Sunday, October 27, 2013

Wedding Series: Snagging the guy...or more like keeping the guy around after you start talking about poop

I'm not sure whether or not I've talked much about my guy on here, but I figured it was the most logical place to start the wedding series. I get a lot of comments and emails about dating and finding a partner from my readers. I'd say you, as a group, are most worried first about how IBS is affecting your life negatively and second about finding someone who will love you and accept your condition.

Everyone always asks me what I recommend for finding the love of their life, and my answer is always the same. Um, just let it happen? It would be the same whether or not you had IBS because love is not something you can script; it really does just happen. The part I can talk about is how you keep your partner around after all the poop talk starts :)

I got lucky in many, many ways. I had been sick for as long as I could remember, but for some reason it all stopped in high school. When I met my guy, I was completely well. I was as normal as normal could be, and obviously that made things a lot easier in the beginning. We became best friends, eventually started dating, and then suddenly fell deeply in love. About 3 years after that, I got very, very sick. At that point there really was no turning back. He couldn't just be like, "Ew, you poop all the time and talk about it, so I'm leaving you." However, I feel like the same things we had to go through in the beginning apply to everyone, so I'm going to tell you how we were able to transform as a couple after IBS struck again, get over the awkward phase, and live happily ever after.

Poop is awkward. No one is born being comfortable talking about it because that's not how our society is built. Pooping is a very personal and private thing, and society expects you to keep it that way. But when you start dating someone, you start sharing things that are normally private. If you had a rough childhood, you can share that with your partner. If you are out and start feeling bored, you can whisper that to your partner and leave with them. There are certain things that become ok to share with a former stranger simply because you're together now. But not poop. It is NOT ok to talk about poop. So what happens when poop starts to rule your life? With IBS it becomes such a large part of your life, so how are you supposed to keep that private? How can you be expected to keep something like that from someone who spends a large part of their time with you and eventually lives with you? Or do you share it with them?

That's for you two to decide. Not everyone is alike, so it might not be something that you will ever talk about. Personally, having him allow me to talk about it when I need to has drastically improved my quality of life. If I had to keep everything that was happening to me private, I would still be incredibly depressed and feel alone, or worse. For us, sharing my IBS was the best thing for us and has actually brought us closer together.

If you read my post about being embarrassed by IBS, you should know that (I think) you should not be embarrassed about it. Nor should you allow other people to make you feel embarrassed about it. That goes for your partner. I would hope that whomever you choose to fall in love with accepts you, and if you choose to be open about your IBS, they should be accepting of that as well.

In the beginning, I started off taking things very slow. When I started noticing that my symptoms were coming back, I didn't really say anything. On the night I got food poisoning and my IBS was triggered to start back up, I didn't even share what was going on with him. There he was sleeping right next to me, and he didn't know then how sick I was feeling. He didn't know until I woke him up begging him to take me home. After that, if I didn't feel well I would just tell him I didn't feel like hanging out or that I had homework to get done. As I realized that my symptoms weren't going to go away, I didn't want to hide it as much anymore. I would tell him that my stomach hurt and that I needed to stay in. Luckily, he was more than happy to stay in with me. We ended up spending New Year's alone in my apartment where he made me something off the BRAT diet and we just talked all night.

It continued like that for a long time. From the beginning, I think he just thought that my food poisoning had lingered longer than it should have. Since the IBS symptoms had disappeared completely during high school, I didn't feel like I needed to tell anyone. After I realized my symptoms weren't going away, I decided to tell him about what I had dealt with as a kid and what I was dealing with now. I explained that it most likely wouldn't go away quickly and that I could be sick for a really long time. I told him I would need him to be patient with me but that I definitely didn't want to hold him back from going out with friends just because I wasn't feeling well. This is where I go back to talking about being lucky. He wasn't ok with that. He wanted to take care of me when I was sick instead of going out and partying. He was content just sitting at home with me, bringing me my medicine, and making sure I had my heating pad. Personally, I feel like hiding it from him would have made him think he was doing something wrong and I didn't want to hang out with him. Being open and telling him I was sick allowed him to realize that there was something external causing our relationship to change.

But you have to remember this was before I turned into what I am today: the girl who blogs about poop and isn't afraid to mention it in normal conversation. You also have to remember that we've been dating for 9 years a week from today. Our relationship has evolved slowly over that time, and he has slowly become more and more ok with my symptoms and talking about them. Right now, we talk about almost everything except shape and color. It has become a completely normal part of our relationship because it is something that affects my life so entirely. He knows that it's important to me, so it's important to him.

