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.

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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What You Should Say

  • Start the conversation slowly. If you’ve been avoiding going to certain places, let your partner know you’re worried about not making it to the bathroom. Then wait to see what your partner says in response.
  • If you’re discussing becoming sexually intimate, let your partner know why you have concerns.
  • Explain OAB to your partner. Let your partner know that millions of women and men of all ages have OAB. Come armed with information -- the National Association for Continence (NAFC) is a good source.
  • Tell your partner what treatments you’re trying, whether it’s behavioral therapy, medication, or a surgical approach.
  • Don’t expect an immediate response. Give your partner a chance to take in what you’ve said and ask questions.

Experts say that people with OAB often overestimate how much the news will upset their partner. Having the conversation is probably a lot harder for you. By trusting them enough to tell them about your condition, you could make your relationship stronger than before.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nazia Q Bandukwala, DO on June 04, 2019

Sources

The National Association for Continence, Charleston, SC.

Luis Sanz, MD, director, urogynecology and pelvic surgery program, Virginia Hospital Center, Arlington, VA.

Melody Denson, MD, urologist, the Urology Team, Austin, Texas.

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