Dating, or being in a relationship when living with IBD can feel like a bit of a challenge. We know that it can be difficult to speak about something so personal, however we also know how important it may be to you to speak with your partner (or potential partner) about your condition, so that they can better understand you and your life.
We have collated a variety of situations/circumstances that you may find yourself in, and have provided some helpful tips and suggestions to help you navigate conversations in your relationships.
Starting a new relationship is exciting. You are learning new things about the other person all the time, seeing how they handle situations and now, you’re ready to speak to them about something personal to you – your health. Whether you have had IBD for a week or for years, it is an important part of your life that you have decided is worth sharing with the person you have started to see. This could be a great sign that you are becoming comfortable with this person. But the question is – how do you talk about it?
There are a couple of ways you can approach the topic, and how you do so is completely up to you. There is no one-size-fits-all model of communication for this sort of thing. We have given you some examples on how to speak about having IBD with a new partner, an existing partner, and a partner who actually already knows about your condition. Check them out below:
Situation 1: You recently started dating someone and want to tell them you have IBD.
- “I wanted to talk to you about a part of my life that’s a bit more personal. I have a chronic condition called IBD, which means that I have inflammation in my gut. It’s not as scary as it sounds – but it can cause some symptoms at times and I (do/don’t) take medication for it right now. If you have any questions about it I’m open to them.”
- “I don’t know if you have heard about a condition called IBD, but it stands for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and essentially is all about inflammation in your gut. I was diagnosed with it (insert diagnoses time frame) ago and I just wanted to share that because it’s a pretty big part of my life and thought you may want to know. Happy to talk to you about it if you are interested, but it’s okay for now if you don’t want to know more.”
- “I have this condition called IBD which I am on medication for. I do have it under control and it doesn’t really change the way I live my life right now, but I thought I would mention it to you so that you can better understand me and learn a bit more about me now that we have been spending more time together.”
Situation 2: You have been dating someone for a while and now want to share that you have IBD.
- “We have been seeing each other for a while now and there is something that I wanted to share with you. I have a condition called IBD and basically it means that I get inflammation of the gut. I’m okay most of the time but can go into a flare where I get certain symptoms. I thought it was important to share at this point in our relationship. Let me know if you want to learn more about it.”
- “We are getting quite close and have been seeing each other for a while, there’s something I wanted to mention to you once we got to this point. I have a condition called IBD, which causes inflammation in my gut. I manage it through (insert things like medication, diet, exercise etc). Sometimes it makes me unwell when I have a flare up, I thought you may want to know about it and ask questions if you want.”
Situation 3: You are in a long-term relationship and haven’t told them you have IBD due to being symptomless, and want to share now that symptoms are occurring.
- “I know we’ve been together for a while now, but there’s something I haven’t shared with you yet because it just hasn’t really been important. I was diagnosed with IBD, which is Inflammatory Bowel Disease, about (insert diagnoses time frame) ago. I haven’t had any symptoms in (months/years) but recently started to have some. Do you have any questions about it?”
- “This might seem a bit out of the blue, but I wanted to share with you something that I haven’t yet mentioned to you. I have IBD and recently I have been experiencing symptoms that I may need treatment for. Do you want me to share a bit more about what they are? I know we have been seeing each other for quite some time, I just felt this was the right time to share.”
Situation 4: You have just been diagnosed with IBD and need to tell your long-term partner.
- “I just learned from my doctor that I have a condition called IBD, which is why I’ve been having certain symptoms. The next steps for me are to (insert steps you will take next) so that I can get it under control and manage it. Maybe we can research it a bit together?”
- “As you know I’ve been in pain recently and experiencing (insert symptoms). I just found out that it’s IBD, which is Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I feel a bit nervous about it but I’m hoping with your support that I can get on top of it now that I have the diagnosis and manage it well. What do you think?”
Situation 5: You have just been diagnosed with IBD and want support from your partner.
- “Since getting my IBD diagnosis, I’ve been feeling a bit nervous. I would really appreciate it if maybe we could talk a bit about it, if you’re open to it.”
- “As you know I was recently diagnosed with IBD. I’m worried about dealing with it alone and am hoping that you will be a good source of support for me.”
Situation 6: Your partner knows you have IBD but you haven’t spoken much about it with them.
- “I know I mentioned to you that I have IBD. We haven’t spoken much about it but I think I would like to now. Are you okay with talking about it with me?”
- “As you know I have IBD, but don’t really like talking about it. Recently I’ve felt the urge to talk to you about it, could we talk about it a bit? I think it would help me if you’re comfortable with it.”
Situation 7: Your partner knows you have IBD but doesn’t understand its impact on your life.
- “As you know I have IBD, but I don’t think I have fully explained how it impacts me. Could I share a bit with you so that you can better understand it?”
- “I know I mentioned I have IBD, but I feel like I didn’t explain what it means for me and how it impacts my life. I’d like to speak with you a bit about it because I feel like this condition can be isolating at times. What do you think?”
These are only some of the situations that you may find yourself in when navigating dating and relationships with IBD. It’s important to remember: Although navigating these conversations can sometimes be difficult, having IBD does not define you. If you are with the right partner, they will understand and want to support you. Also remember, there are different external sources of support available to you.
At Ampersand Health, we host regular community events. One of these events is a social meetup called “Gut Feelings” where you can join, meet others in the community, ask questions and share your advice. This event is a great way to find out from others how they navigate relationships in their life. Check out our Eventbrite for upcoming events to register for.