I was tasked with writing a blog about living with IBD and dating. I am by no means, a dating expert (hell, who is?), so I reached out to about 1,000 of my closest friends to get their advice. I had originally planned to quote a few of these wonderful people and their advice to you, however, almost all of the advice came back the same. Which not only surprised me, but it also warmed my heart. Their advice, would be the same advice I would give. Turns out, maybe I am a dating expect (no seriously, I’m not at all).
Starting to date someone can be crazy-town scary. Between figuring out what to wear, what to eat, and what to say, you also feel like you’re hiding this big 'ol secret about your IBD. Why not just fret about important stuff, like if you have salad stuck in your teeth?
I’m not going to lie, I have a hard time NOT talking about my butt. If I’m internet dating, butt talk comes up within the first couple emails. If I’m meeting someone for the first time on a date, that date, the very first one, is the one that I tell them about my IBD and my surgeries. Has it scared people? Sure has. But if just talking about things that have happened in the past freaks them out, do you really think they could handle all the potential problems of the future?
I always joke that I introduce myself like, "Hi, I’m Jackie, I have a butt disease," which is really only like half false. I genuinely bring up IBD, my surgeries, my non-profit Girls With Guts, blogging, and everything else that is scary and embarrassing on day one. And you know what? No one has ran screaming yet. Sure, sometimes they don’t call again, but you know what? That happens to everyone dating everywhere. Even those with healthy colons.
In order to follow rule number one, honesty, there needs to be a certain level of trust with this person who you barely know. I’m not talking "trust you with my life" trust. I’m talking the "I feel close enough with you to share something important and personal" trust. If you’re not like me, and don’t feel the need to word vomit about your butt all the time, then give it a few dates and find a way to sneak it into conversation.
Trusting someone with personal information like this is a sign of a connection. If you find that you’re not ready to connect with someone on this level after a few dates, maybe they aren’t the right person for you. Remember IBD is a chronic illness; it’s not going anywhere. If you don’t trust someone enough within the first few dates to tell them a major part of your life, can you trust them enough to be your rock when you need one?
This one rang true over and over when I polled my friends. Having IBD doesn’t make you any less of a smokin’ hot man or woman. In fact, I surmise that those with IBD are hotter than the average person. I swear it’s in the science. If you show your date that your disease is nothing to be scared of or grossed out by, their initial reaction will often mimic your attitude. Tell them how strong it’s made you, the people you’ve met because of it, or something else that IBD has done for you.
I ran a half marathon because of IBD and started a non-profit. I think those are some pretty bad-ass qualities that I can be proud of and that I’m happy to share with someone. The reality is you are who you are with IBD. IBD is not the only part of you. As super clichÃ© as it sounds, if your date can’t accept all parts of you, then is that someone you really want in your life?
What I have learned from living with IBD is that many things are out of my control. I have learned Christ like patience, and to be more flexible than a yoga master. Apply these same principles to your dating life. Patience to find the right person, to not settle, and to treat yourself right is difficult.
My friend Kayla said, "Having a man that will accept my disease and all the potentially weird/gross things that could happen is number one."
Not everyone is going to be that man/woman, but there are plenty out there who will still think the sun shines out of your diseased ass. You might just have to wait it out, go on a few bad first dates, maybe even get your heart broken until you find the right one, but I do believe that it will happen.
Like I said, I’m not an expert. Don’t ask me your dating questions because I will probably give you the wrong answer, but I do think that if you follow these simple principles that you will have successful dates.
I think above everything, honesty is the most important. It’s not fair to withhold important, life-changing information from someone who you are starting to care about because they are starting to care about you too. Don’t be afraid to let people into your life, you never know when something amazing will happen.
Jackie Zimmerman is a multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis patient and the founder and executive director of Girls With Guts. Since diagnosis, she has blogged her IBD journey at Blood, Poop, and Tears. Jackie has worked hard to become a strong voice in the patient advocacy community and pays it forward as Social Ambassador of the IBDHealthCentral Facebook page. In her free time (what free time?!) she spends time with her two rescue pups and plays roller derby. She’s online @JackieZimm.