How MS Changed My Marriage

Our love story began as one of those “only in New York” moments. We met briefly at a lounge in the Lower East Side as I was on my way out, and neither of us got the other’s name or phone number. Like Cinderella’s glass slipper, I had only the description of a cute guy in a grey vest, but it was enough to find him through friends of friends of friends! We went on our first date 24 hours later, and we were married two years after that.

My husband quickly started a career as a graphic designer, and he encouraged me to explore my passions until I found the right career as a social worker. We moved to New Jersey to raise our two children in a quiet, suburban setting.

We started 2012 on a happy note. We had just celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. We couldn’t have been happier with our jobs and with each other. We respected what each one brought to the table.

Unfortunately, 2012 didn’t end the way it started. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November. With the diagnosis, my long- and short-term plans were dashed. If not for MS, I would already have completed a doctoral program. I stopped working as a social worker just 5 years after I started. The clock ticks as I miss other opportunities. Meanwhile, my husband will celebrate 17 years working for the same company.

Slowly, I felt the equality in my marriage vanishing. I saw myself diminishing from partner to dependent, while my husband evolved from partner to caregiver.

Studies show that divorce rates due to MS (and even more broadly, chronic illness) are slightly elevated. One study I recently read showed that divorces are more likely when the wife has a chronic illness than when a husband has a chronic illness.

This scared me, even though there has not been any evidence of my husband leaving me.

Later, I found myself searching online for the other side of the coin. I found encouraging personal stories of couples living with various disabilities, MS included. I found helpful articles with advice based on a solid foundation for any marriage, built with honor, trust, respect and love. Communication is also key.

Kara-and-Husband.jpg
Me and my husband at Bike MS!

With all this in mind, I talked to my husband. I thanked him for everything he has done for our family and for shouldering many of my former responsibilities to the children and our home. I apologized for being a burden, especially when my MS symptoms are triggered. I also shared my disappointment and sadness at not being able to work and putting us in a financial bind.

My husband turned the tables on me and asked, “If I was the one who was sick, wouldn’t you do the same for me?”

I was surprised, and I replied that, of course, I would do the same for him. I realized he has already been operating from the foundation on which solid relationships are built. He is honoring our marriage vows, he trusts that I will be there if he ever needs me, he respects my limitations and he is doing everything he can because of his love for our family.

As discouraging as divorce stats are, I should also move towards a more positive way of viewing my marriage. Despite MS negatively affecting other parts of my life, I will practice honor, trust, respect and love for the sake of my marriage.

For starters, I will stop calling myself a dependent. We have been, we are, and we shall always be, simply partners.
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Kara

Kara Vies

Kara Vies was raised in New York, where she earned a BA from New York University and MSW from Columbia University. She uses her background in social work to help herself through life with multiple sclerosis. She now lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children.

