Memories of Dating With IBS
“Okay, I gotta go, like, right now - love you, bye!”
It was December 2010 and I found myself newly in love with a really great guy. I was in Disney World for my family’s annual Christmas vacation and called him from the beach of our resort one night. While filling him in on our fun, I felt the familiar rumble in my stomach. Could I stay on the phone a few more minutes? Did I have to make a run for it? I tried to keep the conversation going until I realized I needed to run now or else I was going to have an accident.
Dating my would-be husband
Early on, my boyfriend knew I had a cranky stomach but had yet to experience any of my “oh no!” moments. When I got home, I admitted that a long day of theme park food and heavy walking finally hit and I ended up having an accident while on my way back to my hotel room. I was sure he’d start reconsidering our relationship.
Dating with IBS never was a breeze. I’d become accustomed to intentionally not meeting up for dinner but casual dates where I could make drinks last longer while eating french fries and downing glasses of water, knowing my stomach would cooperate that way. I remember one instance where a guy I was seeing suggested we hang out and eat bad food while watching bad movies; my mind immediately went into panic mode. I relied on plain potato chips in that situation. (It wasn’t a very good date anyway.)
My own bathroom
After an uncomfortable and awkward trip to a date’s tiny apartment bathroom, I made the decision that any overnight dates would be on my turf. I was familiar with my bathroom and there’s much less stress going in your own toilet, as opposed to one of someone you’re trying to impress. It gave me a sense of control with my IBS; if I did all the right things, I didn’t have to worry about any incidents while trying to have fun with someone. It's not like I could put "head's up, I have IBS!" in my online dating profile.
Years of dating with IBS taught me to be secretive. Talking about constipation, trigger foods, and pain flare-ups isn’t exactly hot conversation. So, once I admitted what happened the night of the call, I felt relief. If this guy could handle that, he’d be able to understand why I always scoped out the bathroom wherever we went and why sometimes I needed to just lay in bed, curled up in a ball, fighting off stomach pain.
IBS and marriage
Luckily, he didn’t flinch or think I was gross. He got it! It happens to everyone sometimes, right? Sure, it probably happens to those of us with IBS a little bit more, but his attitude made me realize I had nothing to hide from him. My stomach problems were just another part of me, one that he’d encourage me to seek help for and to learn how to live the best way.
Over 10 years later, my now-husband brings up this story and we still laugh about it. He’s become very familiar with my “oh no gotta go” shorthand. He’s been there for many IBS-related frustrations since, still encouraging me and driving me to all my GI-related appointments. Living with IBS isn’t always easy but a supportive partner makes it all a little easier for me.
Do you have a good understanding of what triggers your flares?