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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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • JustPeter
    4 months ago

    Hi Gang: I joined this site a long time ago. I forgot I had until just now. Anyway, my name is Peter and live in NH. You all look so young. I am so sorry you are dealing with such horrible conditions. I was diagnosed with IBD at age 11. At 15, realized I had crohn’s disease, and had been treated wrong for 5 years. At 15, I thought my life was over.
    It wasn’t over it was the beginning of a long road to learn from and figure out how to survive. I am 65 this month. I’ve beating this horrible disease year after year. When active, I am hospitalized anywhere from 5 days to 3 months.
    All of my organs have been compromised now. I won’t get into it unless anyone as for specific concerns.
    I want to tell you though, dating was difficult. It was easier just not to get involved. But I did. I was married after college for 25 years. The disease killed the romance and relationship. But I was still fortunate to have 3 wonderful kids. There all adults now. I have 2 grand children and more will come. After my divorce, I met someone which lasted 10 years. The love of my life and my health did not bother her. She was a nurse. But other factors contributed to her walking out and abandoning me. After some time though. I got over her and met another woman. 6 years ago. We hit it off as friends for 3 years and now three more years, life partners. She too has IBD and other serious issues. So we area good pair. 🙂
    Hang in there all of you. Be the stronger person in your relationships. Be honest. Hiding what will eventually rare it’s ugly head and you will loose what you had not to mention get sicker. I’ve learned a great deal over the past 50 + years with this and now with many other life threatening ailments. But I’m fine with it all. Just like Matt wrote, this comes on without warning. After 20 surgeries, resections, Colostomy, then to an Ileostomy you cannot predict. My biggest issue with the crohn’s now is obstructions. I wear a life line and call for an ambulace approximately 6 times a year. Sometimes more. I’m much older then many or you according to your photos. And you all look healthy in your photos. That is wonderful. That too is something I worked at and still do. Trying to look healthy when I am not. There are tricks of this trade.
    I think I’ve seen or experience almost every sort of problem, embarrassments, sometimes, humiliation. The average person who has to stay home from work due to a runny nose or hang nail, are people we do not need. They don’t understand and will never understand unless they too end up ill.
    I will check back here from time to time and see what your all doing. I do tend to get very wordy when writing. Can’t help it. I’m filled with information I want to share with all of you. Don’t be afraid to contact me if you want to chat or have questions. AS the saying goes ” been there done that”
    Take care and don’t let difficult moments or non-sympathetic people get you down. We may need to back off and rest without warning, but we are also stronger willed to get through each and every day. Nothing is taken for grant it.

  • Matt Nagin moderator author
    3 months ago

    I really appreciate your feedback. Thanks for sharing your story. It is helpful hearing from other sufferers and remembering to be grateful.

  • erin.tirney
    4 months ago

    Peter, thank you so much for writing your story! I enjoyed reading it and am sure many here will feel the same and can resonate with something. Thank you for your kind words and positive attitude. We are lucky to have you as part of our community. Erin (team member)

  • Pam.Kingsland moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi @justpeter, thank you so much for coming back and sharing this wonderful story with us as well as your words of encouragement and support. Your words are so significant and will speak to so many here, in so many different ways. I’m so glad to hear that you and your life partner have found each other and you can be there to support one another. 🙂 If you’d like, I would LOVE for your to share your story in our stories section. Please do come back and share with us again. Thank you! – Pam (team member)

  • imagineallpossibilities
    4 months ago

    Hi Matt! I hope you’re doing well. I joined this community 7 months ago when the guy I was dating got diagnosed with IBD. That relationship never materialised because he did not want me to be a part of the prognosis regardless of how much I tried convincing him otherwise. He just stopped communicating & things ended there. I think like you said, romance in itself is tough & with chronic illness, it gets so much more difficult. It’s actually his birthday today & I cannot even describe how much i miss him. I don’t even know how is he doing but I wanna believe that he’s holding up fine.

    I’m so glad you’ve finally met someone who appreciates you just the way you are & I really really hope it all turns out the best for you in the years to come as much as I hope the same for him.

  • Matt Nagin moderator author
    4 months ago

    Hi. Thanks so much for this feedback. This is very helpful to hear. I’m sorry it didn’t work out with your boyfriend but it is great that you had this incredible connection with him.

  • Pam.Kingsland moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi @imagineallpossibilities, thank you so much for being here and sharing your experience with our community. It shows how compassionate you are as a person just by being here to learn more and support others. Everyone responds differently to a diagnosis, and I’m sure as you know, it can be terrifying for some and very difficult to handle. I’m sorry things didn’t work out with him, but I hope you’re both holding up and doing well. Sending well wishes, Pam (team member)

  • imagineallpossibilities
    4 months ago

    Thank you so much! Really really appreciate all the love & support that this community offers to & so glad to be a part of it in whatever way I can. Best wishes for you!

  • Matt N
    4 months ago

    Hi. Thanks so much for this feedback!

  • Matt N
    4 months ago

    Thanks for your feedback Julie. That’s great that your husband is so supportive!!!

  • Julie Marie Palumbo moderator
    4 months ago

    Thank you so much for writing this, Matt. I have had dating troubles and (wrongfully) assumed that it was just an issue for women but not that I am glad that it happened to you, but I am glad to see that men suffer from similar situations and can also need extra compassion from their partners.

    I hope your new relationship continues to thrive and be strong. I met my husband 3 weeks after my colectomy and he never minded once that I had Crohn’s, and as my GI said, “Anyone who cares about that scar isn’t worth it.” and he was right!

    –Julie (Team Member)

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