Should I date someone with MS (multiple sclerosis)?
November 20, 2016 4:04 AM   Subscribe

I have recently fallen for, and become involved with someone with MS. Is this really a good idea?

I have been single for just over a year and have recently fallen for someone with MS. Tensions have been mounting for some time, we recently slept together, and it is safe to say that a line has now been crossed. Things may or may not move forward for reasons I don't want to go into here, primarily because I don't want to cloud the central question, but we were friends previously, she has had feelings for me for quite some time before anything happened, and I am aware enough of my own feelings to know that if this does go any further, it's unlikely to be just a flash in the pan.

So, assuming it does, is this really a good idea?

I've done a fair bit of reading on the internet about MS since all this started, and the more I read, the more terrified I become. I myself have health problems, the main one being a rare neurological disorder that leaves me in a lot of on/off pain, but I manage it, no-one really knows, and the key thing is that while it's probably never going to get any better, it's also highly unlikely to get any worse. By contrast, everything I read about MS suggests that sooner or later everyone gets worse, it's just a question of time. I am currently haunted by visions, in which 10 years down the line I am married and carting my wife around in a wheelchair.

She has only had one attack, and this was when she was diagnosed a couple of years ago, although she had symptoms for years before that can now be explained by the MS. She's been told she has a 75% chance of having another attack in the next 5 years. Currently she lives a normal life, still holds down a job, and her main symptoms are fatigue, pain, numbness and tingling.

Most of the people I have spoken to in the real world tend to say that I should cut my losses and run while I still can, but this seems incredibly harsh to me, as most of them know very little about MS, and it's not her fault that she has this disease.....

So hive-mind, what do you think I should do? Personal stories are of course, very welcome! I am primarily interested in hearing from people who have MS, have a loved one who has MS, or have been in a similar situation to the above.

FWIW, she's 28 and I am a 30 year old male.
posted by inner_frustration to Human Relations (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I understand your misgivings. I'm afraid you're going to get eviscerated here (and elsewhere, if you chose to share these feelings) for being "shallow."

My wife has primary-progressive MS (so somewhat different than what I assume your almost-GF has). She was diagnosed after we were married. I sometimes get that vision of pushing the wheelchair, but that's easily pushed aside because I love her, regardless. That's what I believe and what I promised when we were married.

You're not at that point yet (i.e., marriage), so I'm not sure you should be making decisions about 5, 10, or 20 years down the road. Why not enjoy this time with someone you obviously like (and who likes you back) and see where the road takes you? When the two of you are "serious," you should have a conversation about the long-term "plan" about her MS.

Good luck.
posted by kuanes at 4:12 AM on November 20, 2016 [8 favorites]

Welcome to the real world. Any person you meet and fall in love with is vulnerable. None of us have a guarantee of a long life of good health. You yourself have your own health limitation, and though you seem to keep it hidden (why does nobody know? Don't you deserve care, compassion, support) you seem aware that you yourself will bring issues into a life partnership because of your own human condition.

Love demands a degree of selflessness. The people around you who are telling you to cut and run are people who are still viewing love with an immature, self-centered point of view.

If you look ahead to the prospect of pushing your lover around in her wheelchair as though it's a horrible imposition on you, then you're that immature as well. Alternatively it might be viewed with a real sense of pride and importance to make life better for a person you care about.

It's up to you. This is an opportunity for you to grow up and realize not everything in life is about you. Are you big enough to do that?
posted by Sublimity at 4:19 AM on November 20, 2016 [24 favorites]

Caring is hard. But nothing in life is certain. You could marry a perfectly healthy person who is then diagnosed with a serious illness or disabled by an accident. Or a perfectly healthy person and then suffer a horrible messy painful divorce. This "choice" is a false one. Imagine you don't get involved and she is healthy for ten more years - it can happen! Imagine you settle down with some other person who is diagnosed with a terminal cancer after three months together (that happened to someone I know and he was already in deep enough that he remained for three more gruelling years and cared for her until the end if her life).