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    40 Comments

  • capitolcarol  Jul 27, 2017 6:26 PM
    I couldn't resist reading your story - I'm always a sucker for love stories. Things seem to be going well for you two now. I still mourn for the life I was supposed to have and what I can't accomplish now. I miss going to work every day or being able to do all sorts of activities with others. And, of course, the financial drain which my husband wasn't expecting because I'm not working. I don't like being a dependent and I bristle every time my husband tells others he is a "caregiver" - ouch. They can't be talking about me! It's only recently that my husband got into a caregivers support group "The Other Side of MS," which is something I never thought he would do, It was great reading your story and hope I can learn from it. Bless.
  • Dave Maskalick   Jul 27, 2017 7:20 PM
    I was married seven years and had been working at my dream job for three years when I received my MS diagnosis, but , my wife and I are still married after 37 years, even though I had to take disability leave 16 years into my dream job, all because we have a STRONG marriage built on love and respect in which we would of anything for one another. I believe you have strong marriage too! :)
  • Maureen Cantwell   Jul 27, 2017 9:01 PM
    Thankyou for sharing your amazing story of a wonderful marriage what marriage is, in marriage we become one. MS is part of both of you both, the symptoms may be different for each of you but because of your true love you share these symptoms, because two have become one.
  • Jaclyn   Jul 31, 2017 1:47 PM
    I was married when I was diagnosed at 26. 8 months later I left my husband after only 2 years of marriage. My diagnosis put a huge strain on our already struggling marriage. I felt lost and broken. However, there are amazing men in this world and I am now very happy with someone who knew everything before jumping in and has stoood by my side through treatments and flares. I have some bad days, but mostly good days. We have a 17 month old daughter, great careers and are buying a house. MS does not have to be an end!!! You sound like you are doing well now, true love means being around for the good and bad!!!
  • connie   Jul 31, 2017 2:25 PM
    when my husband had surgery go wrong and became disabled in 2003 he got depressed not being able to work anymore, I found the MS Society needed volunteers, we along with our grandson have been doing it eight years, my oldest son was diagnosed with MS in 2012, with the people from MS and us he had a lot of family support except his wife, she told him after eight years of Marriage and a small son its your disease your problem, I am leaving you and taking the boy, she cleaned him out, emotionally and financially, even selling his vehicle. I know MS can cause severe depression, my precious first born took his life in October of 2013, its not uncommon for spouses to turn on their ill wife or husband, I Thank God you sought support and your husband is hanging in there, several of my friends who have MS have amazing support from their spouses, my heart still hurts and I cry every day so keep on with your positive attitude and we will walk and run to raise money and awareness. God Bless you
  • Jill Pawlaczyk Stuben   Jul 31, 2017 3:26 PM
    I am 69 was diagnosed at 28 two married children, six granddaughters. I have been married 48 years to the most wonderful man. I am now in a wheelchair and we go about our lives like everyone else. Sometimes a little bit different then the norm. My daughter is 43 in the west diagnose 12 years ago. She is married with two beautiful children and a wonderful husband. It is all possible.
  • Avatar
    Crystal0587  Jul 31, 2017 8:09 PM
    Thank you for sharing this:) I have been struggling with the idea that I may at some point become a dependent to my husband:( Very encouraging post:)
  • JaRae   Jul 31, 2017 10:15 PM
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I was diagnosed in 2009, had to end my career and everything changed. I totally understand where you were coming from as everything you wrote, reminds me of everything I have thought of. I am blessed to have a husband of 15 years. Take care
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  • Avatar
    wilderness76  Aug 1, 2017 6:14 PM
    I loved your story. I had to postpone my wedding due to my Ms.
    Thank you for sharing yours
    Wilderness76😉
  • Danny Bradley   Aug 1, 2017 8:17 PM
    My Wife got diagnosed with MS back in 1999 with Primary progressive 2 the worst kind. 2008 she became disabled and I became from a partner to caregiver. She cried some and told me that I did not deserve this and for me to divorce her. I told her not to say that I am not going anywhere . She said other guys would have left I said yes they would have been jerks not men. I was a punching bag from her side of family with attacks criticizing etc. I knew I was being tested but I hung in there. Because I Loved her and unfortunately her cancer came back and took her life Aug 2016 six days after our 22 anniversary. Yeh you tell me did I have it rough or what and I am financially emtionally lost
  • chauncydoodles  Aug 1, 2017 8:23 PM
    Your very fortunate ☺
  • Deanna Yeakle   Aug 2, 2017 2:19 PM
    I'm so pleased you spoke to your husband. I was getting probabley diagnosis, 1 year after we were married. We've now been married for 28 years and we're not going any where. The one story I want to share is this: I had had a really bad exaserbation. So bad in fact that getting from the bed to the bathroom was about all that I could manage. I was so upset about the burdan I believed I had placed on my family. I actually offered my husband a get out of jail free card. I told him that though I had to walk this road, he didn't. in my head I imagined myself in an apartment by myself, near the kids and my husband in the house with the kids. His response to my offer made me cry. He said, I would rather spend my life with a handicapped you than anyone else." Though there have been frustratig times and a lot of instability especially since the recession. We've moved for my husbands jobs, purchased a house based on what would be best for my disablity's which are of course constantly changing. There have been big financial challenges as we got our two children through college, and my husband would love to be retired already. Being that he is nine years older than I am, Health care for me would be very difficult to pay for, and scary in the current political climate. My hyusband is a public school teacher so we're never had gobs of money. We've lived frugally, but well enough to allow for the things that really matter to us. I guess what I'm saying boils down to, "For better or Worse, in sickness and in health." When we take those vows, the sickness part sometimes comes sooner than we expect, but we are people first. It's easy in this generation especially to loose sight of your own intrinsic value. The are two things you are more than. You are more than your illness and you are so much more than the money you can or cannot earn. n
  • helene21   Aug 3, 2017 6:29 AM
    I have a similar story. I was diagnosed in 2007 and now my MS is progressive. Which means I can no longer things that I used to do; fortunately, I have a great husband, he does the cooking, laundry, errands, etc. I too feel sometime that I am not bringing a lot to our relationship and told him that. he reassured me that he loves me and all is fine. He knows that I appreciates everything that he does for me and for us. I still work, but from home, so that is my part. Thank God for our great partners. God bless you
  • Cynthia   Aug 3, 2017 6:00 PM
    Your husband is a true man and your are blessed.

