One of the upsides of college: all that new freedom! One of the downsides of
college for people with UC: all that freedom! With it come the pressures of
dating and the social scene.
It’s true that dating and getting into relationships can be more complicated
when you have an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Most handbooks on dating
don't cover talking about ulcerative colitis and its accompanying symptoms,
like frequent gas and diarrhea.
Whenever Serena Ehrlich goes someplace new, she scouts out the location of the bathroom. That's because Ehrlich, 38, a Los Angeles-based salesperson for a commercial wire service, has ulcerative colitis. She developed the disease 12 years ago and has been in remission for the past three. Still, the old habit lingers. "Everyone who has ulcerative colitis will tell you that when you walk into a bookstore, a shop, or a restaurant, that's the one thing you want to know first. It's our rule of thumb."
But there are strategies for getting past the awkwardness to have a good
time. Here are some ways to make dating and socializing go smoother.
Ulcerative Colitis and Dating: When to Bring It Up
"UC is not an easy disease to talk about, especially as a young woman," says
Sandra Kim, MD, pediatric gastroenterologist and assistant professor of
pediatrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "People find it
easier to talk about things like asthma, where you wheeze, or a food allergy,
where you might break out. But a lot of the symptoms associated with UC -- not
There's no hard and fast rule about when to talk about an IBD, says Frank
Sileo, PhD, a psychologist in Ridgewood, N.J., who counsels young adults with
"All relationships develop over time, and trust has to be there first,"
Sileo says. "When revealing something so personal, there has to be some level
of trust in the relationship. There's no barometer or timeframe of when you
have that in a relationship. So you really have to trust your gut -- no pun
intended -- that this person is someone you'd really like to share this aspect
of your life with."
Broaching the Topic of UC: Just Do It
Megan Nardini, 19, a student at Ohlone College in Fremont, Calif., was
diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when she was 12 and had six surgeries in one
year. She says UC can definitely be a "strange” topic to bring up.
"It's always weird," she says. "When do you tell somebody you just met, 'Oh,
by the way, I don't have a colon and I poop a lot?' A lot of people feel really
uncomfortable talking about that kind of thing. That's why Crohn's and colitis
aren't that well known -- because nobody wants to talk about poop."
But Nardini usually doesn’t wait too long to talk about her UC. "Once I
start getting comfortable with somebody, it's hard for me not to mention it,"
she says. "Because it's a big part of who I am -- it's a big part of my life.
Usually after a few weeks or months, I'll be like, 'Oh, by the way, guess who
doesn't have a colon? It's me.'"
It's always kind of a shocker to people, she says, but it's never been so
uncomfortable that it's ruined a friendship or romantic relationship.
Kim encourages young women to be straightforward about it, like you would
any other part of yourself. "People are not going to be uncomfortable talking
about it as long as you're matter-of-fact,” she says.
Talking about your UC can also make you relax about it. "I try to
teach my patients to get to a comfort level of sharing their UC with others
because when we do that, it takes away the shame and embarrassment,” says
Sileo, who has Crohn’s disease. ”People will see we're OK with it, that we can
talk about it."