I have three children. Two of them have disabilities (autism). One may, with support, live a full and independent life. The other without a miracle will not.

It's not what I signed up for, expected, prepared for. Nobody sits about rubbing their belly and considering how disabled their kid will be. But it happened to us.

I have a friend who's child is similarly disabled as my youngest, profoundly autistic child is, with less cognitive impairment but much worse physical impairment, because they choked on food and suffered a catastrophic hypoxic brain injury. One week she was a completely normal, typically developing child. The next she was severely and permanently disabled (the week between she was on full life support possibly about to die). That's life.

The problem is most of us going around thinking things like ill health, disability, etc won't ever happen to us. Until it does happen we tend to feel immune. So you now feel like you're giving up that immunity if you get involved with someone with a known illness. But the immunity is an illusion. It can happen to anyone, at any time.

If you like one another then I'd go for it and worry about other things when they come.
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 4:19 AM on November 20, 2016 [28 favorites]

it's not her fault that she has this disease

That's true, but it would equally be not your fault if you can't handle it. In fact, 'fault' and 'fairness' are useless concepts here; in my view, the main question is: would this relationship (this term used in a broad sense here) lead to more happiness overall, or more pain and sadness? And that's mostly impossible to predict, but something worth thinking about. It's not something others can probably help you with. But keep in mind that over time, we all gain our own health problems and disabilities.
Life is inherently risky. None of us gets out alive. In the mean time, we do our best to enjoy our lives the best we can, and if we're good people, we help others do the same. Often to the benefit of all parties.

Be honest with yourself, then be honest with her, and do your best to be kind to both of you.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:26 AM on November 20, 2016 [19 favorites]

I work a high power corporate job with a woman who has MS. She was diagnosed at 25, is 32 now and just ran her first marathon. I understand your qualms, but I assure you, she is experiencing the same in her side threefold, including a hefty dose of "do I even deserve love with my disease".

I'm all for being honest with yourself, but you will also never know what you're going to get with someone else as well, including yourself. Anyone could develop a debilitating disease or get hit by a bus 5 years from now. I think if you like HER then date HER, not her disease and give her a chance. If it doesn't work out, let that be due to the relationship and not her disease.
posted by floweredfish at 4:34 AM on November 20, 2016 [7 favorites]

I am currently haunted by visions, in which 10 years down the line I am married and carting my wife around in a wheelchair.

This can happen to anyone. You enter into a lifelong partnership with someone and either one of you could get hit by a car, be diagnosed with cancer, suffer a stroke, etc. That's what it is. It comes to us all. It's part of the living thing.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:37 AM on November 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

I was in a serious, but not marriage oriented, relationship with someone who had MS for several years. He died of unrelated causes before he was 30. It hurt like hell, but I wouldn't undo the years before even if it saved me from that pain.

I'm very much on the side of taking what joy life offers you now and dealing with the future as it comes. It's responsible of you to wonder if you have what it takes to be a good long-term partner, but the future is unpredictable - what you fear now may not come to pass, and your life can take paths you can't imagine now. Don't let fear of the future ruin today's joy.
posted by EvaDestruction at 5:17 AM on November 20, 2016 [6 favorites]

Date her now. Don't worry about the long term stuff until you're further in and need to make decisions about it. I expect your choices will seem clearer at that point. When I first dated my eventual husband, I would have considered handling a major disability to be a life-destroying imposition; but after we were together for a while, it would have been a minor frustration, because I was so connected to him that taking care of him would have been not a "joy" exactly, but just the obvious and not-terrible thing that I did because I loved him and wanted to be with him.

