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Dating/Relationships When you Have Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis

Starting a new relationship can be challenging for everyone: chronic illness or not. Throw IBD on top of that and it can become quite overwhelming. One thing many people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis think about is when and how to tell their partner about their health.

Dating with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Telling someone you like that you have a chronic illness can be intimidating; especially if you are young or don’t have a lot of practice talking about it. It’s human nature to want to be liked and accepted and so we fear rejection when entering a relationship. What will this person think of us once they know the truth about our health? 

So how do you approach this? There are no rules and one approach does not work for all situations. The following is a guideline as to how it can be done. 

Bride disclosing her illness to her groom at their wedding

When to Tell Them

  • Step by Step: My rule in general is to do it gradually. I don’t give ALL the details right away but I do give some. This is the same as you would give someone details about other areas of your life. You wouldn't sit down with someone on a first date and discuss your entire life history because that would be weird. Instead you'd share more about yourself and your life over time as the relationship progresses. If you decide you want to spend more time with someone because you feel like the relationship could go somewhere then you can go more in-depth about your health and it's role in your life. You don’t have to say much at first and once you become more comfortable with a person it becomes easier to talk.
  • Where Do you See this Going? If you just want to date casually you don’t have to say a thing if you don't want to. If it's a serious relationship or you feel like it's going somewhere then that person should know about your IBD because it’s an important part of your life.
  • Use Your Judgement: There is no rule about how soon or how much you should share, or if you should share anything at all. Each situation will be a little different and you will have to use your best judgement to know what to do. Personally I think it’s an important thing to share with someone I am forming a relationship with. Not sharing for a long time will make it look like you were trying to hide something once you do tell them later on.

How to Tell Them

Who Am I?
Who Am I?

I think it’s important to show the other person that your disease is not who you are. It is a part of your life and has helped shape you into the person you’ve become, but there is so much more to you than just your health. I want a person to get to know my personality and how smart and funny I can be before they get to know who I am with a chronic illness. I let the person know ME and then hope they want to be with me based off that while knowing my chronic illnesses are a part of what comes along with everything else that makes me who I am. They will need to know that it’s likely there will be more hospitalizations in my future and possibly even more surgeries.

Hopefully they will be by my side for the good and for the bad. If not, they are not the one for me and that’s OK. I think it’s best to be straightforward about my situation because I’d rather know if they feel like they can handle it sooner than later. If your situation is less severe, more severe,

or different (so basically all of you) then you can explain to your partner in what ways your chronic illness affects your life specifically. To sum it up – honesty is the best policy.

Having "the talk"

Every time I’ve done this I have had different reactions. One person even cried because they thought it meant I was going to die (from the illness). That led to a long night of discussion which wasn’t a bad thing; it became a great opportunity for us to communicate. For the most part you are going to get people who don’t know anything about IBD or people who think they know about it (“my friend’s brothers girlfriend’s Dad has that…”) and then you have to do your part to educate them.

  • Don't Make it Uncomfortable: I never sit them down and say, we have to talk. Instead I wait until the opportunity for discussion comes up on it’s own. For me it usually doesn’t take very long. It can be simple like talking about what I do at Camp Oasis. That gets me started on why I got involved (because I have Crohn’s disease myself) and I can then share with them how much or how little I want at that time. I never sugar coat things and I let them know that my chronic illnesses are serious but I always include the positive parts of it too. For me it is important for them to know that there are times in my life when I'm doing really well and there are times when things become a challenge. I also explain that my health helped make me the pretty rad person I am today.
  • Make It A Conversation: A back and forth conversation is more comfortable for everyone involved instead of disclosing your IBD like you're giving a speech. I let people ask questions and I answer them as they come. The best thing you can do is be well educated about your disease so that you can communicate about it well.
  • Don't Let Google Do the Talking: I do not like the person I am sharing my life with to go to the internet and do a search of Crohn’s disease or my motility disease because there is way too much inaccurate crap online. I rather be the one doing the educating but if that isn't something you are comfortable with you can point them in the direction of some websites that you are certain share good and accurate information.
  • The Right Time and Place: Try to relax and talk when you both have plenty of time and feel comfortable.
  • Ease Into It: The more comfortable with a person you become the more you will feel like sharing. Just start with easy things and work yourself up to more difficult things.
What is Crohn's Disease?

If you don't educate them then Google will. You don't want that!

What if You're Rejected?

There are going to be people who will not be able to, or want to, handle it for whatever reason. If that is the case it is better to find out sooner than later once you become more attached to the person. No one likes being rejected especially over a part of yourself that you can’t help. It’s not a good feeling but it’s just not meant to be. There are so many people out there who wont be detoured by the fact that you have IBD and/or any other chronic illness.

I know many people who have Inflammatory Bowel Disease who are in very healthy and happy long-term relationships. Not everyone out there is willing to handle someone with a chronic illness; that is just the reality of life. It’s nothing you did and nothing 

you can change. Some patients have even said that having IBD has helped them filter out people who aren’t worth being in relationships with. Others have said that if someone can’t handle them at their worst then they are not worth sharing their life with at their best. 

Sara

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