a rose with thorns

Dating With IBD

Dating with IBD can be tricky. Many years ago, I got involved with a cute brunette from Ohio. We met on vacation in Florida. A few weeks after we got back to our respective homes, she wanted me to drive to Columbus, Ohio to visit her.

I was young. It was around 10 PM on a Friday night. Yes, very late. Okay, I’d be driving for hours in the dark... without stopping to get some sleep. But I figured what did I have to lose? I had a car at the time. I had a real sense of adventure. Plus, she was free all weekend and promised I wouldn’t regret it.

Crazily, I drove through the night to see her. This was a 10-hour drive from New York. It was worth it. We had a blast together. I really felt our connection was special and she seemed a real knockout in every way. We just had so much in common and seemed to be on the same page in so many different ways. Even though we’d only known each other around a month, I quickly developed feelings for her.

Crohn's symptoms and a flare interfered with this relationship

Unfortunately, my Crohn’s soon interfered with this budding romance. A few weeks later she flew to New York City, where I was living and was excited to tour around. This was understandable. It was her first trip to the Big Apple. The problem was I felt sick that day. Usually, when we were together, I was fun and made jokes. Not that day.

I was ill with a flare to the point where I acted very grumpy. I was behaving like a bit of a curmudgeon. She was used to the other personality, the more cheerful personality.

Anyway, she took it personally. She had come all this way to see me and wanted to be shown a good time. What is more, she really didn’t appreciate my attitude. I told her it wasn’t just that I was sick, I had Crohn’s disease. I really did want to show her around New York City, but I was having a flare and needed to rest. She wanted to know how long? I told her probably all day, maybe even all weekend. When would I be better? I told her I didn’t know.

Crohn's comes on with no warning or explanation

These responses infuriated her. She told her I should have warned her I was sick before she paid for a flight to New York. I tried to explain that’s not how Crohn’s disease works, that it just comes on suddenly, but my efforts were of no use. I explained it wasn’t personal at all, but she took that way—seemingly deeply insulted.

Most of the women I’ve dated have been at least somewhat understanding about this condition. But this one wasn’t. She thought I could have been more considerate of her feelings. She also seemed to not want to date someone with an illness. I remember her saying something about how she was healthy and it was too much for her to deal with. She left, slamming the door, and I never heard from her again. It was kind of sad, and, to be perfectly frank, it hurt. It’s bad enough to be rejected in general. But it hurts twice as bad when you are rejected for a disease process that is completely beyond your control. It felt like a very personal violation, a violation of my identity, even.

Chronic illness makes romance much tougher

Of course, with time, and perspective, I’ve come to understand that while her means of handling the situation could have been more skillful, and more compassion would have gone a long way, she had every right not to want to date someone with a chronic illness. Romance is tough enough as is. Throw in chronic illness, and, well, it just might be too much for some to handle. Better for them to be honest upfront now than lie to you and create bigger problems later.

Then, too, her dumping me like that in the middle of a Crohn’s attack, was perhaps the best thing for me. For, tough as it was, it forced me to go out there and find someone more compatible. After all, a relationship with her would have been terribly unsatisfying anyway.

A supportive partner who understands my struggles

I’m lucky enough to now be dating a very special person. She truly loves me for who I am and will look past any physical handicaps. She is someone who understands me and, at times even, admires me for how I handle my struggles. This is a gift. My advice, for those still single, is to wait until you find just such a person. A partner who really supports you and loves you is what we Crohn’s warriors deserve.

I hope those that are currently single keep putting themselves out there—in spite of their disease—because having love and support in your life is so important—particularly for those struggling with IBD. Thanks for reading, and, as always, feel free to comment or reach out to me with your thoughts and feelings.

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