If your brain doesn't work that way or you don't come around to that sort of feeling, then break up then.
posted by metasarah at 5:25 AM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

I understand your qualms and think they are valid. I have known several strong relationships where one partner had MS. And one partnership where the pressures caused by MS on the relationship killed it. It is fair to say that with more challenges you need more resources than an average relationship. Do you both already have a lot of "spoons" to make up for the deficit of spoons you have in terms of your physical health? Money is a big one, as is a wide circle of support for both of you, time, and access medical resources. A serious chronic medical condition impacts where you can travel and immigrate to (if that is something you wanted) and it would be important to recognise that in making one choice (continuing this relationship) means other choices are closed off. Such is life. Can you accept that without later resolving into bitterness or resentment? I wish you peace with your choice.
posted by saucysault at 5:34 AM on November 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

Long-time lurker on MF. This question prompted me to join.

I'm a neurologist (not your neurologist, or this woman's neurologist). I don't have a lot of personal experience with MS, but I've taken care of hundreds of patients with it. There is a lot in the neuro literature about prognosis in MS, which can be really hard to predict because it presents so differently in different people. I was taught that the first 1-2 years are predictive of the first 10-20 years, in terms of how aggressive (how many relapses, how much disability) the disease is. There are also a plethora of disease-modifying therapies now -- the number has doubled since I was in medical school -- that help to stave off relapses.

This article is several years old but lays out well: "The truth is that 15 years after the onset of MS, only about 20% of patients are bedridden or institutionalized. Another 20% may require a wheelchair, or use crutches, or a cane to ambulate, but fully 60% will be ambulatory without assistance and some will have little deficit at all. Perhaps as many as 1/3 of all patients with MS go through life without any persistent disability, and suffer only intermittent, transient episodes of symptoms."

On a more personal note, I had a similar dilemma about a decade ago deciding whether to seriously date a man with a serious chronic illness. I opted not. I regret that decision every day.
posted by basalganglia at 5:43 AM on November 20, 2016 [64 favorites]

My ex-boss's wife has MS and they have been married for . . . at least 10 years, I can't really remember, and they have two kids and you'd literally never know that she is sick. I mean, honestly, she takes such shockingly good care of herself physically that it's more or less invisible. Based on what he told us, her MS responded very well to being managed by diet (and there are a whole lot of details here that I don't remember). All this just to bolster the point above: MS presents very differently for different people. Everyone is broken in some way. You like her. Honestly for me, the bigger issue to know the answer about would be how committed is she to the management of this and then for myself, how do I feel about being a partner in this kind of disease management?

Good luck. If you can manage to date the girl and not the disease, then I think you might be okay. Everyone has issues, and none of us are getting out of here alive.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:01 AM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I dated a woman with MS for a few months, and I did have to push her around in a wheelchair. It was still a wonderful relationship (we later broke up for unrelated reasons) and with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight I don't regret a moment of it. So yet anothe vote for go for it.
posted by Logophiliac at 6:30 AM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have no perspective on the question as you phrased it but just want to note that in the event that what you are really asking is "Would I be a terrible person if I broke it off now because I don't think I can handle a long-term relationship with someone with MS," no, you wouldn't.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:39 AM on November 20, 2016 [12 favorites]

If you think falling in love at all is a terrible idea, then yes, this is a terrible idea. But worry is just borrowing trouble from the future and it doesn't actually solve any problems; don't pre-pay.
posted by juniperesque at 7:19 AM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here's what I think is fair to you both: date. Learn what you can about your feelings, each other, MS, and treatments for it. At some point, have a thorough discussion about planning for possible eventualities - taking into consideration how choices around career and finances might figure into things. Because caregiving is different when it's well-resourced than when it's not. (And it's one thing if you're in a stable profession with some reserves, quite another if you have a burning ambition to be e.g. a playwright, and would feel cheated of the opportunity to really give it a shot if you had to make sacrifices.)

But I don't think you should drag it out if, in a year or two, you find that you're still uncertain, or doubt your ability to be a partner in rough times. I don't think that would be fair to her, she might want the chance to meet someone who's prepared and willing to commit. Or at the very least, although it might be painful or difficult, be honest about your ambivalence, and check in about that now and then, so that she can decide whether to take the risk of committing to someone who might leave at a critical time.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:38 AM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wholeheartedly disagree with the "date her now" opinions.

