Dating When You Have IBD

Dating is a great part of being young, and you should not miss out on the fun because you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (​Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis). You can still be a part of the social scene, even though you may choose to attend fewer parties than you used to. Dating and IBD aren't mutually exclusive—you just need to keep some things in mind before you go out.

Couple holding hands
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If you feel good there's no reason you can't go out with your friends. You may feel more tired than you did before you were diagnosed with IBD, so you'll want to be sure you can leave and go home if you need to. You may not be able to eat the same foods as you did before, so plan ahead to make sure that if food is involved, there is something that you can eat available.

If you aren't feeling well but you still don't want to pass up a big date or party, you'll have to do a bit more planning. If you can, try to go out somewhere that you can easily make it to a bathroom. A restaurant, a movie, or at your house or your friends' house are probably the easiest places.

  • Eat something at home before you go out so that you can avoid eating any of your no-no foods.
  • Bring your medication with you in case you need to take it while you're out. You can always excuse yourself to a quiet corner or to the bathroom if you don't want to swallow pills in front of your friends.
  • Keep your outing short if you can, and get back home before you're really tired. If your date thinks you're leaving because you're not having a good time, you can always cover by saying that you don't feel well or that you have some other small problem (like homework or an early meeting, maybe).

When to Disclose

You are probably wondering if you should tell your boyfriend/girlfriend or your crush that you have IBD. How much you tell, when you tell, and even if you tell, will be totally up to you. You can bring it up right away, or you can wait and see how your friendship develops. Both ways are OK—it just depends on what you are most comfortable with.

If you do decide that you would prefer to bring it up right away, you can be a bit vague at first. Your friend probably doesn't need to know every detail, but you could just say that you have "stomach problems" or even "digestive problems." You can always talk more about if your friend has questions, or you can go into it again at some other time.

Whatever you do, always remember that you are not your IBD. IBD is a part of your life, but it is not who you are. Anyone who does not want to be friends with you because they can't deal with the IBD is not someone you need in your life, anyway. You deserve friends who support you and help you to be well.

By Amber J. Tresca
Amber J. Tresca is a freelance writer and speaker who covers digestive conditions, including IBD. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 16.