The Truth about Digestive Disease & Marital Harmony
IBD has the potential to impact every aspect of your marriage, from where you and your partner vacation, to what happens in the bedroom. But even though chronic disease can impact your life in multiple ways, it is important to know the truth and not make erroneous assumptions about what impact digestive disease will ultimately have on your intimate relationships. Below are three myths, meant to be dispelled.
Myth #1 - Individuals with IBD have less sexual intercourse.
Three hundred patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) agreed to participate in a study investigating personal problems of patients with IBD (Moody & Mayberry, 1983). When the researchers compared the patients with IBD to a control group, they found NO significant difference in the overall frequency of sexual intercourse amongst the patient and control groups, even when they compared those with infrequent or no sexual intercourse. The results were confirmed four months later when they re-interviewed both groups.
Myth #2 - IBD will cause conflict in your marriage and family.
The divorce rate in the U.S. is now about 50 percent. We know individuals experience better overall health when they are married, but we don't know if digestive disease prevents people from being married or in intimate relationships. The research just isn't there yet. We do know that the ability to resolve conflict in a positive manner is vitally important in any intimate relationship. Researchers (Wood et al., 1989) have looked at families with digestive disease, specifically Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and studied different family characteristics. They found that digestive disease is NOT correlated with poor conflict resolution in a families. In other words, families living with CD or UC are just as efficient as other families at resolving conflict.
Myth #3 - Caring for a child with a digestive disorder will make you and your partner less cohesive.
At least one study has shown that families caring for a child with a digestive disorder are actually MORE cohesive than families who are not caring for a child with special health needs (Sicherer, 2001). Researchers used a questionnaire to measure the relative burden of digestive disease on family functioning, and found that families in the digestive disorder group scored HIGHER on the family cohesion scale as compared to the general population.
As these myths are dispelled, it is obvious that the relationship between marriage quality and digestive disease is complex. Just as individuals are resilient to hardships, intimate relationships do not have to suffer just because you are living with a digestive disorder.