. It was compared to those who had lost a child by death--much higher than the average population. I believe they told us in the 80-90% range!

When I began dating I doubted anyone would want to share this disease. Yes, my former husband had other issues besides the MS, but it was a part of his struggle. I would have worked with him even after his affair if he'd wanted to--but he didn't.

I began telling myself that the "truths" about who I was "apart from MS" were what mattered; who I was to God--not the MS. But when I told guys the grim possibilities (and not on the first date!), there were few who really wanted to stay around.

Then I met a man who was sensitive. Fun-loving and adventuresome like me. He was also a single parent to 7 and 9 year old daughters!

We four had a blast together. I gradually gave Ray more information as he wanted it to read about MS. He was fearful of adding that to his single parenting, yet I was good with them, as well; I loved the girls. Ray was in conflict. Because of his own difficulties from his childhood making him fear commitment again, he took a job across the country to flee our relationship.

But when he asked me to marry him later, I knew he was committed. We've been through so much more than MS in our nearly 21 years together. We are lovers, friends, adventurers, companions, and soul-mates. "For better or worse" is really our story.

Posted by Jo Franz