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Sex And Body Issues With IBD

Intimate Relationships Require Special Handling When IBD Is Involved

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Updated May 19, 2012

Massage

Showing your love through gentle touch such as a massage is a great way to feel physically connected to your partner.

Photo © FreeDigitalPhotos.net
One major hurdle for many people who have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and their spouses or significant others is how to handle intimate relationships. People with IBD who are in a flare-up or who are dealing with chronic fatigue can find themselves with a decrease in their sex drive. Other reasons for not wanting to be intimate could include depression or anxiety, side effects from medications, or even poor body image issues brought on by the IBD.

Dealing With Your Feelings

It's not uncommon for people with IBD and their spouses to be dealing with complex emotions surrounding digestive disease and everything it brings. Anger, resentment, and depression could all be coming to the surface, making it more difficult to nurture a loving intimate relationship. While it's natural to have these feelings, you will want to work through them in order to keep your relationship as healthy as possible.

In some cases, you may find it helpful to go to counseling. Counseling can take many forms: the two of you may go together, each of you may go separately, or there could be a combination. It's important to remember that your spouse did not bring IBD upon himself or herself -- we don't know what causes IBD but it's likely from a combination of genetics and environmental triggers. Your spouse's illness is going to impact your life, and you need to communicate to each other your feelings about that.

In Sickness And In Health

In the case of IBD, there might be times when you are dealing with more "sickness" than with "health." It's important that you know that right from the beginning, and to plan for it. There may be times when your spouse is unavailable emotionally and physically. But, if you are supportive, and if you are communicating, you will find a way to work through it until your spouse is feeling better. You will both appreciate the "healthy" times all the more because of it.

Body Image Issues

The symptoms of IBD can have a significant effect on your spouse's interest in sexual activity and intimacy. You'll need to take your cues from your significant other, and ask them what is going to be comfortable. Someone with IBD who is in a flare-up might not feel like having sex, but they may want other intimate touches, such as cuddling or a massage. Touch from a loved one can have a very positive effect, and it's important that you are able to give each other loving touches.

Side effects from medications can also take a toll on body image. Weight gain, weight loss, and even hair growth could be just a few of the physical adverse effects that can be troublesome to your spouse. Let your spouse know that these are temporary situations, and that they are not important. You still love them and still want to be intimate, even if your significant other does not feel that they are looking good physically.

What You Shouldn't Do

Sex and intimacy is a highly charged issue, and resentment and anger are emotions that you might feel when your needs are not being met. What you don't wan to do is damage your relationship by saying things that could be hurtful to your spouse. Some things that you wouldn't want to do are:
  • Criticize or ridicule your spouse's time in the bathroom.
  • Criticize or ridicule your spouse's body image.
  • Tell your spouse to "hold it" when looking for a bathroom.
  • Be embarrassed by your spouse's condition.
  • Tell your spouse to "just relax."

Trust That It Will Get Better

One of the hallmarks of IBD is that it waxes and wanes. Your spouse will have times when they are ill, but with proper management, the IBD will get under control and you will both move on in your lives together.

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