What I suggest is that you date like a normal person. Obviously you'll have to make some changes to accommodate your IBS. Find restaurants in your area that have a "safe" meal you can order when you go out, has clean bathrooms for you to use, and is within an acceptable distance from your house should you feel sick. Do some calming exercises before you go out to mentally prepare yourself to relax. Calming your nerves before a date is almost impossible, but just do everything you can do to make yourself feel comfortable while you're out. Bring all the medicine that you need and come up with an excuse should you have to leave early.

But most of all, don't sell yourself short. You are a good catch; your IBS doesn't change that. It doesn't make you gross or undesirable. Someone out there will love you, and, with time and understanding, will accept your condition as well. Once you find someone you want to be with, slowly introduce them to your IBS like I did. I wouldn't lay it all on them at once, but you need to make sure they're ok with your day to day limitations and that they will be for a long, long time. I worry every day whether or not my guy will eventually get tired of me holding him back from a "full" life since I'm stuck on the couch more often than most people. But I can't stress enough that you need to surround yourself with people who accept you, IBS and all. A lot of us have family members or friends that make us feel strange because of what has happened to us. You can't choose family, and a lot of times you can't kick one friend out of the group, but you can choose your mate. If you start dating someone and they're completely grossed out by your IBS, move along. If someone can't accept that you have a condition that affects your life, they're not worth your time.


  1. Rachel,
    I just want to say THANK YOU. Somehow you have said what I needed to hear at this point in my life. I've read all your posts and I am so thankful that I found your blog. Thanks for sharing and letting me know I'm not the only one out there that is confined to a couch for much of her life. Thanks for being brave and strong to share your story online.
    I also wanted to tell you Congratulations on your engagement! I hope that everything goes well for you and your fiancée. I wish the best for both of you:)

  2. Hi Rachel,
    I just discovered your blog searching for IBS blogs. I am so grateful you feel the freedom to talk candidly about your IBS symptoms. May I ask a personal question therefore? How do you deal with your partner being confronted with yoru symptoms? I particulalry mean flatulence or such symptoms, where you may find yourself in an emberrassing situation in fornt of your parnter.

    1. It took a while for it to be ok to pass gas around him. I'm still embarrassed when it happens because, well I just am. But one day I decided to show him why I sometimes had no choice to keep the gas in. I had him lay his hand on my stomach and feel the constant explosions inside. He was already ok with it before then, but he understood much more after that. I think gas is one thing that will always be embarrassing though.

    2. Hi Rachel and Astrid !
      I just read your newest post about the IBS and being in relationship and I wanted to write small comment on that.
      When I started dating my boyfriend the ibs symptoms were quite mild for me. I managed to hide them for some time but it didn't feel good at all. At that time he only knew that my stomach sometimes hurts. After a while I decided to share the truth with him so we sat down and I poured everything on him. He was acting very compassionately and he said that I should have told him that before. He also said that there was no point in keeping it from him as he wants me to be happy and feel good and if there is anything that prevents it he wants to know. He wants to know what is it and what can he do when I feel bad. He was/is very understanding. We learnt ways to live with ibs in my life on a daily basis. When the attack came we learnt to deal with it together. Step by step. Right now (we are together 3 years) he knows that if I don't feel good, he prepares bed for me with heating pad ready and warm, he makes me tea and brings my medication bag. He also always asks if I want to be alone or if he should stay around.
      About passing gas.. I tried not to do it in front of him for quite some time but it became really difficult (if it hurts you just have to let it go). I think that in every relationship (with IBS or without it) at some point you pass gas ocasionally in front of each other (of course he almost never does it, I don't know how is that possible). When that happens he usually laughs.

    3. That's great advice! Thanks for sharing!! :)

  3. Hello Rachel,
    I just stumbled across your blog and I'm amazed.. It's great! Thank you for sharing your experiences and wisdom. I just started using caloricount because you had it listed on your treatment regime. I began college recently and have been having difficulty with the food here (I'm losing weight because I'm just eating starch) so it's really useful for me!
    Also, congratulations on your engagement!!! :)
    PS I also recently found an IBS recipe book by Heather Van Vorous that has some good recipes. I'd recommend it if you enjoy cooking/ have time to cook.

