From the Bureau of Little Known Multiple Sclerosis Facts comes this fascinating statistical anomaly related to the incidence of MS in a certain class of people. It’s little known because I just discovered it. Anyone who gave the matter even a modicum of thought would have arrived at the same conclusion, even without a multimillion dollar grant from the NIH or MS Society. (Maybe I can get one retroactively.)
We all know MS is 2-3 times more prevalent among women than men because, well, who knows why? And we know that MS is far more common among people who come from northern climates. This is because the lack of direct sunshine results in decreased vitamin D levels in those people. Maybe.
Those statistics can be verified, but the reasons behind them cannot. Like everything else about MS, we know next to nothing. Here, though, is one statistic that you’ve probably never heard, but that I can not only verify, but give you the reason behind.
Married individuals are at least twice as likely to suffer from MS as those who are not involved in a long term, committed relationship.
Note that I didn’t say “get diagnosed with MS.” What I’m saying is, by committing to that long term relationship – specifically for this discussion, marrying another individual – you’ve doubled your chances of living with MS. That’s because, if you are truly committed to your spouse, and he or she gets MS, you effectively have it.
This is a corollary to the well known and quite true aphorism: “People don’t get MS, families do.” Marriage is the ultimate example of that.
There’s no doubt about it, marriage is a risky business. The old “sickness and health” clause in the traditional marriage ceremony takes on teeth when health gives way to sickness.
A spouse whose partner is diagnosed with MS, for all intents and purposes, lives with a chronic illness. It doesn’t seem fair, but neither does an MS diagnosis. For example, I’ll sometimes find myself apologizing to my wife for the sacrifices she makes because of my condition. She replies with wisdom characteristic of her gracious nature that I didn’t choose MS any more than she did. Thank God, she puts up with me and all my baggage and is still around.
Would that every married person demonstrated such wisdom and compassion. I’m happy to report, many couples do. At least many women do. Check out this article that talks about the effect of MS on marriage. A cogent sentence says:
The divorce rate for marriages in which the man had MS was as low as 3%, while nearly 21% of couples in which the woman had MS ended in divorce.
Come on, guys. We can do better! With MS occurring in women 2-3 times more often than men, that makes for an exceedingly large supply of male cowards. For that’s what it amounts to: cowardice. It also exposes a false love. In a letter to friends, St. John makes the case that perfect love casts out fear. Fear kills love and love kills fear.
The fact of the matter is, any serious loving relationship – spouse, child, parent, or friend – carries tremendous risk if it’s taken with the seriousness it deserves. But, as Bob Bennett so poetically puts it, “love is the only risk worth taking.” The alternative is island living, which, as Will learns in the (great) movie “About a Boy”, isn’t the future, no matter what Jon Bon Jovi says.