Don't be the kind of person who bails as soon as things get rough. It would be better to cut ties now than to be a jerk when she really needs you.
posted by Neekee at 7:41 AM on November 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

Dating + honesty + time limit gives her a chance to decide what she wants, for herself.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:43 AM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

I wholeheartedly disagree with the "date her now" opinions.

Don't be the kind of person who bails as soon as things get rough. It would be better to cut ties now than to be a jerk when she really needs you.

...yeah. I was on a canoe trip second date that could not have been going better, with a lovely, attractive, seemingly compatible person, when I made a mention of a (chronic and physically inconvenient under some circumstances) medical condition. I have never witnessed anyone row back to shore that quickly to drop me off immediately at home without the pre-planned dinner first.

He absolutely had the right to decide he couldn't imagine being with someone dragging along any medical gear on longer trips, and I wasn't at all mad or hurt--it was that much clearer it was a rejection of a potential lifestyle situation instead of a rejection of me personally because it happened so honestly and immediately. (Bonus points, no real grief on my end for something that ended before it really started.)

Tell her your concerns sooner rather than later. Give her her own chance to make her own choices about whether or not to invest her time and emotional resources in you.
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:06 AM on November 20, 2016 [11 favorites]

If a potential partner told me they had concerns about "carting" me round in a wheelchair in ten years time I would run away extremely quickly. This is a discussion you should be having with her, not us. She has agency and always will. Make sure she gets to exercise it with all the information she needs.
posted by firstdrop at 8:40 AM on November 20, 2016 [14 favorites]

I've been having a good long think about this question. I think that, as written, your question answers itself. If you actually have this concern then you should probably not go ahead. But I suspect that the question is not exactly what it seems, and you are really questioning your own valid concerns about the matter.

I met my future wife almost two years ago (I'm 49, she's 40). We fell in love very fast and very hard. She dropped me a few weeks in and wouldn't discuss it, saying she couldn't raise the energy to think about it. We started to get back together again almost a year later, the day before her first MS attack. Things were iffy for a while (it looked like she would have to move countries for her kids) but after a couple of bouts of each of us begging the other to give it another try, we finally got back together earlier this year. The "not being able to raise the energy to think about it" is an MS thing and was the first indication.

We have tried being apart and neither of us can cope with that situation. She is still ten times more beautiful and ten times more lovable than anyone else I've ever met. So I don't have the option of your question as it is written. My heart simply won't let me. But I do understand your concerns. My love can still walk and do everything unaided, but only very slowly, for three or four hours a day. She will certainly never work again. My life consists of caring for her and her two fairly high needs kids (and my 13 year old) 24/7, and I collapse into bed around 8pm every night. But I look forward to "carting her around in a wheelchair" when that day comes. At least I'll know where she is! :-)

I talk to a counsellor, and his question was "how bad does it have to get?". For me, the answer is "a whole lot worse than this".

Your girlfriend sounds like she has it fairly mildly. Prognosis is much better for MS diagnosed early in life. We know plenty of other couples (through MS groups) who have lived with MS for twenty or thirty years and are only now getting to the occasional walking stick stage, after bringing up a family and having a full life. If your girlfriend can still hold down a full time job then you probably shouldn't be worried about her being in a wheelchair within 10 years.


Tl;dr: this is where you find out whether you're in love. If you seriously have the option of leaving then get out and let her find someone more into her. If, on the other hand, you find that you simply can't leave her then stop worrying and enjoy your life with her. It might just be amazing.
posted by tillsbury at 9:29 AM on November 20, 2016 [9 favorites]

I am a relatively young person in a long-term relationship with somebody who has a progressive disease that is not MS, but has overlapping manifestations with MS. I certainly do have concerns that I will become more of a caregiver than a partner, due to the physical responsibilities that may inevitably fall to me due to his limitations. At times, I have doubts as to whether this path is really going to turn out alright for my partner and me. I might not put it so crudely as having visions of "carting him around in a wheelchair," but the worries are there, (I think) reasonable to have, and I am open in expressing my concerns with him. I tell him that I find the idea of doing all the manual chores in the household in some not-too-distant future terrifying. We talk about possible accommodations from time to time. I've taken years to learn more about taking care of people with his specific illness, to process the notion of a progressive illness in a loved one, to get used to his assistive devices, and to not acknowledge the fear, and, frankly, the extra work/energy/planning involved would be lying. That doesn't mean that I don't love him. We all live but one life, and I don't regret my decision.