  4. Hi!

    I found your blog a little while ago and started reading. I have IBS too and I am writing a blog in Finland. You can find it from

    Some of my readers told me about your blog and it it "nice" to see that we have a lot commond. My english is not so good but I wanted to tell you that you have couple readers here in Finland too. :)

    I met my man on the internet datind site. It was very easy to tell him about my IBS and the sympthoms I have, before we even met. He was really understanding and he didnt mind my poop talk or things like that. After I met him my sympthoms went down and now I feel almost normal. Love and support is very important part of feeling good! After I met him I have felt more relaxed too. :)

    -Sanna from Finland

  5. hey Sanna from Finland,

    I am Justyna and I live in Finland too. I have checked your blog but unfortunately it's in Finnish and I don't understand that much yet..
    Maybe we could share some contact information and get to know each other and make some small support system ?
    My IBS symptoms have been really bad recently and I am missing a lot of working time.. how do you deal with that ?
    If you feel like it, contact me through email for example -

    hope to hear from you,


  6. Hi Rachel,
    My name is Selam, and I too have IBS. I live in Phoenix, AZ and it has interfered greatly in my personal and work life. I have missed many days of work due to this, and the past 2 years, I have seen so many doctors and specialists. I was tested at Mayo Clinic for food intolerance and found that I am severely lactose intolerant, and so I started avoiding dairy. Symptoms eased just a little bit. I used to get bloated and my stomach gets so big people think I am pregnant. It gets really painful and I have to rush to the bathroom. I found a clinic that does individual food allergy testing and I am doing that now. So far, I am allergic to soy, wheat, avocado, asparagus, all dairy, meat, chicken and many more. There is just a few things I can eat and am working with a dietician. The whole thing has been so stressful and I am still not well. I am currently out on short term disability from work, and I am afraid they may not take me back. No one really understands and cares about IBS, even doctors. They have the attitude, if it doesn't kill you, it's ok. I go through emotional ups and downs every day. I fear losing my job, I have a lot of medical bills I have to pay. I have noticed that as long as I don't eat, my stomach feels ok, but I have to eat and so after I eat, all kind of things start happening. I have reached a point where I am happy when I am sick on weekends because I don't have to stress that much. It is extremely uncomfortable when you have these symptoms at work. I am a christian and know I have to stay calm and faithful, but when reality hits, what do you do? People try to tell me this is a psychological issue, but I know and appreciate my good days. The fact my illness is unpredictable is what is making me fearful. When you have a boss that does not seem to understand your problems, it gets even worse.. so this is my situation right now. Thank you for writing about your life and showing that I am not alone.

    1. hey lola,

      I completely understand you! I fear about losing my job so much too! It is mostly because there are days that I just need to leave in the middle of the day due to terrible pain. I have told my supervisor that I have been diagnosed with IBS but it seems that it is not being heard. Everytime I get stomach cramps, my supervisor asks if my private areas was checked, or says that I shouldn't eat candies, etc. It is really uncomfortable, especially that right now I am having major IBS episode and I eat basically only rice, chicken meat and hmmm.. that's it. Oh wait, one toast for breakfast.
      When I go to work on regular basis I get sick during weekends too. I guess it is the time when we release the "steam" of hiding our problems and struggling with them during the week. I hate it so much because weekend is the only time I can rest but in reality, I just get sick :(

      I also can relate to you in feeling that if I didn't eat anything at all, I would probably be just fine. But let's face it - that wouldn't be the solution. We have to eat. I think that psychological reasons may be part of the pain that we go through. For me at least it's this bad circle - I am afraid that if I eat something, my stomach will start hurting, so it starts hurting even when I am still chewing the food, so I get more panicked that it hurts a little and then it hurts more, etc, until the point I wish I died instead of this pain.

      Lola, if you are feeling bad go to see the doctor and ask for sick leave. Struggling at work is not helping your condition in my opinion. I don't know what else to advise you because I feel helpless myself right now. Take care !

  7. Hi Rachel,

    Just came across your blog--so nice to find someone else going through the ups and downs of IBS. I'm currently having a bad stomach day which prompted my internet search for others going through similar things. Having just gotten married myself, wedding stress definitely played a part in my IBS flares. Fingers crossed that with the wedding behind me I can get it under control in the new year.

    At the beginning of the month I shared my own IBS journey on my blog ( From one IBS bride to another: you're not alone.