Dating can be a daunting process under normal circumstances; dating with IBS brings those inherent challenges up to a new level. The unpredictiblility of symptoms, need for special dietary modifications, and concerns about quick access to a bathroom may all seem like too much to ask a potential love interest to deal with. Sadly, IBS sufferers are at risk for social isolation when they feel they have no choice but to play it safe and stay close to home. Don't let that happen to you. The following tips will help you to regain control of your love life.
Tell the Truth
The worst thing you can do is to try to hide your IBS from your date. Keeping secrets can be stressful and stress is a prime IBS trigger. A much better approach is to be upfront and matter of fact about your digestive disorder. Here are some examples:
- "I have a digestive disorder that requires quick access to a public restroom."
- "I have a sensitive stomach. I need to be careful with what I eat."
- "I have IBS. It is a disorder which causes unpleasant and unpredictable digestive symptoms."
Keep in mind that IBS strikes 10 to 20 percent of the population. Once you open up about your IBS, you might be surprised to find that your date suffers as well!
Don't Be Ashamed
Yes, I know IBS symptoms are embarrassing. But they are not something to be ashamed of - they are no reflection on you as a person. Remember all of the symptoms of IBS, diarrhea, constipation, and gas, are all symptoms that everyone experiences. Thus, no one will be judging you if your symptoms become obvious. If you pass gas loudly or find yourself spending a lot of time in the bathroom, most people will be sympathetic to your plight. Apply that same kindness to yourself.
Know Your Strengths
You are not your body. You have many wonderful qualities that would make you the right catch for the right person. Spend a few moments making a list of your strengths. Are you kind, loving, and/or reliable? Do you have a good sense of humor? Are you financially secure? If you are having difficulty filling out your list, ask your best friends to help. Having confidence in your own wonderfulness takes the focus off of the fact that your body can be high maintenance.
It is also helpful to make a list of the qualities you are looking for in a potential mate. Your list of strengths may give you some ideas, as you would want the other person to offer you the things that they can expect from you. Once you have your list, keep these qualities in mind as you are on your date. As your date is talking about their life, you can start to assess whether or not they have these essential qualities. A focus on the other person will help to distract you from your troublesome digestive system. And remember, if the other person is not supportive of your IBS, they are not the right person for you.
Ask for Assistance
Another helpful strategy is to ask your date for help in managing your IBS. Perhaps they know of restaurants that serve healthy, IBS friendly foods. See if they have information and ideas about activities that keep you in close contact with public restrooms. Involving the other person in your IBS planning gives them a role and makes them feel included. Most people like to be of help. Again, if the other person balks at your special needs, it is probably in your best interests to politely bring the budding relationship to a close.
For a fun read on dating with IBS:
Essential Reading from Dr. Bolen, Your IBS Guide: