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


Anonymous said...

My mom was diagnosed with MS and my dad left her for a younger woman who wasn't sick. My parents divorced when I was 2. My mother NEVER dated after that again. She HATED men. She hated my husband. I should also mention that my mother was an immigrant here who spoke no English and had no family when she moved here to the United States. I was depressed and suicidal as a child and it wasn't until very recently that I realized it was because of her! She was just angry, miserable, and bitter about the way things turned out and I can't say that I blame her, but she never got help. And she never got me help. I got myself help as an adult and that's when things started to change for me. I really hope she is in a better place now. She died last year after over 37 years with living with MS.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I are going through a divorce now! I was diagnosed in 2002. I am very able of taking care of my 3 and 5 yr. old sons. I was the ambassador teacher support group leasder for my county. He has had an affair and our sex life was active for the most part. He is a narcissist and became to mentally abusive. I had fears of more physical abuse. What abuse that was going on was beginning to escalate! It was like he woke up one day and hated me because I was a stay at home mom on disability!! I am very depressed. I am seeking counseling for my sons. I left him with my children and filed a protective order. The order is worthless! I could not show any marks of physical abuse. Mental abuse does not matter much to courts or attorneys! He is fighting me for full custody and using MS against me! I am very afraid of my future situation. Divorce has been filed by both of us. Waiting on court date! Any advice appreciated. Fighting the "MS Dragon" once again! Shannon, IN.

Jo Franz said...

Dear Anonymous,
My heart goes out to you. I wish I could give you a big long hug of comfort. I didn't have children with my first husband though we wanted them. (Actually, I have never gone through childbirth, but not because of the MS.) The thought occurred to me when we were going through the divorce that he would fight me for them because of it, so I just feel so badly for you. I am not an attorney but I think you need one who has worked in this kind of situation before. There is an attorney who works with disability cases who might have some advice for you about how to stand against your husband for your children and your safety because of the MS. The site is The attorney you could call that I found on this site is: Richard I. Feingold & Associates, P.C.
5153 N. Broadway Street
Chicago, Illinois 60640
Tel. (773) 989-9899 · Fax: (773) 944-9620

If you'd like to communicate with me one on one you can do so. Go to my profile and you'll find my email address. May God bless and protect you and your children, Jo

Lisa said...

In 2006, Laura Lawes was diagnosed with Multiple Scelrosis and given a life expectancy of one year. Three years later, she was not only living strong, but she gave birth to her first son. It was called "a miracle birth". These miracles are possible today, because of the work organizations, such as yourself, have done. Here, at (a website dedicated to disease preventions and treatments) we are inspired by stories such as this, and would like to join you in fighting this cause. If you could, please list us as a resource or host our social book mark button, it would be much appreciated. Lets create more of these miracles; together.If you want more information on that please email me back with the subject line as your URL.