The dating game is a tricky one and especially hard when you have something that makes you feel ‘less normal’, like an ostomy bag. I see quite often people asking the question about dating and when is it right to tell someone you have a bag or are suffering with an IBD such as Colitis or Crohns. The truth is that there is no right time, it is all down to individual circumstances and what feels okay for you.
I really won’t recount all of my dating stories as it may take an age and whilst I love to tell them, I am not sure my boyfriend Mike will want to read it in all its detail! Whatever our situation, we all have the horror dating stories and have all been through the mill when single but who would be without them? They are great to recount over a glass of wine with the girls, they hold funny memories and also make you realise what you don’t want out of a relationship! For example, there was the guy I dated who was a bit like eeyore, his chat wasn’t exactly lively and everything had a bit of a depressing tone to it, apparently he had a great time though as he wanted to see me again – I dread to think what he would’ve been like on a down day! Then the time I went on a date with a guy who worked at the gym I attended, after I told him I didn’t see the relationship progressing, he never spoke to me again – bit awkward when I would bump into him there, I thought I was taking the mature approach. Then there are the dates that should never turn into second dates but somehow do as you find yourself agreeing to it and then running out of excuses to use! I think my worst date was with a guy who was ever so persistent so I thought I would give him the benefit of the doubt and go out with him. Oh, it was awful, he was so boring and I really had no interest in him, as we were stood chatting I was practically sitting in the plant pot to get away from him. To get out of the date I said I was meeting my parents in a bar, he didn’t mind, he came with me (why??) so eventually I told him I had to meet friends at a different bar, this was so I could go home without him realising, however, said bar was in opposite direction to my home and he watched me go so I had to walk down to the pub anyway all by myself!
So anyway, I digress but as you can see there have been some bad dates but there have also been some great ones along the way! But when it came to relationships (pre-Ostomy), telling them about my colitis was never something that featured, after all it was part of me but it didn’t define me and I saw no reason to tell them in the early stages. Sometimes I would be forced into it, such as being hospitalized 3 months into a relationship, kind of forces your hand a bit! As anyone with an IBD will know, mornings are the worst – it is like an explosion, anyone outside your bathroom may think there was a thunderstorm going on whilst trumpets play! It is horrendous. So trying to deal with that in a new relationship is awful, us girls do not like our men to think we use the toilet at the start of relationships, even going for a wee can be difficult, after all, what if they hear us and realise we are humans and not the non-toilet goddesses we have portrayed? Don’t even get me started on blowing my nose too! Having a poo is something we certainly don’t do in a new relationship, we will wait until we get home, or perhaps use a pub toilet if desperate (public places aren’t great but better than the boyfriends house) and as we exit, having been longer than may be appropriate for just a wee, we can use the excuse that we were on the phone! Men do not have this problem, someone I know (no names, she knows who she is) had a boyfriend, who gaily went off the toilet, newspaper in hand, and this was at the start of the relationship!! Bet men don’t agonise about when and where to go – they just go, and some are proud of the fact!
So, this situation is 100 times worse when you have IBD, there is no holding it in, no waiting until you get home, you need to go and you need to go now or there will be blood on the floor (and sometimes more).I have been in a relationship where there the toilet and bathroom are one room, this is the best situation – you can turn on the shower, poo in peace, safe in the knowledge he will be thinking you just have really long showers (actually, I am not sure a man would sit there and think about that), or run the tap if you have already showered to disguise any noise. Sometimes it just becomes easier to tell a person you have this condition and what can happen, it’s an embarrassing tale to tell as we are all a bit shy when it comes to talk of poo but it makes it easier for yourself in the long run.
I have a wonderful boyfriend called Mike, he is handsome, kind, loving and all other sorts of nice things and we have been together just over 3 years. Three years ago was my worst ever flare that led to my month long hospital stay which ended in my emergency surgery and my bag. I didn’t tell Mike about my Colitis until date 3, (dates 1 & 2 consisted of me barely eating and just praying that my intestines behaved). Mike mentioned about staying the night at some point, but given that I was in an awful flare I just couldn’t bear the thought of staying over at someone’s house. I decided to be honest with him rather than try and make excuses as to why sleepovers (separate bedrooms of course) were out of the question for the foreseeable future. It was a good job I did as a week later I was really, really ill and my whole nightmare began. We had a few dates in hospital, obviously I am such hot stuff in my moo cow pyjamas, attached to a drip or two with ever shrinking boobs and sticky up hair that Mike just couldn’t resist the lure of seeing me 😉 But as is to be expected, starting and maintaining a relationship whilst in hospital/recovering is difficult, so we kept in touch but nothing really happened for a couple of months.
So I was left in a situation of being ‘back on the market’ but now I had an ostomy bag to contend with, I also wasn’t sure if things were finished with Mike and I as I still felt it had potential, and I was sure once he saw me out of my pyjamas he might realise I was much better! I wasn’t going to stop myself from maybe meeting someone else but I also wanted to decide how I felt about things with Mike so I needed to give myself time. After a period of recovery, I was ready to hit the town again and so my sister and I would get glammed up and off we’d go. Then there came a point where Mike and I were seeing each other, but it was all very casual, you could say it was ‘complicated’ as Facebook would refer to it. I didn’t want to be unfaithful but then again didn’t know if I had anything to be unfaithful about. Honestly, life is far easier if you’re just honest and ask questions, but why would we be truthful and open when we can weave a complicated scenario for ourselves?! Anyway, back to dating, men may have chatted me up or made advances, shall we say, and this is going to sound awful but I would tell them I had an Ostomy bag thinking it would put them off and you know what – not once did it ever put a guy off, in fact the response would usually be ‘it doesn’t matter’ or ‘oh, so how does that work then?’, definitely not the responses I was expecting and so different avoidance tactics had to be employed!
I am not saying that some people wouldn’t be put off by it, I have not experienced that, and of course, if they were they weren’t worth it in the first place but it is not something you should worry about hiding. Don’t let it define you, have a date or two before telling them, but if it happened to come up naturally earlier on, then fine. It is whatever you are comfortable with. It’s a scary thought; after all, there is a natural feeling of thinking you could be setting yourself up for rejection, but better to find out early on. If someone is put off by it, it is a reflection on them not you, and that is true with dating anyone, illness or not. Mike has never really known me without the bag and it doesn’t bother him one bit, we are both used to it now.
And if I was single I would still go out with as much determination and gusto as before, the bag wouldn’t stop me at all, it hasn’t stopped me in any other area so why that one? Whatever your situation, if you are single, embrace it, enjoy it – even the bad dates, take them as experience, something to giggle about, but know that you are fabulous and someone else will think so too. And really, be honest, tell them you’re not interested even if they end up never talking to you again – it’s easier in the long run!