You say it seems "harsh" to cut this off due to an illness, but illness is just like any other potential dealbreaker, and, besides, pity, no matter how slight, is never a good reason to forge ahead in a relationship. People who haven't been through something similar might talk to you about your relationship as if there is a component of valor to it all; this is artificial and a complete non-entity once you're living with your SO day-to-day, checking restaurants ahead of time to make sure they're accessible, building ramps that lead into the house, realizing that you can't put the gallon of milk on the bottom shelf because he can't reach it as easily.

If you think it is more likely that you won't be able to effectively cope with this non-trivial obstacle either now or in the future, or if you think that this omen of a diagnosis and symptoms may interfere with your sense of forward momentum within the relationship, I think it is not only understandable but more ethical to honestly break things off. Since it sounds like you are in the earlier stages of a relationship, it will be easier, albeit not easy, to rip the band-aid off now. A let's-wait-and-see approach might be fine if time limits are discussed ahead of time. What you don't want to do is set yourself and your potential partner up for a situation where neither of your needs are being adequately met under the strain of MS and the other natural complexities of life, well after your lives have become enmeshed.

There are other venues to check out and look for support from: is one; I believe they have active forums there. There are local and national MS organizations you could look into as well. The documentary When I Walk by MS sufferer Jason DaSilva was pretty good and provided some insights; Blindsided: A Reluctant Memoir by MS sufferer Richard Cohen was okay (I didn't think it was as good as When I Walk); and although I didn't expect to find it helpful, Jane Hawking's memoirs have also been helpful in deepening my perspective (and learning about how exhausting it must have been for her).

One friend of mine asked me in regard to my relationship and his illness: "what would future gemutlichkeit want present gemutlichkeit to do?" Your answer to this could be revealing. Feel free to message me if you have any more questions or simply want a space to further discuss.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 10:44 AM on November 20, 2016 [6 favorites]

I have something that looks a lot like MS but current neuro says no. Look up my posting history if you want more info. I have had this issue for 28 years. I don't own a w/c...I just started using a walker off and on this winter. I have just started not recovering fully from my flare ups. I have had a good 28 years. I am almost in my mid sixties and am grateful for all the things I've been able to do.

The internet is full of people who, for the most part, are unhappy for whatever reason. It's a great place to bitch about your symptoms, the medical care you are not getting and so on. Everybody else is too busy living to go on the internet and share happy stories. MS is no longer a horror story for most people who are diagnosed. Treatment is available and it is really helping most people.

Please don't short change yourself of her. You might be the one who ends up in a wheelchair. Should she run from you? I think you need to ask yourself that question. I hope that question doesn't sound to harsh.
posted by cairnoflore at 11:46 AM on November 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

I got married at 22, mostly functionally healthy. I started to get really sick at 24. I am now 26. I have a chronic illness that keeps me homebound and has been really hard for myself and my husband. (Hopefully it's something that will get better with time instead of worse.)

I don't think most people expect to get sick at 24. I sure as shit didn't.

We meant it when we said,"in sickness and in health." I've already had my own problems feeling like a burden. But he's assured me that he will never see me that way.

But I would get it if someone couldn't deal. I married him because I knew he would take care of me no matter what. As I would do for him. That's important to me in a relationship. But I wouldn't fault someone if they said "Nah, I wouldn't take care of you when you're sick." I just wouldn't date that person.

