Navigating the Dating World With IBD

by Jackie Zimmerman Patient Advocate

I have been “in the clear” with my IBD since 2011—four whole years. I think I’ve gone to the ER once or twice in the past four years, so for me that’s considered a win. You could say, that IBD is in my past.

You could say that. I wouldn’t say that.

And this is the problem that I’ve run into when I meet new people - whether it be new friends or potential dates—especially dates. When you’re on a date and you’re talking to a new person and learning about each other it almost always ends up on the topic about how I’ve been sick. I can see the smile drain from their face, sometimes concern sets in, and it’s almost always followed by, “but you’re ok now, right?”

No, new guy, not really. But also yes, kinda. I haven’t yet figured out the best way to tell a potential suitor the right combination of too little information and too much in this scenario.

Too little information

Too little information looks like this:

“Yea, actually I’ve been great for about four years and things are going well. I haven’t had any problems and I’ve been feeling really good. I’m really lucky”.

And we move on from the topic and I pretend like having these surgeries didn’t change my life and the person that I am. I give him the impression that this is something 100 percent in the past and our date can move on like nothing ever happened, and I’m not worried he’s trying to bail the whole time because I’ve freaked him out.

Too much information

Too much information looks like this:

“No, not quite. I mean, yea I am fine and I’ve been fine for almost four years but really the shit could hit the fan at any time and I might end up in the hospital or having a ton more surgeries again. I could always have a permanent ostomy if my j-pouch fails and let’s not even talk about what happens if my MS gets more severe.”

And that smile he had on his face never comes back and the date ends about 10 minutes later because he has a "work meeting" in the morning he "totally forgot about".

The right amount of information

This is the part that I haven’t quite figured out yet. I know that it’s a combination of the above, but I haven’t worked out how to tell someone that what I have is very serious and could get very serious again but for right now, today, I am fine. I will probably be fine for years to come but literally at a split second it could change. Even that feels like too much information.

I think the problem with “but you’re ok now, right?” is that we don’t know the intent of the person asking the question. He could be saying it with sincere concern, or he could be saying it with a wild fear that I am damaged goods and he wants out of this arrangement ASAP. I like to think that I can tell their intent by reading their face but I really have no idea.

What I do

Looking back on past dates, I think I probably tend to go with too much information with a positive twist. It helps that I founded Girls With Guts, so I have evidence that this horrible thing turned into a good thing.

So my recommendation is to start a nonprofit so you can use it to gain the trust of your dates. Not really, but I do recommend finding which tactic you’re most comfortable with. I will say I have gone the too-much-information route before and no one flipped a table and walked out. I’ve had a couple people slowly fade after that, but who cares? I don’t want to date that type of dude anyway. I need someone who understands this is what I've been through—this is a part of me—and it doesn't change who I am, but it will affect every decision I make in life. The right partner will understand this and probably dig you more because of it.

What do you do when people assume that “you’re ok now?”

Jackie Zimmerman
Meet Our Writer
Jackie Zimmerman

Jackie Zimmerman is a multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis patient and the founder 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. In her free time (what free time?!) she spends time with her two rescue pups, her husband Adam and plays roller derby. She’s online @JackieZimm.