I’ve had hurtful arguments before, but Jon has brought a whole new meaning to those words. Starting a relationship with a man that has MS has been an enlightening experience in so many ways. I have to say that I thought that I was in tune with the people that I loved before this was brought into my life. Having this new person in my world that I think so much of, wanting to make every minute on this planet and with this man count I have to say that I am being stretched and challenged in ways that I never thought possible. As I truly started to realize that arguing with him can cause actual physical harm it dawned on me that proving myself right isn’t half as important, nine times out of ten, as maintaining a happy, healthy partner.
It’s so easy to get enmeshed in a situation that has become blown out of proportion. In a discussion with someone that has a normally functioning brain small things can become misconstrued. With a person that has lesions on their brain, and problems with the brain interpreting the way things are being introduced in a stressful situation even conversations that shouldn’t become arguments sometimes do. To date someone that doesn’t compute the way most of society does is a learned art. You can fool yourself for a while and say that things with your new love are perfectly normal but that is a recipe for disaster. If you continue down that path it’s the path to denial.
When you can say that there is a difference in the way you deal with a lover afflicted with MS and a lover that’s not you are starting toward actual communication. I have made the mistake of not clarifying a statement or comment he has made, instead jumping to the conclusion that I had already come to in my normally functioning brain. Mind you, I use the phrase normally functioning brain in this article to differentiate between a brain not afflicted with the lesions symptomatic of MS and one that is. And in my mind I can hear the wonderful gales of hysteric laughter every time he skims the article and sees me describe my brain as “normally functioning.” He has a wicked sense of humor, thus his affection for me, I suppose, anyway, onward.
Truly one of the most frustrating things is realizing that to argue with my love is to actually hurt him. Under stress symptoms of his MS flare up. His confusion becomes much more pronounced and that leads to anger which in turn exacerbates the initial argument as well as undermining his health. I have such a hard time letting things go that don’t seem right, things that are said and hurt me or cause me to feel insecure. I have a tendency to take those moments out in my mind and inspect them, dissect them, then bring the details that hurt or confused me to the attention of the offender until I’m satisfied with the answers I’m getting. Simply taking the initial, “I’m sorry honey, that’s not what I meant” is something I’m not very good at. OK I really, really suck at it. I can’t let it go. When I’m hurt I’m akin to those poor suffering souls recently broken up with playing the sappiest love songs on the juke box again and again reliving the pain, over and over, actually seeking it out, like a junkie seeks that next hit. I have to learn to stop.
The health, happiness and well being of my love depends on me being able to stop. That’s a pretty long, broad reaching statement, right? I mean come on, how can one person and how they react to everyday situations and stress have that much affect on another human being? After all it’s just some stupid petty disagreements, right? Sure, leave your MS afflicted partner immediately, pack your things, be kind and leave. You don’t get it. The day to day stress of living with someone who can’t see how their normal everyday responses can hurt another person should not even consider this type of relationship. I can’t stress this enough. You can hurt your mate by being needlessly jealous, confrontational for no reason, or by turning a mole hill into a mountain. In a normal relationship that behavior will lead to either two unhappy people or the end of the partnership. In this relationship it can lead to actually making another human beings condition worse than it has to be, bring on new symptoms of his/her disease or cause flare ups of symptoms that have aggravated your partner before.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you have to or should be a door mat, or agree if he/she tries to tell you the sky is pink when you can obviously see for yourself that it’s yellow with purple spots. There is a huge difference between knowing when to fight the battle and when there is really no battle to be fought. The trick is to learn, or to learn how to feel, the difference.
The other thing that may become an issue is short term memory loss. This is a prevalent and very well established symptom of MS and one that I don’t think is given enough empathy or even consideration. It’s one thing to be with a healthy mate and get frustrated and irritable when something you have discussed and agreed upon is tossed aside or forgotten, it’s another to not accept that a partner with MS just really doesn’t remember. It’s not an excuse or a sign that they don’t think your conversations or ideas are worth their time, it doesn’t mean that you simply aren’t important enough for them to keep your ideas, wants, feelings, whatever it is at the time, in their mind. It’s is a real and awful symptom of the disease, one that they have no control of. It really doesn’t mean that they are trying to get out of dinner with Joe and Kathy because Kathy rambles on for hours about things as mundane as toast, it doesn’t mean that they don’t think your feelings or thoughts weren’t important enough to remember. We all come into relationships with baggage. Some of that baggage has to be set at the door on faith when entering into a relationship like this. No matter how you may have been treated by partners in the past, this time around, with this mate, you have to take the disease into consideration and accept that, I’m sorry, I forgot means just that.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a work in progress. I still have to stifle the urges to lash out when I’m having a bad day or in a PMS week. I still sometimes start an argument or participate in making an argument before I realize that whether I’m right or wrong is not integral to the workings or the balance of the relationship. But this person’s worth the effort.