I definitely wouldn't want to be with someone who would potentially see me as a burden. Especially if they were trying to shove those feelings down to "do the right thing." Nope. It takes too much energy for me to be sick to worry about that.

So, I think it's fine if your values are such that you don't want to stick by someone who got sick or injured or whatever. But you sure as hell better be upfront about that with a partner.

Don't date this woman. Let her find someone who wouldn't see her illness as a burden.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:19 PM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

As others have mentioned, with the current treatments available, it isn't terribly likely she'll be confined to a wheelchair any time soon. 30 years ago the prognosis was a lot worse. However, that should not be the basis of your decision. If you know in your heart you won't be able to handle caring for her if/when things do get bad, you should make quite clear to her that you won't be able to do that for her.

That doesn't necessarily mean you two can't date for a while. It's perfectly legitimate to have relationships you know aren't forever, so long as you are both on the same page.

So give it a think and let her know where you're at and go from there. You might have a fun few months with her, a few years, or the rest of your life. Or maybe she feels like she can't spend time on a relationship that isn't likely to pan out. By being open and honest with her you will be far more respectful than most people are towards people with (potential) disabilities.

Just don't fall into the trap of assuming that a person can't live a good life even with disabilities. Even if things go very poorly for her on that front, it is entirely possible for her to have an fun and fulfilling life. MS doesn't turn people into vegetables. My mom was one of the smartest and most empathetic people I've ever known. That didn't change as she went from cane to walker to wheelchair to bedridden.
posted by wierdo at 2:23 PM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you don't feel able/willing to deal with this reality, then it is cool to end it. Being aware of the fact that you aren't ready or able to deal with that is okay.

However, I wouldn't be so quick to walk away from someone you feel such a connection to. Yes, she has a thing that may become a bigger thing in the future. But so does everyone. The only difference here is that you're aware of it. It is a KNOWN thing rather than an out of the blue sudden thing that you now have to deal with. Seriously, EVERYONE has or will have a big thing that will need dealing with. The fact that you already know about it is kind of .. not a bad thing. You can prepare yourselves, mentally and lifestyle wise.

Or you can date and marry someone who doesn't have a known issue, and instead get struck with something out of the blue....

you could be suddenly stricken with early onset and very rapidly advancing parkinsons (like my uncle at the age of 40).
Or go through multiple cancers and resulting surgeries and treatments (like my mother).
Or out of the blue stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis in your late 30s (like my cousin).
Or deal with a severe and majorly life impacting mystery illness no doctor seems to be able to identify and therefore cannot treat but that is slowly causing you to go blind (like my friend).
Or get diagnosed with a super rare (like, 15k in all of north america), untreatable degenerative neurological disorder that is slowly taking away your ability to walk (like my father).
Or develop a football sized tumor in your abdoment resulting in the need for a full hysterectomy at the age of 30 (like my friend).

You seriously never know. Hell, YOU could end up in a wheelchair before she does.

True story, I suffer from clinical depression in a pretty major way, and I am at a high risk for cancer for all sorts of reasons. I had a long conversation about this with Mr. McSockerson before we got married, to make sure he was fully aware of the baggage I came with and the sorts of things that may happen over time that we'd have to deal with. His response? "Dude, everyone has stuff. Yeah, you have health risks, but so do I. So does everyone. And hell, I could also get hit by a bus tomorrow. No person is guaranteed."
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:48 AM on November 21, 2016

I developed what would turn out to be a chronic pain condition less than a year after my partner and I got together. Over the past two years, it got significantly worse, and a combination of that and some other factors means that right now I can't walk very far at all, or stand for more than a few minutes. I use a rollator (one of those rolling walker things) in some situations, and in others he pushes me in a wheelchair. There are other ways he has to take care of me as well: I can't put on my own socks right now, or trim my own toenails. I very much dislike having to ask him to help me with things like this, but we're adapting to it.