    My daughter was diagnosed at the age of 15. Within a year she went from a travel ball playing ball of energy elite althete to a walking zombie with just enough energy to get through a school day and do so dismally at best. She was in constant pain (pins and needles throughout the body) had breathing difficulties that cane and went, shoulder and arm function issues. When they told us she'd never play ball again and that the meds they recommended would hopefully give her 10 years before she'd need a wheel chair that just wasn't acceptable at all. I read everything I could. I found Dr. Terry Wahls who took herself out of a tilt recline wheel chair and has been med and symptom free for over 15 years now through diet alone. I read her book and my daughter and I decided this would be her best option. It's been nearly 4 years and she is still living symptom free. Within 6 weeks of starting the diet she was back on the softball field. After 4 years (through diet alone) she is a healthy and happy college student living a pain free life. She leaves to study abroad in Spain at the end of the month and says she feels better then ever.

    I highly recommend you look up Dr. Terry Wahls and read her book. I thank god daily for finding her book.

    I wish you and your family the best as well as anyone else fighting this diease.

    Best wishes!
  • Rachel   Aug 3, 2017 6:04 PM
    Hopefully you will have a normal life! Old MS is not the same as New!

    We all like to see new medicines come out all the time, like Ocrevus, which should be more effective and easier to take. Twice a year compared to every day? Sign me up!
  • Tenesha   Aug 5, 2017 11:14 PM
    Thank you for sharing your families journey. I shared my diagnosis with my husband in 2009, five years before began the journey of matrimony. There have been beautiful days, but MS makes for sure there are harder days. I'm grateful that's he makes a decision each day to take this journey with me.
  • Avatar
    Kara Vies  Aug 11, 2017 2:53 PM
    Thank you everyone, for taking the time to read and comment on my story. It is very humbling to hear the echoes of similarities in other marriages. Just the other day, my neurologist of 8 years acknowledged that my support system has been a positive influence in how I lived my life with MS. So it is important to seek support and foster the good relationships we can find to stay healthy!

