Trying to tell people that IBS has improved my dating life is like trying to tell them that shoving my hand in a fire is great for my skin – they think I’m completely insane.
From struggling to decide what menu on the item will give me the least amount of stomach pain (sticking to a low-FODMAP diet is nearly impossible when eating out), to trying to calculate the bedroom-to-bathroom distance in relation to the sound penetrability of the walls of someone else’s place, I can’t say dating with IBS is easy, per se.
When I first started to feel the symptoms of IBS, dating was definitely hard and I shied away from it a lot. I didn’t get too close with people, didn’t spend too much time with them in person, and overall just didn’t have very long relationships, all for fear of judgment. After a while, though, I decided I needed to make light of my shitty situation (pun intended).
Based on other conversations I’ve had with people with any gut issue, I’ve found three very honest reasons why I’m thankful for what IBS has taught me about forming a good relationship.
1 | Let’s talk about poop, baby, let’s talk about you and me.
I’ve dealt with my fair share of dudes that seem absolutely appalled by the fact that girls use a toilet. This is a warning sign in itself. For anyone that doesn’t think girls go poop…wake up!
Thankfully, most people understand partners need to poop, it’s just that it’s often kept on the D-L. It might not normally need to be brought up, especially on a date. Totally understandable.
With IBS though, I’ve learned that bringing up the fact that I have to use the washroom more than the average person is extremely liberating. For about a year now, I make a point of bringing up my gut stuff within the first date or two. This allows me to be completely open and honest about why I’m not eating certain foods or why I’d really prefer not going back to their place.
I’ve come to realize that this practice has a twofold effect: first, they know up front that I’ve got issues they’re going to have to deal with (I’ll come back to this); and second, it made us more comfortable opening up to each other.
Once we were able to talk about how eating onions make me feel like my guts are ripping themselves apart, talking about past relationships, personal secrets, and other generally-avoided topics seemed easier. Shit talk is the new pillow talk, people.
2| WARNING, WARNING!
Red flags at the beginning of a relationship are never easy to spot. But IBS has definitely made them come out a loooot faster.
Here’s a story for you…
I was seeing this guy…he seemed nice, funny, had a good job, the whole enchilada. We went on a few dates – some to restaurants, others just hanging in the park – and he learned that I avoided certain foods because they gave me stomach aches. He was pretty cool about it…but I hadn’t yet told him about my IBS.
Then, one day, we were supposed to see each other but my stomach was acting up. Instead of bailing on our restaurant date, I asked him if he wanted to eat at my place. He reluctantly agreed.
We went back to mine, I had a gut-friendly meal, then we decided to watch a movie. My stomach was still turning, and I knew I had to let out some gas. I turned to him and said, “soooo… are we at the point where we can fart in front of each other yet?”
The look he gave me said it all. He said he never wanted me to fart in front of him, “that’s disgusting, don’t ever fart in front of me.”
That ended that pretty quickly.
Since then, I’ve kind of learned that telling my partner about my IBS works as a great gauge for how considerate of a person they are. If I didn’t have IBS, this rudeness might not have come out until months later, potentially over something much worse.
Not only that, I really love when I get the opposite reaction. There have been a handful of great guys who I’ve told about my IBS that would go out of their way to make me low-FODMAP meals, or even put headphones in while I’m in the bathroom to save me some embarrassment (awkward, but adorable). And that kind of consideration goes a long way in a relationship.
3 | Trust your gut
A lot of research has been done about the relationship between stress and your gut. The more stressed or anxious you are, the greater chance your gut will become inflamed.
Before I had IBS, there were a few relationships where I thought everything was going just dandy. I really liked the person, and I thought we were really good together. But there was something always nagging at the back of my mind that I chose to ignore. I’d just put on Netflix and forget about the problem.
But with IBS, if I’m anxious about anything, my gut will tell me. It’s almost like a best friend telling you what red flags to look out for in a relationship. My stomach will yell at me if there’s something deep down I know isn’t right. This makes me really face my emotions head-on, or talk to the person about anything that’s bothering me.
Obviously, if you’re terrified of confrontation like me, this really isn’t easy. But for the added bonus of gut pain relief, it gives me a little extra incentive to tackle any issues.
Yeah, I wish I didn’t have IBS. I’m waiting for the day they have some sort of treatment to manage the symptoms better, or get rid of it all together. But even if that does happen, I’m not overly upset for having it. IBS has helped make my relationships so much deeper, I’ve been able to face my fear of confrontation, and I’ve been able to find the good, and get rid of the not-so-good, people much faster.