Tips for Successful Dating With IBS

Dating can be a daunting process under normal circumstances. But dating with IBS brings those inherent challenges up to a new level. The unpredictability of symptoms, special diet needs, and concerns about the need for quick access to a bathroom may all seem like too much to ask a potential love interest to deal with.

Sadly, those with IBS are at risk for social isolation when they feel they have no choice but to play it safe and stay close to home. Don't let that happen to you. Learn to negotiate the dating scene and your IBS.

Start Online

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Yes, online dating has its drawbacks and risks, but it is a great way to make initial contact with a person without having to leave the comforts of home. Through reading profiles and online messaging you can get a sense of the personalities of any potential dating prospects. You can use this information to decide if you think the person will be supportive and understanding of your digestive symptoms.

Choose Your Dates Wisely

Whether you meet someone online or out in the real world, you want to assess their personality. Too often we are so focused on whether or not the person will like us that we overlook the need to figure out if the other person would be a good fit. Dating should be a bit like conducting a job interview, asking questions to get to know who the person really is.

It can be quite helpful to make a list of the qualities you are looking for in a potential mate. In particular, you will want to see if this person is kind, supportive and patient–all qualities they will need to have so that you can be comfortable sharing your IBS experience with them. 

Once you have your list, keep these qualities in mind as you are on your date. As your date is talking about their life, you can start to assess whether or not they have the qualities that are most important to you. The bottom line is that if the other person is not supportive of your IBS, they are not the right person for you.

When the Timing Is Right Be Forthcoming

Once you have a sense of the personality of a potential love interest, you can start to think about when to let them know about your IBS. You may not want to say anything before a first date, but if that first date goes well, it might be time to open up. 

The worst thing you can do is to try to hide your IBS from your date. Keeping secrets can be stressful and stress is a prime IBS trigger. A much better approach is to be upfront and matter-of-fact about your digestive disorder. Here are some examples for you to say:

  • "I have a sensitive stomach. I need to be careful with what I eat."
  • "I have IBS. It is a disorder which causes unpleasant and unpredictable digestive symptoms."
  • "I have a digestive disorder that requires quick access to a public restroom."

Keep in mind that IBS strikes about 12% of the U.S. population. Once you open up about your IBS, you might be surprised to find that your date has it as well. And remember, if the other person is not supportive of your health needs, they clearly do not have the character to be a good match for you.

Don't Feel Ashamed

Yes, IBS symptoms can seem embarrassing, but they are not something to be ashamed of. They are no reflection on you as a person. Remember, all of the symptoms of IBS, diarrhea, constipation, and gas, are all symptoms that everyone experiences.

Thus, no one will be judging you if your symptoms become obvious. If you pass gas loudly or find yourself spending a lot of time in the bathroom, most people will be sympathetic to your plight. Apply that same kindness to yourself.

Know Your Strengths

Our brains seem to be designed to focus on the negative, particularly when it comes to how we think about ourselves. This can be especially true with IBS, as the disorder can take its toll on your self-esteem. It is important to remember that you are not your body. You have many wonderful qualities that would make you the right catch for the right person. 

Spend a few moments making a list of your strengths. Are you kind, loving, and/or reliable? Do you have a good sense of humor? Are you financially secure? If you are having difficulty filling out your list, ask your best friends to help. Having confidence in your own wonderfulness takes the focus off of the fact that your body can be high maintenance. 

Knowing your own strengths can help you to feel confident as you initiate a love relationship with someone new and help you to not settle with the wrong person because you believe you don't deserve better.

Ask for Assistance

It is okay and potentially relationship-enhancing to ask your date for help in managing your IBS. Nice people love to help others. You want to be dating nice people!

Involving the other person in your IBS planning gives them a role and makes them feel included. Perhaps your date knows of restaurants that serve healthy, IBS-friendly foods. Maybe they have information and ideas about activities that keep you in close contact with public restrooms. If the other person balks at your condition, it is probably in your best interests to bring the relationship to a close.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Qin HY, Cheng CW, Tang XD, Bian ZX. Impact of psychological stress on irritable bowel syndromeWorld J Gastroenterol. 2014;20(39):14126-14131. doi:10.3748/wjg.v20.i39.14126

  2. Pimentel M. Evidence-based management of irritable bowel syndrome with diarrheaAm J Manag Care. 2018;24(3 Suppl):S35-S46.

By Barbara Bolen, PhD
Barbara Bolen, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and health coach. She has written multiple books focused on living with irritable bowel syndrome.