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Can you have a normal relationship with IBS?


It is refreshing to offer our thoughts on a topic rarely considered or written about.  The impact IBS may have upon a relationship can be quite significant significant for a plethora of reasons.  It will also effect the way we think about ourselves and our ability to select the right partner.


From the very start of a relationship, many sufferers have to either lie to their partner about the reason they have to visit the bathroom so much, or they have to face a conversation which is likely to take the sheen off of any relationship.  IBS has never featured heavily in any Hollywood movie and it is the antithesis of how many of us wish to be seen.  Not only is it embarrassing, no one wishes to be viewed as anything  other than  perfect by their prospective love.


Nothing is easy


For many sufferers the most basic tasks can prove difficult when alone, having to do things with a partner can prove relentlessly challenging.  Take a sufferer with chronic IBS-D.  They may wish to travel and live life to the full, thus they would be best suited to a like minded person.  The problem is that IBS-D can inhibit your ability to do that.  Thus you may look at the wrong type of person, who is less active to suit your inhibited lifestyle, despite the fact you lifestyle is not the life you’d choose.


The dream partner


Some of you may have been lucky enough to have discovered your dream partner who accepts you warts and all. That is wonderful.  Patience and communication are two of the key features for partners of IBS sufferers.  Ideal partners will be people you trust and can talk to.  This is at the very heart of the issue, if you are good at this then the rest will follow, as they will be able to understand and empathize with you.


Patience also very important, if you have a partner who makes you anxious this will make your IBS worse, the relationship worse and your life far worse.  If you see early signs of impatience, intolerance and a lack of compassion then there is plenty of evidence to suggest you will have major problems down the road.


Our IBS Relationship tips


  1. You must be honest, lying is always a terrible precedent to set.  Anyone who is worth your time and affection will be understanding, if they are not you are better off with someone who will accept you as you are.
  2. Be understanding. While we should look for partners who are capable of being kind and patient, it is equally important to acknowledge that and ensure they are know you appreciate them.
  3. Never lose your self worth or standards.  After a bad experience you may choose someone who will ‘put up with you’.  Many IBS sufferers have issues with self esteem, and low self esteem often leads to poor relationships.  You may have a problem, however that does not alter who you are inside.
  4. Communicate.  We all know how hard to discuss IBS can be.  It is not romantic, it is not dinner table, but it is vital that your partner is aware that IBS will affect your behavior at times, along with your general health.  For example many sufferers are in a lot of pain.  While a balance needs to be struck, it is better that your partner is aware so that they give you space when you need space.  There are times when we all need space.
  5. Forget the movies.  This is more of a general point, however many failed relationships can be traced back to expectations that can never be met.  The modern world is full of TV, movies and stories of what on the surface seems to be perfection.  IBS or not even the best relationships require work and they are not always perfect.
  6. Try to stay positive.  Depression is not uncommon with IBS.  IBS can see sufferers becoming frustrated and isolated, this will clearly affect your relationships.  When suffering with a condition few understand, which can cause a great deal of pain and  inhibit your lifestyle, staying positive is not easy.  The trouble is you have to try and find the strength to keep on picking yourself up.  We know it is not that easy and we know how debilitating IBS can be, but it makes it very hard for someone to stay on board and be supportive if you do not make an attempt.


On a personal note,  I hope that others find fulfillment in their relationships.  While I am very lucky now I must finish by telling the tale of my first true love and how IBS ruined it.   My first love, was the ideal partner for an IBS sufferer, kind, thoughtful and compassionate.  We had a very happy relationship, however problems arose when my IBS flared up and I’d become erratic and avoid her.  


Wanting to maintain the idea that I was special, led me to not communicate my issues and things gradually started to unravel.  Seeing that the IBS was becoming an issue, I started taking more codeine (I had been prescribed this some time ago) which effected my personality.  So while I was not rushing to the bathroom all the time, I was vacant and no fun to be around.  The relationship gradually ran aground as a result of this, which was distressing, and utterly avoidable.


IBS does not need to be an issue in a relationship, with good communication and a well selected partner it need have no impact at all.  However, it is vital that you are as honest and open as you are able to be right from the start.


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Please note:  All blogs and IBS Health articles have been written by IBS sufferers for fellow IBS sufferers.

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