Dating with a diagnosis: The lived experience of people with multiple sclerosis
Hynes, Sinéad M.
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Tabassum, Kinza, Fox, Jackie, Fuller, Sara, & Hynes, Sinéad M. (2021). Dating with a Diagnosis: The Lived Experience of People with Multiple Sclerosis. Sexuality and Disability. doi:10.1007/s11195-021-09698-9
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition which usually manifests between the ages of 20 40 years. This is a critical period for developing relationships, particularly romantic relationships. People with MS can experience sexual dysfunction, limb weakness, fatigue, pain, reduced mood and bladder/bowel dysfunction; potentially affecting their ability to participate in many meaningful activities, including those associated with romantic relationships, dating or engaging in sexual intercourse. Dating or starting romantic relationships can be difficult for people with physical disabilities as they can experience stigma, negative societal attitudes and the fear of requiring care from potential partners. Dating experiences of people with progressive conditions like MS have not been explored in detail. The aim of this study was to develop a rich understanding of how living with MS interacts with/influences dating and developing romantic relationships. The study used a descriptive phenomenological design and a purposive sampling strategy. Colaizzi s descriptive phenomenological method was used to analyze the data (Colaizzi, 1978). Five females and two males, aged 23 51, participated in two online focus groups. Dating with a diagnosis of MS is a highly personal phenomenon, characterized by individual differences in values and experiences. Core to the phenomenon was personal decision-making about disclosure of the diagnosis and ongoing adaptation to the fluctuating nature of the condition with partners in new/developing relationships. The findings will help health professionals working with adults with MS understand this important aspect of their lives.