Living with irritable bowel syndrome is hard enough when single, but it becomes even more of a challenge when there is someone else in the equation. In this post I’m going to shed some light on the horrors of having a relationship while suffering with, what can be, quite an embarrassing problem.
As you may know I’ve suffered with various digestive problems (not just IBS) my whole life and when I first started dating I was terrified, not because of the usual date night bloopers, oh no, that would be too easy, instead I was worried about my gut and it making the decision whether this one was a ‘keeper’ for me; what’s that ‘saying? oh yeah, ‘Always trust your gut!’ Well mine’s a bitch!
As you can probably imagine I’ve had my fair share of embarrassing situations and for some reason, my gut always knows the worse possible time to make an entrance. If you have you ever seen the movie ‘Along Came Polly’ and the scene when Ben Stiller makes an unfortunate attempt at eating Indian Food, which later pays him back with vengeance, yep…been there! See the humiliation below:
This is why us IBS sufferers stick together for moral support!
If you do manage to get passed second base with someone, you have the added worry of gurgling stomach noises, which your date may ask “Are you hungry?” to which you reply “Nope, I’m good” then realise you have to be excused to use the bathroom; what could be less romantic or sexy.
On a Side note: Due to the fact that IBS is most common in women, one factor that is often overlooked with IBS is that it can have negative affects on the menstural cycle. For as long as I could remember I would suffer with the most excruciating menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) which would cause bad constipation on the lead up and finishing of my period but during I would suffer with severe diarrhoea (honestly I think I’m prepared for labour pains). There were also at least 2 times in my past when I was rushed to hospital because I couldn’t breath due to the pain, the doctor at the time was convinced that I was unknowingly pregnant and was experiencing a miscarage, the truth is I wasn’t it was just unbearable cramps. I would also suffer from pelvic cramps throughout the month in which I would have to take painkillers to relieve the pain. All of this (I now know) was linked to my gut, but research has not determined why. The IFFGD ( International Foundation For Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders) made the point of “Such overlaps in gynecological and gastroenterological conditions are noteworthy and are important areas of further investigation.”.
Going back to relationships, one key point to be made is the link between IBS and ones sex drive. A few years back I struggled to try and convince my GP that there was a link between my lack of sex drive and my digestive illness, she didn’t agree. So why is it linked? One reason is that most of our lives those of us with IBS are living bloated, uncomfortable and rarely feel our sexiest. Second, there is lack of, said ‘sex drive’ and third, painful sex but, again, reasons are still unclear. This symptom I think has to be the biggest obstacle for couples with IBS. It can be hard to express why you don’t want to be intimate and no matter how long you’ve been together you not only have to deal with your emotions but your partners too. The IFFGD also documented:
Sexual functioning can be affected by both gynecological and gastroenterological conditions. Sexual dysfunction is reported by a disproportionately high number of patients (both men and women) with IBS, as well as women with painful menstruation. Studies have found that nearly a third of women with IBS report concerns related to sexual functioning, and report that their IBS has an impact on their intimate relationships.
One of my clients told me that she hasn’t been on a date in 5 years, out of fear of a date being disgusted by her bowel habits. The truth is we live in a day and age where it’s OK for one of Disney’s pre-teen princesses to attach themselves to a wreaking ball, naked and be idolised by kid’s, which I think is less than pleasant. Yet we are made to feel bad or gross for mentioning that we have a poop related illness and that poop is still too taboo to talk about. So, here’s the deal no one’s perfect, and no one’s s**t smells like roses, the truth is we all do it and some of us have difficulties in the act it’s self. Try to see the positive side and just take each moment as it comes, you can’t change who you are, neither from the past, present nor future, so just be the happiest version of yourself and don’t let anyone tell you different. If someone (a date for example) is offended by your body they’re not worth knowing in my book, which by default, will make you a happier person.