A few tips for a happy love life
From managing stress to being honest with your partner, discover how IBS symptoms can be managed for a smooth sex life
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) brings with it certain specific challenges. Symptoms can appear at any moment, the need to use a bathroom can arise anytime, and there are dietary restrictions on top of it. The prospect can often be daunting, leading to low self-esteem. The very thought of having an IBS episode before/ after/ during your time with that special someone can be highly stressful. Often the pre-stress itself can bring on an attack.
What’s more, it’s apparently not just ‘in your head’. Studies suggest that the bowel disorder could also affect a man’s performance between the sheets. According to a study in the International Journal of Impotence Research, men with IBS showed a higher likelihood of developing erectile dysfunction than those without the condition.
The good news is, with a little planning, IBS symptoms can be managed, enabling you to enjoy a smooth sex life. Read on for cues on handling your condition so it doesn’t throw a spanner in the works of your love life…
It is important to plan your dates with a little thought. For instance, if you suffer from IBS related diarrhoea, choose a date/ activity that does not include eating out. Plan activities and select restaurants that allow for other interests and take the focus off eating.
While it’s understandable that you don’t wish to discuss your IBS condition on your first date, as you become more comfortable with the other person, it’s necessary to be honest. Open up frankly about your condition and symptoms. Discussing deeper stuff about oneself is, after all, a key step in building your potential relationship. It’s also likely that your partner will be supportive.
Manage your stress
There are many relaxation techniques available to help you tackle any pre-dating jitters. Regular practice can help you calm down your nervous system and help you achieve a calm, stress-free mind-body state. According to a study in the Aliment Pharmacological Therapy, people with IBS who practiced deep breathing, among other relaxation techniques, for five weeks had less IBS symptoms than those who didn’t.
Keep your partner in the loop
Letting your partner know how you are feeling, both emotionally and physically, is key. Convey to your partner if you’re feeling stressed about your symptoms, or anxious about sex or any other activity that could trigger them. As you ask for your partner’s understanding, let your partner know that you are also working on solving the issue. If you prefer changing plans and staying in or you don’t feel like having sex, while suffering an IBS flare-up, do explain that to your partner, too.
Don’t use your condition during conflict
While it’s ideal to win your partner’s understanding about your IBS condition, it’s equally important to not use your condition as a bargaining tool or one of emotional blackmail of sorts. For instance, declaring to your partner that they could trigger your symptoms during an argument is not advisable. It would be healthier to suggest to your partner that you both discuss your disagreements rather than shout, as it upsets you.
It is essential to discuss your needs and fears with your partner in order to feel more comfortable and intimate in your relationship. However, if you find the situation is too challenging, do consider counselling. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a viable option. A form of psychotherapy, it focuses on symptom-related worry. A review paper in Psychology Research and Behavior Management observed that CBT helped alleviate the symptoms of IBS for at least a year post treatment. Individual or couples counselling with a counsellor with specialised understanding of the brain-gut connection is preferable. Such a therapist would help you uncover the reasons for the IBS symptoms which complicate your love life.
Remind yourself at all times that IBS is not all that you are about. It does not define you; you are so much more. Remind yourself of all your good qualities and positive traits. In short, count your blessings.
Find the right one
Finding true love takes time and demands effort on a daily basis. Do not sell yourself short. You—just like the rest of humankind—deserves a partner who is loving, non-judgemental, understanding, and supportive. Your significant other will love and cherish you for all that you are.
Get on track with managing your IBS…
First, consult your doctor regularly. It’s important to meticulously follow your prescribed treatment plan. Give your diet the attention it needs, avoiding the items you have been instructed to stay away from. Eliminate any food items that are known to trigger your IBS symptoms. Work on keeping your stress under control with mindfulness, relaxation techniques and meditation exercises. Seek the help of family, friends and colleagues in case you feel overwhelmed by responsibilities. Finally, (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT) helps clients learn to regain control of their lives, including their sex lives