I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) at 15 and at that point, all I knew was that restaurants were a no-go and I had to drastically change my diet to avoid the embarrassment of having to run to the bathroom within five minutes of eating. However, it wasn’t until I started dating that I realized just how hard living with IBS really is.
Going out for dinner is completely off the cards. If a guy suggests that we go out for a nice meal or grab a bite to eat before going to the movies, I immediately think up a million excuses for why I can’t go. I’ve faced the horror of a Nando’s date gone wrong, where I soon realized the huge mistake I’d made by putting the hot Peri-Peri sauce on my burger and having to casually disappear to the bathroom for 20 minutes.
I have a list of excuses ready to go to avoid eating out. “You want to have dinner at seven? Sorry, I’m working until nine but I can meet you at the bar for a drink.” “You know a nice little restaurant we should go to? I had quite a big lunch so I might just have a glass of wine but you go ahead.” You name it, I’m able to get out of any situation that involves eating in public.
Trying to explain it is a literal pain in the butt. If I do end up in a restaurant or cafe and have to explain why I’m only ordering the salad without everything but the lettuce, it can be quite tricky to explain my “intolerances.” Sometimes it’s easier to say I’m lactose intolerant because guys usually have a vague idea of what that means, or that I’m just intolerant to certain food groups. I can’t really come out and say, “Hey, I get diarrhea when I eat most things,” so I subtly try and explain that some foods don’t agree with me.
Most guys surprisingly understand. It’s always nerve-wracking trying to explain your dietary requirements to a new guy because you don’t want to come across as a picky eater who follows some food fads. It doesn’t help that I’m a vegetarian either and have to ask for dishes to be made without meat, dairy, spices and basically everything in it. My experience with dates is that the guy is surprisingly OK with it and is actually quite interested in why I can’t eat certain things and how it all came about.
It can be quite embarrassing. I’ve had several dates where I’ve had terrible stomach issues due to nerves and/or something I’ve eaten. Even beer or spirits can set me off and it can be quite embarrassing when it strikes and you have to deal with the consequences. Even though the guy usually doesn’t care at all, having to run to the bathroom isn’t very attractive and can lower your self-esteem massively.
I’ve learned to live with it. Having IBS is part of who I am whether I like it or not. I can’t change it and there’s no cure so I have no choice but to accept it. If a guy has a problem with it, that’s completely on him and I shouldn’t feel ashamed about it. There could be much worse chronic illnesses to have so I have to be thankful and remember that having IBS isn’t the worst thing ever.
I have a lot of funny date stories. One silver lining is that I can look back and laugh at situations that went massively wrong due to having IBS. That birthday dinner that I couldn’t turn down with my boyfriend’s family when they took us all out for Indian food and I barely made it home in time before things erupted. There was also that time when my date had to fill me in on half an hour of the movie that I missed because there was a “huge line for the bathroom.”
Bedroom activities can be slightly tricky. It can be quite a tricky situation when you’re in bed with your boyfriend and you’re having a bit of a bad spell with your stomach. It can dampen the mood a bit and can limit certain positions but as long as you take it easy and don’t overdo it, it’s usually fine. The next morning after a boozy night is usually the worst, so I’ve had to leave pretty swiftly in the past.
Sorry fellas, girls do poop. I’ve debugged the urban myth that all those guys joke about that girls don’t poop. Let me tell you something—we sure as hell do! Joking around about IBS is OK sometimes and it’s fine to laugh at yourself but it’s important to understand that it’s a serious chronic illness that affects millions of people and some cases can be very severe. It’s a normal thing that many people experience at some point in their life, so be respectful of everyone’s circumstances.
It’s important to be open and honest. For years I hid the fact that I had IBS and I’m still apprehensive about telling someone I’m dating about it, but if you’re honest about it from the start, it takes the pressure off dating and you’ll have much less stressful dates by knowing that your date understands your situation.
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