As someone living with Crohn’s disease, I know how this disease naturally makes us feel more self-conscious, especially when it comes to dating. Telling someone you have feelings for him or her is already pretty nerve-wracking—and then later disclosing that you have Crohn’s, too, can leave you feeling very vulnerable. (Read more about dating and Crohn’s in the Spring 2009 issue of Crohn’sAdvocate magazine.)
Dealing with Crohn’s disease can be deeply personal and emotional. But learning to manage it and sharing our experiences with others can lead to greater self-knowledge and greater emotional closeness with the people in our lives. Those of us who live with this disease have an amazing capacity for physical and emotional intimacy.
With this in mind, it's important to remind ourselves of some basics principles for good dating—which apply to anyone, with or without Crohn’s.
Remember, you have the right to:
- Be treated well by anyone you date
- Choose who you date
- Be assertive on a date
- Say no
- Disagree with your date
- Have a healthy, fun dating relationship
- Be loved
- Maintain high self-esteem
- Trust yourself above all others
- Control your own destiny
Be open and honest
Be aware of what you and your partner want for yourselves and from the relationship. Part of a healthy relationship is telling each other about your individual needs. Living with Crohn’s means you will have certain emotional and physical needs that your significant other might not know about. For example, you might need some reassurance that you are desirable following a surgery, or your partner may need assurance that you can be more present once you start to feel better. Letting him or her know what’s going on with you will go a long way.
Support each other the right way
Know that your partner cannot and should not meet all your needs; becoming too reliant on your partner for emotional support can be unhealthy. It's very normal to have some needs that cannot be met within the relationship. It may be helpful to discuss your concerns with a good friend, family member, or therapist to help gain some perspective.
On the other hand, you may find yourself on the other end of the spectrum, either avoiding dating, or avoiding relying on your partner for any emotional support. Remember that you can't solve every problem on your own—and that friends and significant others want to be there for you. Enlisting the help of your loved ones is immeasurably important in tough moments.
Value each other's experience
Remember that nobody you date is perfect. It may also be an added challenge if you’re living with Crohn’s and date someone who isn’t. Accepting these differences can be hard at times, but it is also an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your partner. You won’t always agree with each other, but understanding and respecting each others’ ideas, values, and needs can help you grow closer together.
It may be difficult for someone without Crohn’s disease to really understand what life is like for you. So try to look at things from your partner’s point of view, have patience, and help him or her better understand your experience. Then try to understand and value your partner’s experience with the same caring.
Dealing with these issues together will ultimately lead to a stronger relationship.
Show that you care
When it comes down to it, great partners treat each other in a way that says, “I care about you, I trust you, and I want our relationship to work.” You will find your own way of communicating this. Just always remember that as someone living with Crohn’s, you are every bit as capable and worthy of being in a romantic relationship as anyone else.