I Don’t Know How to Tell You This, But…
I don’t know how to tell you this, but… I have Crohn’s disease.
I think about the times we say something like this sentence out loud, and the ones that have proven to be the most uncomfortable typically involve people we would like to date or have recently started dating.
IBD is difficult to discuss
I’ve learned that telling new people, particularly people we would like to be intimate with, about our digestive diseases can feel incredibly daunting. Inflammatory Bowel Disease is not just an inconvenience for us, it’s also (in my opinion) very difficult to discuss. It’s not the same as migraines or asthma – these chronic illnesses always seem more acceptable or easier to discuss in public. There’s a stigma to IBD, but that’s a whole different topic. Coupled with the fact that when we start dating someone, we want to put our best selves forward, and it’s ideal to also feel both confident and attractive during this time – dating with IBD can feel like a difficult ballgame!
When we look at the prospects of a new relationship, I think we all want to feel like we would be someone who will make a good partner. This internal pressure can make it difficult to set the stage for a productive and honest conversation that you would also like to be relatively comfortable to have (once its started, of course).
Each situation is unique
I think everyone’s situation varies somewhat on how and when they met their significant other, what their health was like at that time, and how quickly IBD needed/wanted to be mentioned.
For me, I met my now husband as a friend before we started dating. During our friendship, I experienced two hospital admissions, several doctors appointments and medication changes, and some really rough days. He was incredibly kind, compassionate and continually asking how he could best support me, so I was quickly very open with him about what I was experiencing symptom wise, where my head was at, and what my biggest obstacles were.
Being transparent was important to us
When we transitioned into a relationship, he asked me that I always be upfront and honest about everything I was experiencing, and to be honest, we just never looked back. As we became more serious, we shared more things – like spending weeks together at a time, traveling together, and later moving in together. There were some things that at one point or another felt somewhat more uncomfortable for me open with him about. I noticed that these mainly had to do with my feeling unattractive. One thing found I found to be a huge help was investing in some good bathroom spray (I love poopouri or to make my own with essential oils). In truth, the more I communicated to him about what I needed, or what I was worried about, the less and less they felt like issues at all.
Today, there is an 100% comfort level in our house and in our marriage – something I could not be more grateful for. My husband has been my most constant and loyal support, as well as my sounding board and my incredible caretaker. He has also become an integral part of my decision making process when it comes to any of the medical/medication choices I need to make.
Since my relationship is just one story, I imagine that there are so many other perspectives and ideas on how or when to share your IBD story with someone you want to or are dating. I would love it if you shared your experiences below!