Dating Like an IBD Rockstar

It can definitely be daunting to think of dating while living with IBD.  Worrying about what the other person will think if you have to cancel plans last minute, what he/she will say when you always insist on choosing the restaurant because you are most comfortable with the food on the menu, the fact that buying general admission concert tickets are an absolute no-go, the list goes on. 

Personally, I have had my fair share of issues with boyfriends because I have Crohn's. But here's the good news, they were exactly that--boyfriends. My husband never minded dating someone with a chronic illness, which is what led him to being promoted to a lifelong subscription.  However, when we started dating, I still treaded lightly as I wasn't sure if his reaction would be the same as boyfriends past.  We got through it together, and I think in some ways it made us even stronger as a couple.

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Dating with IBD

So, I wanted to share with you some tips on how to date like an IBD rockstar, avoiding pitfalls that can sideline us or make us feel uncomfortable, and offer the guidance to make you feel as confident as ever when swiping right.

Plan dates that don't revolve around food or drink

In 2014, I had a PICC line for 8 weeks in order to administer antibiotics and receive nutrition prior to my partial colectomy.  Both food and alcohol were off the table, so I had to start getting creative with my dates. 

Rather than going to a restaurant for dinner or meeting up for happy hour, I took matters into my own hands and bought tickets to an NHL hockey game where I could just sip on a bottle of water, or nothing at all.  When attending a sporting event, the main attraction is never the food or drink, so if your companion makes a comment on what you are eating (or not eating) you can assure them it will be your final date.  Have fun, cheer for your team, dance on the jumbo-tron, and get to know each other without relying on alcohol to make the date go better.

Pack essentials

Going on a date at a public place offers the comfort of using a public bathroom, but what do you do if he/she invites you over for dinner at their place and your stomach starts rumbling the second you put your fork down?  If using a bathroom in a 1 bed/1 bath apartment when your stomach hurts makes you sweat just thinking about it, there are some ways make the situation better. 

First, pack your own mini bottle of poo-pourri.  This will absorb and eliminate any undesirable smells without making the whole place smell like a florist.  And, it is small enough to put in your pocket or small purse to be discreet.

It's also helpful to pack Pepto Bismol or Imodium in the event your stomach gets upset, or to take preemptively should your host be serving foods that don't agree with your digestive system.  These are a great "bandaid" to hold you over until you are able to use your own bathroom.

Extra tip: If you are worried about any sounds coming from the bathroom, always suggest playing music while making dinner or eating dinner (it is much more fun than silence or the tv) and take advantage of brass instruments.

Don't be afraid to speak up

If you're like me, you may have certain food intolerances (I have been gluten free for more than 10 years) so dining out can be challenging.  I have never been one to shy away from saying that I am gluten free, but typically wouldn't announce that on the first date.  (My first date with my husband involved attending trivia night at a local bar and I actually got a salad and wine with no explanation, and he never asked why that was my choice, until weeks later when I told him about my gluten intolerance and Crohn's disease.  He did not mind in the least.) But, I am an advocate of speaking up when you are not comfortable with a situation or food choice. 

If you know that getting concert tickets in the general admission area where using a bathroom is completely out of the question, say something.  If you are invited to dinner at a Mexican restaurant and there is nothing you can safely eat there, say something.  Or, maybe you are given the option of carpooling with friends vs. driving yourselves and you definitely feel more in control when taking your own vehicle, say something. 

Some things are ok to be passive about, but if you are being led into a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, or know that it will not be enjoyable for you, speak up.

Recognize red flags

If someone has a hard time accepting that you have a chronic illness when you first tell them, they will most likely never fully accept it.  I have learned this the hard way, and while I never came out and announced that I had Crohn's disease as soon as I met someone, I immediately knew (although tucked it way back in my mind) that their initial reaction would always be how they truly felt about dating me as a Crohn's patient.  My husband barely blinked an eye when I told him about my disease, and despite some of the inconveniences it has caused over the years, he still doesn't mind that I live with a chronic illness. 

On the other hand, I have had boyfriends who were bothered by picking me up from a colonoscopy, and even had one who said "I just want my wife to be around longer than age 50", clearly unaware of the fact that anyone can die at anytime, and that Crohn's patients don't necessarily have a 50-year expiration date. 

Recognizing red flags early on will prevent you from wasting time with the wrong one, leaving more room to find the right one who doesn't see IBD as a pain point in their life.

Handling the dating scene

Dating is tough, and is especially harder when living with a chronic illness, but there are many ways to handle the dating scene with grace and not let it deter you from getting out there, having a great time, and letting you find your soulmate.

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