How to deal with IBS & relationships
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive condition that causes a range of, let’s face it, embarrassing symptoms. From cramping and bloating to constipation and diarrhoea, living with IBS can have an impact on your daily life, including your relationships.1 But pooing is normal, so it’s time to break the stigma.
If you’re worried about broaching the subject with your partner, colleagues or friends – you’re in the right place. Discover lots of advice on how to navigate your relationships when you have IBS, right here.
Living with IBS
If you’ve clicked on this article, you’re probably someone who has to manage IBS symptoms on a regular basis. This is usually enough to deal with on its own, but the emotional side can sometimes take a toll without us realising. Especially when we keep it a secret.
Whether you’re at work and can hear your stomach grumbling away, or you’re on a date and something you’ve eaten has exacerbated your symptoms, you can often feel vulnerable and embarrassed with this condition. Find out how to deal with IBS at work and in your personal life below…
Your romantic relationship
Like we just mentioned, IBS management can be hard enough on its own – and the same goes for your dating life! So when you’re trying to navigate the two, it can be hard to know what the best approach is.
And if we’re being honest, while pooing is a normal bodily function, most people are ashamed about discussing it, especially in the early days of your relationship!
Bringing it up
The key is to choose the right moment to bring it up. If you leave it too long, you could end up suffering in silence without the support that your significant other could offer. However, your first date may seem a little early to share the details of your digestive health. Above all else, it has to feel right for you. Try and bring it up in an environment where you feel comfortable, and you have plenty of time to discuss what you’re dealing with and how they can be supportive.
A lot of people who have IBS might also find it hard to feel sexy. If you’re worrying about feeling sick or bloated instead of being in the moment, it’s not going to get you in the mood. The solution? While there’s no easy answer, if you’re in a trusting, loving relationship, you should be able to open up to your partner about your fears - whether they’re to do with accidents in the bedroom or they’re self-esteem related. We’ve got some tips on how to do that later in the article, so stay tuned.
Your professional relationship
Depending on the type of IBS you have, it might also interfere with your working life. For example, just getting ready in the morning and commuting to work can be made a lot more stressful if you’re having to go to the toilet multiple times. Plus, IBS can be worsened by stress, so it might be worth factoring in extra time in the morning so you can go about your routine in a slower, calmer way.2
Telling a colleague
Whether it’s your manager, someone in HR or a close colleague, you might find that sharing your situation with someone helps to lighten the burden. You’ll find that most people are supportive, and it means that they’ll understand if you have to keep nipping to the loo throughout the working day.
Your family and friends
Lastly, IBS can have an impact on your family and friendships. For example, you may find that certain ingredients have a knock-on effect on your symptoms, so you might face questions if you avoid going out to dinner or having a takeaway. But good friends and family members should take your needs into consideration, especially when planning social events. This is why it’s important to let them know about the condition in your own words.
Letting your nearest and dearest know
Don’t feel comfortable saying ‘IBS’ specifically? That’s okay! You can let them know that you have ‘tummy troubles’ or ‘digestive issues’ and highlight what they can do to keep your symptoms at bay. Plus they’ll understand if you spend a little longer on the loo than the rest of the clan. Find out some more ways to tell people about IBS below.
Tips for telling people about IBS
We hope you’re feeling more confident about broaching the subject of IBS with your friends, colleagues and partners. While it can feel uncomfortable, there are certain ways you can go about letting them know. Here are our top tips for starting that conversation:
- Keep it simple. If you’re super uneasy about telling people about your IBS, it might be best to start off by keeping it vague. That way, you can let people know that you have medical reasons for your behaviour, without having to tell them too much personal info.
- Explain about the condition. If you do feel comfortable enough to share more details, go for it! You can let people know the name of the condition, the fact that it’s long term, the type of symptoms it causes and that they can vary. With this approach, they’ll have more of an idea of what you’re dealing with and find out the best way to support you. Just choose whichever option you feel good about.
- Highlight how it impacts your day. Whether you go into a lot of detail or not, another thing you might want to share is how it makes you behave. Explain that because of your condition, you might be a while on the toilet, you might need to make frequent trips to the loo and that you have to plan your daily activities around your condition to avoid flare-ups.
- Don’t feel guilty about it. Remember, you can’t help that you have IBS, so please don’t feel the need to apologise about it. Get what you need to off your chest and go about your day as normal; supportive people will respect that.
The final say
Discussing IBS with your friends, colleagues and romantic partner can feel awkward – but it can also help you in the long run. Being open might allow you to feel less stressed about potential embarrassing situations and help the people around you to understand what you’re going through. Plus, we’re trying to break the taboo of poo around here, so why not make light of it? Going to the toilet is natural after all!
If you’re experiencing symptoms, do speak to a doctor who will be able to guide you with personalised advice and specific ways to manage the condition.