    And Connie... my heart hurts with you. As a mother, I cannot begin to imagine the loss of my child. The way you honor your son is beautiful, and I hope that this remembrance gives you, your husband, and your grandson some comfort.
  • Sue Oertel   Aug 17, 2017 1:47 PM
    I am so grateful for this beautiful story. I have MS and have felt for a long time that I have become a "burden"to my spouse as my disease has progressed. I also have forgotten the meaning of our vows. I need to express my gratitude often and contribute as much as I can.
  • Fran Lorant-Moore   Aug 17, 2017 1:55 PM
    Yep, things did happen in our 50 years of marriage. Now, I have been retired from Teaching School fpr 33 years and living in my scooter and now finding out that Bobby has a mild case of Parkingon's. but still functioning WELL. He refereed Football for 42 years and now at 77 working as a timer.....Just can't take FOOTBALL out of you veins, when he was too skinny to even play football in high school. LOL. Love and caring means commitment for life with you VOWS. I consider us a lucky PAIR in Shreveport, LA.
  • Andy   Aug 17, 2017 1:55 PM
    I appreciate your story as it is one I lived from the caregiver side of things. My wife was diagnosed 30 years ago with chronic progressive MS. We had just married and the doctor told us "if it is your goal to have kids, I'd do it pretty quick". We had one beautiful daughter, and chose to stop there knowing that the caregiving would eventually fall fairly hard to my shoulders and I couldn't do multiple kids and a severely disabled wife. As predicted, despite every measure available to us, her MS worsened, year by year getting worse. Limp, to cane, to rollator, to wheelchair, to electric wheelchair, to primarily bed and eventually her care beyond my capabilities, due to advanced wounds, bedridden status and the like. We made the difficult choice of transitioning her to a nursing home right by my job so that I could be in there nearly every day to monitor things. Its been two years now and things continue to spiral on her. Totally bedridden with advanced wounds, fighting infections, legs totally retracted, losing use of arms, etc. Its been painful. But my point to this note is I lived this story, however there was a second chapter to it that I never envisioned. My wife had been telling me for months to seek companionship, that she hated the thought of me alone staring at walls. I resisted of course, "what no way". But as loneliness indeed began to set in, and despare for her health, I began to recognize that I did need someone. I sought companionship and have found someone who accepts that my wifes care is the primary thing in my life and loves me for my commitment. She visits my wife with me and they have grown to be best friends. There's a bizzarre beauty to this story which not eveyrone can reach into and understand, some choose to judge, but I've grown to understand that life is not black or white, sometimes its quite messy. Its been terrifying to undertake this new chapter as I had no idea how the world would perceive me. I'm so scared for my wife, my heart breaks daily and I'm so glad I'm no longer going thru this alone. Just another side to a very complicated story, I admire you and hope for the best for you both.
  • Kimberly   Aug 17, 2017 2:01 PM
    So happy to see your love is strong and growing. I was diagnosed in 2004 with RRMS and we will celebrate our 40th anniversary this October. My husband has been wonderful and has often had to reassure me that he is not going anywhere and I am not a burden! I am thankful that I am still able to work full time and am able to do some of the things we have always enjoyed doing together, we just have to do them differently (such as we no longer go hiking, we go for walks with the use of my "4 wheeler" (my rollater walker), we still have our "Friday night date night" even though we are empty nesters and enjoy doing the Walk MS together every year. Thank you for reminding me that marriage is indeed a partnership as our vows stated "for better or worse,.. in sickness and in health".
  • Roger   Aug 17, 2017 2:15 PM
    Kara-Thanks for sharing your story. I was diagnosed in 2012 with PPMS at 57. I made numerous GOOD changes to better deal with the disease, all related to myself, but when I tried for over 2 years to fix my marriage, i was met with resistance every step of the way. I really believe my wife was afraid of "catching" MS. She stopped all affection and contact after the first year, and I finally left the home this year, living alone for the first time ever. THEN I was diagnosed with prostate cancer a couple months ago and now have surgery scheduled next month. It's scary as hell dealing with this all alone, but in some ways I feel less alone than when I was married, if that makes any sense. I did NOT expect that treatment from her, but glad I was going to have a chance at a NORMAL life, as normal as us crazy MS people can be!
