I was debating writing this article as a young single woman but decided to share my thoughts on dating…with an ostomy. I am 28 years old and have been single since I was 21 years old. I have dated throughout the years but never had a serious relationship since my early twenties.
I was diagnosed with UC when I was 22 years old. I dated a little bit with my illness but that was a challenging time. I was trying to manage my illness while dealing with self-esteem and chronic pain issues. I tried dating but couldn’t focus on the relationship. I had been seeing a guy on and off for a few months. We were “on” when I was admitted to the hospital and while I was inpatient for a month. He came often to the hospital to see me but I was so embarrassed. Mostly because of the weight I was losing and how sick I looked. In a way, I was relieved that I wasn’t in a relationship at this time because it was a very low point in my life and I’m not sure a relationship would have lasted. This guy became a friend to keep me company.
After I had my ostomy surgery and was discharged from the hospital, I was 20 lbs. lighter and looked emaciated. I had no self-esteem and didn’t do much of anything. When I finally started to date, it may have been too soon after my surgeries. I say this because on first dates, I talked about my ostomy. Yes, you read that right. I would be out to dinner and randomly say “Have you ever heard of Ulcerative Colitis?” and go from there. Looking back, clearly that was a bad idea. My rationale now for it is because I was completely consumed with my ostomy at that time. It was new to me and that’s all I could talk about. Nothing had really happened in my life at that time except for my ostomy surgery. I couldn’t have conversations about new friends, college, parties, or new jobs. I hadn’t had anything new or exciting in my life for months besides my ostomy. I’m lucky that I can laugh at it now and take it as a learning experience. I went on a few dates like the one I mentioned above and needless to say, I never heard back from any of those men. Probably for the best.
Once I started gaining weight back, becoming more confident with my ostomy, and regaining my self-esteem, I went on a dating site. Dating is hard enough as it is without having to tell someone about your ostomy. A dating site seemed like the only way to get a date. It’s not custom now to meet people randomly anymore. As I began dating, I left out my ostomy on the first date. I finally learned my lesson. If a second date emerged, I started telling people on the second date. My thoughts were that if they were going to have an issue with it, I’d rather know early on before I start having feelings. I also never heard from these men either, which may not have had anything to do with my ostomy. It’s hard to tell. No one has ever flat out told me it was because of it.
As dating became more comfortable, I’ve learned to wait to tell people about my ostomy. I started waiting a few more dates, maybe 3 or 4 later. I’ve learned to wait it out and see how things were going. I want to tell them earlier on before things get too serious but I don’t want to mention it too early. It’s a fine balance on the timing. I still haven’t perfected it and it’s going to be different for everyone.
The last two guys I dated, I waited awhile before I told them. The first guy was going great and we were really enjoying each other’s company. I don’t kiss on the first date and like to wait a few dates before kissing and getting touchy feely. Obviously when a guy touches your waist; he is going to feel the pouch. So this guy I was dating, after a few dates, we began getting closer physically and I felt it was the appropriate time to share it with him. I felt that we could possibly lead into a relationship. I was really enjoying our time together. So I told him one day on a hike. I felt so sick to my stomach in fear. I was nervous that he was going to completely shut me down. When I told him, I was vague, just saying that I had a chronic illness, had some surgeries and now I have a pouch on my abdomen. I usually ask if he’s heard of UC or Crohn’s. If he says yes, it usually helps the conversation flow better. I don’t like to get into too much detail right away. I wait and see his reaction to my first statement. So for this guy, when I told him, he just said okay and that it didn’t bother him. Of course, I didn’t think he really knew what I was talking about and that was okay. I figured that he would have questions at some point and that we could have a more detailed conversation about it as things grew between us. Unfortunately, we stopped seeing each other. Who knows what that was about. I try not to think it was because of my ostomy but it’s hard not to sometimes.
The most recent guy I dated, I also waited a few dates to share with him. One night, as we were kissing, he rubbed my waist and clearly was rubbing all up on my ostomy. I playfully pushed him away without saying anything about it. The next time we went out, I explained my behaviour that night and why I pushed him away. Again, I felt like I was going to throw up because of my nerves. I get so nervous for rejection. When I told him, he didn’t seem to have an issue with it either. He didn’t ask any questions. Sometimes I wonder if people don’t want to ask too many questions in fear of embarrassment for me. I’d rather you ask me questions rather than assume. He and I went out a few more times and he never mentioned our conversation or asked any questions. We were never physically intimate other than the kissing. Then I never heard from him either.
So I tend to think I have a great personality and I’m fun to be around, so of course, I think it’s because of my ostomy most of the time. But it may just be that we are not a good fit and that they aren’t into me and has nothing to do with my ostomy. I can’t say I’m a big fan of dating in general and more so now because of my ostomy. However, I do want to be in a relationship and get married someday. I’m more outgoing than I’ve been in years. I recently moved to a new city and state. I started a new job and hope to meet a lot of new people. I haven’t been on any dates yet but I’ve definitely learned how to ease into the “ostomy conversation”. I’m nervous what dating and being in a relationship will be like with my ostomy. It’s going to be an adjustment but if you find the right person, it won’t be a big deal.