Whether you’ve been loved up for five minutes or five years, talking to your partner about your toilet habits is never easy. Yet, for many of us, living with conditions such as Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis or IBS, our bowels can seem to dictate a massive part of our lives.
Whilst some may think it’s better to keep schtum, being open about your health is important. Gut problems can be hugely isolating and lead to embarrassment, mental health issues and fear of socialising. Being open about what’s going on, can make a huge difference to your state of mind and your relationship…
Today, I wanted to share my own tips (as well as some from our bloggers) about how to talk to your partner about all things poo.
Share online resources with them
If you feel like you can’t talk to them directly, sharing online resources can be a great way of getting your point across. For example, I created my IBD guide for friends and family for that exact purpose!
It explains things from a patient’s perspectives and can minimise any potential embarrassment. So forward on a blog post or tag them in an article that you think best explains your condition.
Another option can be keeping a symptom diary and sharing it with them; so they can get a clear idea of what life is actually like with your condition. Creating visuals like mindmaps and diagrams (for example like the one below) can be very useful too.
Words like IBS, IBD or gut health troubles might not mean much to many of us. Which is why being specific is really important when it comes to explaining things!
I’m not suggesting you describe your last bowel movement to the letter, but spell out just how your condition can impact your life-from fear of needing the loo in public to constant fatigue and tiredness. Your partner will be relieved to be in the loop!
Angela, who has Crohn’s and blogs over at My Chronic Dreams shares her top tip for explaining things. “I explain it to him like I have a cup that I can only fill so full. The things that fill the cup are stress, work, chores, the time I spend with others. When I’m dealing with my symptoms, my cup might fill up part of the way, half-way or even entirely and when my cup overfills I’m totally broken down!”
Being specific about what can actually help is important too. We might not want to offend and avoid letting our partner know that we can’t eating at a restaurant they’ve arranged or are panicking about the mini-break they’ve booked in the middle of nowhere. But being specific about what can help you avoids potential arguments and hurt feelings. For example…
- Agree you’d prefer to book restaurants for dates, to take the stress away from being surprised and allowing you to find a place you’ll feel comfortable.
- Explaining how you deal with flare-ups. Some of us prefer alone time with a hot water bottle whilst others prefer company. Some would prefer to socialise but keep an eye on symptoms, whilst others rest-up straight away.
- Asking for help. A lot of the time, we’re reluctant to ask for help, even if we need it. Loved ones might mean well but their gestures aren’t helpful (e.g. offering to ‘take you out to take your mind off it’; arriving with a big box of chocolates you know your belly can’t handle or telling them what works for their friend/family member/next door neighbour.) Don’t be afraid of telling your partner what you need.
There are a number of apps that can make the communication process just that little bit easier…
- There are lots of apps that you can use to monitor your gut symptoms- such as Bowelle and Cara. These can then be shown to your partner (perhaps not on a first date!)
- Ouchie allows you track your pain levels and again is great to share.
- And of course Gutsy-the new dating app for those with digestive conditions. If you find dating impossible with health issues, this app takes all the awkwardness out of it and means anyone you match with, will be understanding of your situation.
Keeping Talking (and laughing!)
If your first attempt to explain things left lots of awkward questions, don’t despair. Try to understand that your partner’s faux-paux may not come from rudeness or ignorance but just not knowing much about the condition.
Yes, it’s annoying when they mix up IBS and IBD, tell us their best friends neighbours’ friends cured themselves with magic mushrooms and that you look healthy-but it might come from a good place.
If you can laugh about the mistakes and slip-ups, even better. Pamela (www.pamelajessen.com),explains: “Start the conversation slow, but be matter of fact. It’s not pleasant or fun, but it is what happens. Use humour if you can, because if you can laugh about it, you can get through it together.”
Sam Moss from My Med Musing, who has a colostomy agrees. “Open communication makes things so much easier. Once I had my colostomy, my husband and I have had so many fun times together dealing with the adventures of Rudolph (my stoma’s name!)
Find a time that’s right for you.
In my dating tips for those with gut issues post, I talked about the importance of finding a time that works for you. Some people prefer to get it off their chest straight away whilst others don’t share until they feel more confident.
Angela from My Chronic Dreams explains: “I definitely opened up more about my illness to my husband as we got to know each other. My recommendation is to take your time with it and only talk about what you’re comfortable with-don’t feel like you need to explain everything early on. When we first started dating, my husband thought Crohn’s was just a disease where you had trouble pooping! I had to explain that, yes, poo is definitely a factor, but it’s so much more than that!
I hope these tips have been useful. I’d love to hear your thoughts on when you talked poo with your partners? First date or first anniversary? (or perhaps not until after the wedding!) Do you believe on being open from the start or biding your time?
This is a collaboration with Gutsy Dating; a free dating app that helps connect those with digestive issues. You can find out more info here