MS and Your Relationships

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on March 05, 2022
4 min read

Multiple sclerosis can take a toll on all your relationships. If your symptoms flare, you might not be able to go to family dinners or social events after work. You may feel that you’ve let people down.

MS also can affect your self-esteem. You may think it makes you less attractive or less fun to be around.

But it’s important to have people around that you can depend on. You can do some things to keep those relationships healthy:

  • Let the people close to you know how MS affects your body and mind. Talk with friends or family about what’s going on with your health. Tell them why you may have to skip some activities.
  • Tell new friends or co-workers about your MS only when you’re ready. You don’t have to let everyone know about your illness early on. It’s OK to wait until you’re comfortable with them.
  • Don’t see yourself as a person with an illness. You’re much more than your MS. Keep a positive self-image. You deserve good relationships.

MS can put a strain on your marriage or long-term relationships. You might need to rely on your partner for care at times, like helping you bathe or driving you to doctor’s appointments. This can be stressful for both of you.

Make sure you both give and receive love and attention. It should be a balance. Find ways you can help your partner with chores or tasks. Make sure your spouse knows you appreciate their support and love.

Talk about money concerns or stress. If your partner feels they do more than their share, let them know you’re aware of that. Find solutions to problems together or get counseling if you need it.

Your MS symptoms may affect your sex drive at times. You may have less desire, or it might be harder to get aroused.

MS can affect how your brain sends signals to nerves all over your body. You may not sense touch or have the same response as you did before you had MS. You might also think it makes you less attractive or sexy.

This can be hard on your relationship with a sexual partner. They may feel rejected, or you might feel like your partner blames you for a lack of sex.

You can spice up your sex life by doing a few of these:

  • Talk openly with your partner about what sex and intimacy mean to you both. Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t.
  • Try sex toys if your MS makes it tough for you to move in certain positions. Look for new ways to enjoy sex with your partner.
  • Intimacy is just as important as sex. Let your partner know you love them and want to feel close to them.
  • Pay attention to your appearance. You don’t have to look perfect to enjoy sex, but you’ll feel more confident and comfortable if you feel good about the way you look.

Your family may not always understand how MS affects you. Symptoms like fatigue or confusion may be hard for others to pick up on. They may not know what help you need.

Kids, especially teens, may even resent that their parent has MS. They may have to help more around the house with chores. If your mood changes often or you forget things, they may get upset with you.

Kids also may not be sure how to tell their friends that their mom or dad has MS. They may not know how to handle questions if other kids notice that you have slurred speech or walk with a cane.

Your family members may also worry that you’ll fall or need to go to the hospital.

Here are some tips to help your family understand your MS:

  • Let your kids or family members ask questions or share their concerns. Be open and honest with them.
  • Every family member manages their feelings in different ways. Accept that each person in your family is unique. Let them deal with your needs or their concerns in their own way.
  • Tell your family members you’re grateful for their help. Thank them when they do something for you or are just there for you.
  • Make sure family members know they don’t have to watch you all the time. Everyone needs private time. If you have teens, let them have their space when they need to be alone.

Friendships are just as important as family ties. Speak up if you need your friends’ help. Be specific so they know exactly what to do.

If you don’t feel up to a social event, it’s OK to let them know you need to stay in.

Travel can be a good way to enjoy time with friends. As you plan a trip, let them know what type of activities you can handle. Line up several options so you have choices if your MS affects what you’re able to do.

You may have good friends at work, and you may want to talk about your MS with them. They’ll want to help you if your MS makes some work tasks too hard. And if you know they’re there for you, work may be less stressful for everyone.

But only tell people about your MS if you feel very comfortable with them. And remember that they’re not required to keep your MS a secret.