As we’ve already discussed, stress is a huge trigger for people who live with IBS. Which is why we figured we would talk a little bit about dating with IBS. Dating can be difficult enough as it is, when you throw IBS into the mix, it can seem completely impossible, especially if stress is one of your triggers! Most people elect to go out for dinner, but nothing makes you flare up like a meal full of trigger foods! Do you be ‘that guy’ in front of a new person and heavily modify your meal? Do you avoid eating all together? What happens if you have to disappear to the bathroom and your date starts to wonder where you went? All of these worries are already making your stomach turn over and you’re getting that familiar pain again. You’re not even on the date yet!
Everyone deserves a chance to find a partner and happiness, and this may seem like just one more thing your IBS is taking away from you. While dating with IBS can be more challenging and mean you have more to think about than the average person, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the dating world with IBS:
While you may not want your opening line to be: “Hey, nice to meet you, I have IBS so I may be spending the majority of this date in the bathroom.” Though, depending on you and your date’s personality, it may seem like a great ice breaker! But it’s always a good idea to be open about what you’re going through instead of bottling it up, whether it be with a new date, your long-time partner, an employer or even family and friends. Trying to keep it a secret may add unnecessary stress to the dating process and trigger exactly what you don’t want: a flare. Feel your date out. Maybe after a couple of successful outings, bring it up. Dating is often about finding a potential life partner and IBS is a part of your life. Being honest with them and with yourself by letting them in a little bit and sharing your struggles, can open up the possibility of deepening the relationship. Most people appreciate honesty and are understanding. You may even find that they have been sitting on something that they’ve been worried about telling you as well.
Plan dates that work around your triggers. Your date will probably be happy to have you suggest something as it prevents them from having to make the plans! Think about your triggers and the timing of your symptoms. Trying to work around them will not only decrease the chance of them occurring but reduce your risk of stress as well.
Do you tend to have more symptoms in the evening time? Meet at a café in the late morning. Often these types of dates are less intimidating than an entire evening meal and are ideal for the start of a potential relationship. On the other hand, if you tend to have more symptoms in the morning, plan for a late afternoon or evening get-together.
Instead of something that revolves around food, plan an activity instead. Pick something you’d feel comfortable doing at a place with easy access to a bathroom. Bowling, a paint night, pottery making or even ice skating are all great options. They keep you occupied, still allow for great conversation and it’s easy to get to a bathroom whenever you need. If you use the bathroom frequently, consider steering clear of movies, shows or outdoor activities such as hiking until you’ve been able to have a conversation about your condition with your potential partner.
Like any relationship, eventually, you will share a meal or drinks together. Do you have a few different drink options that don’t trigger symptoms? Start with that. Do you do well with herbal tea? Choose a coffee shop. Are you ok with wine? Meet at a wine bar or lounge. Just keep the amount you drink within the limits of what you know your system can handle.
For sharing a meal together, if you know each other well enough and feel comfortable doing so, cook a meal together. This is a great activity you can do together and will allow you to control all the food that you will be eating. If you are cooking in your own home, being in an environment you are comfortable with will also help reduce stress and anxiety.
If you don’t feel comfortable being alone with your date in a residential setting, then choose a restaurant you are comfortable with. Pick a place you’ve eaten at before without triggering symptoms and where you know the menu well. This way you can order a meal without having to ask the waiter too many questions as you try to steer around your trigger foods.
In this article we’ve already discussed that dating can lead to stress, which can lead to symptoms. By using breathing exercises, practicing yoga and exercising regularly, You can minimize those pre-date jitters. Check out some of the other articles on our site to find even more ways to help decrease stress!