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Relationship Dynamics and IBS

Having a chronic illness like IBS significantly impacts my everyday life. Not only does it affect me personally, but it also influences my relationship with my partner, my children, and my entire family.

IBS makes me a “weak link”

Whenever we plan an activity, we always have to take into account that I might have an IBS flare. Everything needs to stay flexible or include a plan B without me. Traveling anywhere requires us to be ready to go or spontaneously cancel if I’m having a bad day.

Especially during the summer, when my partner and I take our children to parks and zoos, we have to think up alternatives in case these outings don’t happen on a specific day. All because of me. I’m always the “weak link” when it comes to any planning we do, and it’s frustrating for both me and the rest of my family.

Always being the sick one

I’m always the one who’s sick. Nobody bats an eye when I have to leave the dinner table to use the bathroom multiple times. My partner is used to getting both of our children ready for bed because my IBS often flares in the evenings.

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When I’m unwell, everyone knows what do to. My partner takes over, I try to participate as much as I can, and the kids don’t usually even notice anything.

Chores despite symptoms

With chronic symptoms comes the acceptance that even when I’m not doing that well, life has to go on. Now that I’m eating a mostly safe, gluten-free diet, I rarely get bad flares anymore. Unless I’m anxious or stressed of course, but that’s a topic for another time. During mild flares, I always continue working, doing chores, cleaning up after meals, reading to my kids. All while constantly apologizing to my partner that my IBS is impacting our life again.

Unless I’m in bed with a fever, down with a stomach bug, or suffering through a very bad IBS flare, I try to keep going, at least at home. I don’t want my partner to get overwhelmed. And I’m always striving to be extra thoughtful and caring to make up for what I put my family through.

Unbalanced relationship dynamics

My partner is amazing whenever I’m feeling sick. He takes over without a word. He never makes me feel guilty for canceling activities. Whenever I’m the unwell one and he’s the one taking over, our relationship dynamic works very well.

This, however, is not the case when the roles are reversed. Lately, my partner has been going through a tough time with his health and it has thrown everything out of balance.

My partner retreats into a tight bubble when he’s unwell. As soon as he’s sick, even a little bit, I’m on my own, both physically and emotionally. Of course, he needs to rest and I would never expect him to do chores. But sometimes, I do need someone to talk to – about our kids, other issues, work – and I know that I can’t do that when he’s ill.

Anxiety, IBS, and being on my own

In these situations, my anxiety always gets the best of me. I worry about my husband. Not being able to help or even really talk to him stresses me out so much. Whenever I’m stressed and anxious, my IBS starts flaring. With all of this anxiety, stress, and IBS going on, I feel very overwhelmed with the children, my work, the house.

Our relationship dynamic does not work with me as a sole caretaker. I’m not okay when I’m on my own. And since we have no family or friends nearby, there’s no one to ask for help.

Hard, but not impossible

For the past weeks, we’ve been living like this. Me trying to do everything while feeling like I could throw up from the stress, my partner trying to get healthy. It’s been incredibly nerve-wracking. And yet, our home is decently clean, the kids are fed and happy (albeit with extra screen time), and I’m only late on a couple of my work projects. I’m managing, somehow.

But oh boy, do I hope that my partner will get better soon and I get to be the weak link once again. This just shows me how invaluable support is for those of us with anxiety and IBS!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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