I don't want to diminish what a rough couple of years it's been—he's had to take on a lot of household responsibilities that used to be mine, for instance, and quite a bit of childcare. But I want to point out that, even needing to be driven to doctor appointments when I can't drive myself, and having to use a wheelchair some of the time (which he pushes) doesn't make me useless. As I've adapted to my limitations, I've gotten more useful around the house than I was at first; I still handle the family money and business like making doctor and dentist appointments; I'm still a hilarious and fun person to hang out with; and we still have very good sex. So, even though 22 of our 23 years together have been affected by my chronic condition, and it's currently in a stage where I am quite disabled by it, there is still all kinds of other good stuff going on for us. Needing a wheelchair some of the time hasn't made me completely useless. We've built a whole life together and while that life has been affected by my physical limitations, those don't define me or our experience of each other and our life together.

It's OK to say that, even though you understand that we all face unpredictable risks, it still feels like too much for you to take on this known risk. But, if it helps, I just wanted to say that the possibility of health problems or a disability doesn't necessarily mean an unfulfilling relationship.
posted by Orlop at 10:07 PM on November 21, 2016

I have to admit, that I've been quite surprised at the sheer number of responses to this question. I'm also quite surprised that most replies are also the complete opposite of what I've received in real life. Although having said that, answers to questions on metafilter do often seem to differ from opinions in real life. But anyway, I digress.

I think I had largely made my mind up before I even asked this question, and I was more looking for others perspective on it, and angles I had not considered rather than a cry for what I should do. Some of the replies did make me chuckle a bit, in that I am callous and that she would be better off without such a heartless individual as me. I probably could have worded the question a little better in hindsight, but I sort of assumed that the fact I was even asking the question showed that I cared...

Anyway, I think that life is too short not to risk giving it a go. Anything could happen in the next few years as others have pointed out (to both her and me) and I'm not one to throw opportunities down the drain. Whether things progress beyond what they are now will be down to other issues unrelated to her health, as mentioned earlier.

I haven't marked any answer as best, because with the exception of the handful of replies that assume I am the devil incarnate, most of the answers were very thoughtful, and I have greatly appreciated 90% of the answers to this question.
posted by inner_frustration at 1:45 PM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

OP, I noticed that in your post you mentioned some chronic health problems of your own, and it seems respondents perhaps glossed over this. I feel like it influences your perspective a lot. My sister has chronic health issues, and lives with her partner, who has recently started having health problems of his own, and had to take time off work. Because their income depended on his ability to work, things are uncertain for them right now, and scary. As a chronically ill person myself, I think that disabled people can live vibrant, full lives, and are no less worthy or deserving of love and commitment than anyone else -- but if I read correctly, your uncertainty comes in part from the fact that you've accepted you'll have health troubles of your own, and I can understand why you'd be worried.

Still, I think you should go for it, if you really care for this person. Others have stated very eloquently that illness and disability happen to any of us -- and all of us, eventually; everyone gets old. I am also a terrible romantic and think that love prevails. As someone who is the chronically ill partner, I can say, I don't think it's illness that breaks up a relationship. Chronic illness that aren't under control can be a heavy strain, but it's just one of many forces that will put stress on the underlying cracks of compatibility and commitment that were there already (if they even are). If the relationship is strong, and you will be able to deal with illness, just as you would have been able to make it through typical things like kids, work stress, parental stress, etc.

On a practical level, knowing that you both have health problems and that she may eventually not be well enough to work in a traditional way, I would let this guide your choices about health care coverage, location, and careers, or at least keep it in the back of your mind. (Do you/could you live by family, who could be relied upon to help out with caring (even temporarily) if she took a turn for the worse? Could one or both of you explore options or fields where you could someday transition into working from home, on a flexible schedule, freelance, etc.? It may never happen, of course, but it might help to have (and to know you have) a backup plan. That sort of thing.)

I would definitely stress clear and honest communication about your & her emotional responses and needs, starting now. Don't try to hide your concerns about the future: share it, face it together holding hands, make a plan. Best of luck!
posted by stellarc at 11:17 PM on November 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

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