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Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center

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OAB: Talking With Your Partner

If you have overactive bladder (OAB), you may be embarrassed to talk about it. Instead, you may find yourself avoiding situations where your OAB might cause problems. That can make you feel alone, and it could take a toll on your relationship.

It’s not an easy conversation to have, but talking about it can bring relief. Whether you’re in a long-term partnership or have just begun dating someone, the talk may bring a new level of honesty and intimacy to your relationship.

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When It's Time to Talk About OAB

  • If your anxiety about your OAB makes you uncomfortable spending time with your partner
  • If you find yourself turning down or canceling plans because you fear that you won’t be able to control your overactive bladder
  • If your OAB is interrupting your dates -- for example, if you’re excusing yourself from the table multiple times while out for dinner
  • If you think your OAB may interfere with a sexual relationship -- for example, if you have urine leakage during sex or worry that this might happen
  • If you’re planning a trip or making other plans that involve spending a lot of time together

In general, it’s better for you to bring up a difficult topic before your partner becomes uncomfortable enough to ask you what’s going on. Your partner may notice your unease. He may be relieved to learn that the problem is OAB rather than something more medically serious or even an impending breakup.

Plan for the Talk

Once you decide to have the talk, you’ll need to think about how best to go about it. When and where should you bring it up? And how?

  • Remind yourself: This probably bothers you a lot more than it will bother your partner. You may be surprised at how easily your partner accepts the news.
  • Don’t have the conversation over the phone. It’s easier to imagine that a short pause is a negative reaction if you can’t see the person’s face.
  • Choose a quiet, comfortable environment where you’ll have privacy. This is an important subject. You don’t want a waitress showing up to say, “Will there be anything else?” just as you’ve begun explaining your situation. Make sure you have enough time. A picnic lunch in the park a long walk on the beach, or a hike in the woods may be the type settings you need.
  • Don’t initiate the conversation right before intimacy. If you’re already on your way to bed, it’s probably a bad time to start talking about it.

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