  • Jackie   Aug 17, 2017 2:58 PM
    Very touching story of a partnership/marriage. You both have a lot of respect for each other. I enjoyed reading your story. Thank you :)
  • Lorraine Elijah   Aug 17, 2017 3:55 PM
    I have been the care giver for my husband now for 13 years. It does cause a strain, but when we made our vows, " In sickness and in health". I never thought that day would come, but it did. So this is actually what keeps me going when he or I have a down moment, remembering that we made this vow (promise) before our God, family and friends. Even though, I never thought that our roles would change so drastically in the prime of our lives. He was in chemical maintenance for 25 years looking forward to retiring and becoming a guy with a truck with the sign, "JACK OF ALL TRADES". He loved fixing things. from automobiles to kitchen and household fixtures.
    Something he enjoyed doing for our family and friends when he was healthy. We look forward to the time under Jehovah's Kingdom when "sickness, suffering and death will be no more" as promised in the bible book of Revelation chapter 21 verses 3&4 . Until then we are grateful for the programs that are available to help families both the dependent and the caregivers in dealing with MS.
  • Linda Burke   Aug 17, 2017 4:24 PM
    I can relate to this challenge. I was diagnosed with MS in 2005, after being married for 10 years and having 2 young children. I too am blessed with a great partner, and 12 years later, he continues to be a great support to me, even though our journey has included my needing a wheelchair, and currently being unable to walk independently (yet!) We are so fortunate to have great and supportive partners, as well as the opportunity to learn many things about life through addressing these challenges. Good luck to you and your wonderful partner! You are both so lucky!!!
  • Mary   Aug 17, 2017 4:32 PM
    Wow!!! Talk about true love. I am so happy for you and you have a wonderful hubby. My hubby was their and still is with me today after 22-years of marriage. I was diagnosed with "MS" in 2002. I was so sad and scared to death. I have try every drug to help with my flare ups. I have been in wheelchair for almost eight months and had one major accident where I could have kill myself and others. What a wake up call. I had to retired from my dream job too. It's been tough but I know with God in my life anything is possible. Amen
  • Terri Weaver   Aug 17, 2017 4:43 PM
    Reading the July 27, 2017 online article, in MS Connection, “How MS Changed My Marriage”, by Kara Vies, made me realize we share many of the same thoughts and feelings of living with MS. I was diagnosed in 1998 at the age of 47 with relapsing-remitting MS and by 2006, I had secondary-progressive MS and was completely disabled and in a wheelchair. For the past 11 years I, too, have felt the equality in my marriage declining. I have also felt myself fading from partner to dependent, while my husband has diminished from partner to caregiver. I let him know every single day how much I appreciate and love him for all he does for me. Feeling sorry for myself one day, my husband said to me, "If I had MS, you'd do the same for me, wouldn't you?", and of course my answer was yes. We both use to work full time and because of my MS, had to retire early, he at 49 and me at 50. He builds me up when I am down and I couldn't ask for a better husband to share my life with.
  • Kammie Hames   Aug 17, 2017 6:34 PM
    Beautiful article! I was diagnosed with MS in 2016. It was a long journey to get the correct diagnosis and I was one sick lady.
    I have told everyone, (him too!) thatI fell in love with him all over again. I was ( and still are to some degree ) totally dependent on him. He honored his marriage vows without complaint. Like you, I have expressed my gratitude to him over and over. Like you husband, he stated "you would have done the same for me"!
    Recently, someone told my husband he was to be commended for staying with me during my illness. My husband was dumbfounded and told the person, "It's what you do, you honor your vows."
    Yes, it's been an adjustment. I had to leave a 30+ year career that I loved, I can't ride my bicycle and I can't drive to name a few "cant's" but I choose EVERY day NOT to focus on that. A positive outlook/ attitude is key!!! My husband is s huge part of that.
