TODAY'S BLOG POST IS INSPIRED BY A READER'S COMMENT ABOUT A POST DR. PAUL WROTE ON NOV. 1, 2012, "ANOTHER MARRIAGE LOST TO PARKINSON'S".
There are several givens when we talk about Parkinsons. It is chronic. It tends to get worse over time. It is unpredictable. It is likely to be some time before medical science learns how to cure it and somewhat longer before it learns how to reverse it. And it can be difficult for another person to live with. These are the facts you face if you enter into a relationship with a person who has the disease. These are the facts the gentleman with Parkinsons faces, as well.
The decision to allow any relationship to become more serious is fraught with risks, known and unknown. Being hurt or hurting the other person are among the unknown risks. In this sense, your involvement with a man recently diagnosed with PD is no different than it is for most of us who enter into relationships in the middle stage of life. At six months, many relationships whither for a host of reasons unrelated to PD.
This gentleman has recently learned he has PD. Like you, he is just now learning about what that means: the first year or two after diagnosis are confusing and at times very anxiety-provoking. One of the things he is faced with is the threat he will be alone because of his disease. It is important for both of you to recognize that his fear of being alone is understandable for anyone with a chronic illness like PD. It is important that neither of you make any decision based on this possibility. Guilt is a poor glue for any relationship.
Currently, you have more information about this gentleman’s future than he has of yours. It is important to recognize that good health is never a given as we age, although many of us are in the habit of thinking it is. Should he become involved with you, he is assuming a risk that your health may one day decline, as well. Although you have not mentioned marriage, the risk to our health is explicit in the wedding vows we exchange. It is implicit in any growing relationship and is, I think, the real question that you are struggling with. Can I be there for him if the Parkinsons gets worse? Of equal importance, can he be there for you?
If the risk of getting hurt in this relationship is more than you can bear, it might make sense to break it off now. On the other hand, many people in relationships with people who have PD find them to be a source of great satisfaction. Living with anyone who has a chronic illness is likely to be challenging. However, great rewards are also possible. It all depends on what each person decides to put in and take from the relationship.
There is no time frame or specific pace a relationship must adhere to. The best relationships are the products of deep friendships. Many, in fact, never grow beyond this stage. You might just wait and see what happens. I would advise finding a PD support group and I would ask lots of questions. As you learn more about Parkinsons and each other, you could discover that the answer about what to do will come naturally enough.
No matter what decision you make, it will be the right one for you.