By Troy Parsons
dating with IBD, when to tell your significant other

Have you ever been on a first date and spent most of it in the bathroom?

I have. It’s mortifying.

Have you ever worried your date will think you are “high maintenance” or “picky” when you order a very specific dish at dinner?

Or have you ever been on a first date and been unable to give the other person your full attention because you are eyeing up your escape to the nearest bathroom, or pondering what excuse you can give to slip away for the third time?

How about this: Have you ever tried to come up with the best way to bail on your date without having an “accident,” all while trying not to completely blow your chances of a second date?

If you’re anything like me, first dates are always awkward and stressful. Finding someone compatible is not only difficult, but IBD can often get in the way, making dating significantly more challenging—and sometimes more embarrassing, too.

What Do You Do?

I am certainly no expert in this field, but I’ve been living with Crohn’s disease since 2009, so I have had some experience dating with IBD, and one of my biggest concerns has been when to tell someone about my condition.

Prior to the first date, when I’m thinking about the best way to approach—or avoid—bringing up my disease with someone, it always sounds easy. But when it actually comes down to it, it’s usually a lot harder than I thought it would be.

What about you? Do you:

  • Tell people about your health condition on the first date?
  • Try to hide your condition until you get to know the person better?
  • Explain your situation to someone you barely know, hoping they will show compassion?
  • Attempt to connect deeply on a personal level by explaining your condition?

While I am very open about my disease, I do my best to avoid mentioning my condition until I get to know someone on a deeper, more personal level. Again, every situation is a little different, and although I avoid it the best I can, I have had to bring up my condition earlier than I would have liked.

Adjusting Based on the Conversation

The ability to take a step back and evaluate how a conversation is going so that I can guide it towards or away from certain topics is an invaluable skill. By assessing the flow of the conversation, I may find that the other person is sharing their own struggles and opening up on a more personal level, which often makes me feel more comfortable and more likely to share my condition.

If the conversation is a little bumpy, with long pauses, and it is not going smoothly, I will most certainly avoid bringing up my condition.

Similarly, if the other person is shy and closed off, I will avoid mentioning anything that could make the conversation more awkward.

After all, many people do not know how to react when you casually mention that you have an incurable disease!

Different Reactions

I am always afraid that if I bring up my disease too early, I will scare someone off before they get to know me.

I have had dates go either way after bringing up my condition. Sometimes the other person is scared off, thinking I may come with emotional baggage, or they do not understand the disease.

I have had others see my disease as an asset. I know it might sound weird, but a lot of people find my story extremely motivating and inspiring after hearing about what I’ve gone through and overcome. Explaining a bit about my story shows my character and what kind of person I am.

Crohn’s is a major part of my life and unfortunately always will be. So, at some point, I just have to open up and explain my situation to the other person. If they are scared off, overwhelmed, or do not want to deal with the challenges that come along with my disease, they are not the right person for me.

couple holding hands walking near the arc du triomphe

Letting Someone In

If you’ve been seeing someone for a while, being open and honest with your significant other is crucial to make things work while battling your disease.

In my experience, most people are very compassionate and interested in hearing more about our unique stories and conditions. I know it’s not easy, but I suggest you share your story once you feel comfortable. It may even allow you to connect with the other person on a deeper level if they can relate by talking openly about their own struggles and adversity.

If the other person is having a hard time understanding and being there for you in times of despair, is that really someone you want to be dating?

I cannot stress enough the importance of finding someone you can feel totally comfortable around. It’s certainly not the easiest thing, and it is something I still struggle with.

Letting someone else into your life is terrifying, yet so important if you want to strengthen your relationship and grow together. Most people are much more compassionate than you think and will grow to love your unique quirks. And if they don’t, don’t settle until you find someone who does.

I don’t claim to have it all figured out. But take it from me, being honest and talking openly about your condition will create a deeper connection and a stronger relationship as a result.

Oshi is a tracking tool and content resource. It does not render medical advice or services, and it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You should always review this information with your healthcare professionals.