Dating is difficult for healthy people, let alone those of us with chronic health conditions that are difficult to discuss. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a disease of young people -- most people tend to be diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35. This means that there are a significant number of young, single people with IBD who are wondering about how to start dating after their diagnosis.
When Do I Start Dating?
You can date as soon as you feel comfortable doing so. If you have not gotten control of your IBD, or you are very newly diagnosed, you might want to wait a bit. Give yourself a chance to recognize the signals your body is giving you about your disease. When you are more attuned and you start to understand what is helpful and what is harmful to your IBD, you’ll be better prepared to tackle dating.
Once I Start Dating, When Do I Discuss My IBD?
IBD isn’t really a “first-date” conversation, although under certain circumstances (such as, if you meet at a support group) it might be. You will have to see how the relationship progresses in order to determine the right time to discuss your health. Some questions to consider are included below.
How Well Do I Know This Person?
Sometimes it takes a while for two people to really know each other in a dating relationship, because both are spending a lot of energy on being what they think the other person wants. When you are both comfortable enough to be yourselves, that’s really when you can get a feel for what this other person is really about.
How Will This Person React To My IBD?
You can learn a lot by seeing how your dating partner reacts to other people with medical conditions. Without you ever bringing up your condition, your date may give you clues about he or she is receptive to being in a relationship with a person who has a medical condition.
Is This Casual Dating, or Do I Want a Long-Term Relationship?
If you decide that you’re having fun being with this person for now, but you don’t think it will go anywhere, bringing up your disease may not seem important. If you're well enough during the relationship, you may not feel the need to discuss your IBD.
What If the Person I'm Dating Can't Deal With My IBD?
It's a sad fact of life -- not everyone can cope with the demands of being the partner of someone with a chronic illness. It may be better to find out earlier in the relationship rather than later, when you are more at risk of being hurt and have invested a significant amount of time and energy.
If it happens that you need to part ways, don't give up hope of finding someone who can support you and see you through any rough patches with your IBD. You deserve happiness, and an understanding partner is out there looking for you.