    We are still partners. We still have a beautiful marriage. We are blessed.
    Congratulations to you and your husband for sticking to it and honoring your vows! You are blessed with each other! And as my husband says, he'd rather have me with MS, than not have me!
  • Pam   Aug 17, 2017 6:58 PM
    Hi. Your post caught my eye and I congratulate you both for doing well. Let me tell you just as a discussion starter maybe my story. Back in the late 60's just after college graduation I married a good man whose family my family had known for many years. We moved far from home so he could finish graduate school. I started some courses while I worked at the university. When we were married fewer than six months the vague weird symptoms I'd had off and on for ten years became very real and I was in the hospital diagnosed with MS. I had to drop out of school and cut to halftime work because of frequent exacerbations. Needless to say this event got the marriage off on the wrong foot. We struggled for 26 years, good and bad years. When I was diagnosed we should have seen a counselor tho we thought only celebrities and rich people could do that. These were different times and complicating things was so little was known about MS. We had children and I had a long period of just minor flare ups so with pacing myself and avoiding heat's effects worked pretty well to help us raise them. We were one of the couples who did divorce. The problem was unresolved anger on both our parts. I went to a counselor many years later, he didn't. Like most stories this one has lots of complications, not much is simple. I would just say if you're having problems get some help particularly if's about anger and resentment. Just one more thing, he didn't leave, I did. After several years we became the friends we couldn't be during our marriage and support each other as we age.
  • Jen   Aug 17, 2017 7:09 PM
    The stories are uplifting.
  • Teresa and Brian   Aug 17, 2017 8:08 PM
    My husband and I both have MS. We met each other later in life and this is our second marriage. He has MS for 16 years and me 10 years. The last two years his MS has progressed and is living in a life care center. That has been the hardest part of our marriage is being away from each because he can't live at home. We have a strong marriage but how does a person accept this? It's impossible. We shed tears..
  • Carolyn   Aug 17, 2017 8:36 PM
    Thanks for sharing your story. I was also diagnosed in 2012. My husband is also my rock. I felt I was becoming a burden too. I am glad I have a wonderful family and a wonderful husband of 22 years.
  • Pam   Aug 17, 2017 10:13 PM
    Your story sounds similar to mine. Not long after my 2011 diagnosis, I offered my husband an out. He was upset with me! He also holds true to our wedding vows. I did caregiver work for several years before my MS diagnosis. I never thought that I would ever personally need a care giver especially in my forties! Well, my husband is the chosen one. I would do the same for him if the situation was reversed. I would never leave him high and dry. However, in my MS group, several of the men with MS were abandoned by their wives. VERY SAD! So again, our stories are very similar. Take care and stay well.
  • Gwen   Aug 22, 2017 6:29 PM
    Thank you for sharing this amazing story. I stop dating because of my MS and you have inspire to give it a try again. Thank you.
  • katy   Aug 23, 2017 3:55 AM
    hi here good one
  • Lori   Sep 6, 2017 8:03 PM
    Loved your story. I am, too, truly blessed with a man who stands besides me. We've been married 35+ years and I have had MS for 16 years. Thank you for sharing your story God bless you both
  • zabet71  Sep 7, 2017 2:11 PM
    Hi,
    I'm totally new to this MS condition. When people said symptoms triggering or relapse, What do you actually feel? I don't know what these triggered symptoms are. Please help. I was diagnosed Sept 1.
  • Andrew  Sep 14, 2017 8:15 AM
    As a "well spouse" I see both sides. Other people make love a "love story" but there's more to it. It's important to understand the well spouse's self-sacrifice that, while the loving and honorable thing to do, can be dangerously costly in stress and wounding in loss of companionship. When they fail, it may not just be selfishness. I recommend the well spouse hire some health aide assistance, even a little, and look into a well spouse support group. I have been amazed at the contributions of many well partners. But even the saints, and non-saints like me, need breathers. :)
  • E-juice24   Sep 19, 2017 1:30 PM
    Hi , Very beatiful couple , long live.
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