How to Enjoy Dating When You Have IBS
If you live with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the excitement that comes with the prospect of a date is probably tinged with stress: You might have to map out restrooms, or prepare excuses that allow you to go home early.
Symptoms of IBS affect 10 to 20 percent of adults in Western countries, including the United States, according to a study published in Annals of Gastroenterology. That means millions of other people just like you are trying to balance IBS with a healthy and fun dating life.
But it’s not just that you’re not alone. You also have resources. Here are five tips to make date nights as stress-free as possible.
1. Plan dates that don’t involve food
Going out to eat may be the last activity you want to do on a date when you have irritable bowel syndrome, given how certain foods can trigger symptoms. When making plans with your date, suggest an idea that doesn’t involve food. Go bowling, visit a museum, try an escape room or take a long, romantic walk at a nearby park. If your date insists on going out for a meal, suggest restaurants or food choices that are “safe.”
2. Practice relaxation techniques
Stress is another major trigger of IBS symptoms, according to the National Library of Medicine. People with irritable bowel syndrome who find dating stressful may experience a flare-up of symptoms before their date has even begun. To combat stress and calm your nerves before (or during) a date, practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga and mindfulness meditation. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may also help; Harvard Health Publishing reported that people with IBS who received CBT for four weeks saw a reduction in the severity of their symptoms for up to three months.
3. Open up to your date
Honesty and transparency are keys to all happy and successful relationships. If it feels appropriate, consider opening up to your date about irritable bowel syndrome. It’ll help you feel more comfortable and less awkward about your condition, especially if you think you may experience symptoms while on your date. Plus, being open about your IBS may well increase the intimacy between you and your date.
4. Say no when you need to
If your date suggests doing something you think could trigger your irritable bowel syndrome, don’t hesitate to set a boundary and say no. You should never feel pressured to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or anxious, including something that provokes your IBS. For example, if your date suggests that you spend the night, don’t cave in if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, or if you’re not ready to tell your date about your IBS symptoms. Your date should respect your boundaries, and if they don’t, you’ll know whether that person is truly worth your time.
5. Focus on your confidence
If you feel insecure, uncomfortable or embarrassed about having irritable bowel syndrome, do whatever it takes to feel more confident on your date. Wear a new, comfortable outfit that makes you feel attractive, or do an activity at which you excel, so you can show off a bit to your date. Undertaking activities that make you feel more confident can help put your mind and body at ease and make any IBS symptoms you may experience seem like less of a big deal.
Keep in mind that no matter what happens on your date, the right person will like you and appreciate you for who you really are, regardless of whether you have irritable bowel syndrome.
If IBS continues to interfere with your dating life, consider asking your doctor to recommend a specialist who can treat and reduce the severity of your symptoms.