Dating can be hard, period. Dating with an ostomy is even harder. When do you bring it up? How much detail do you go into? Will it put someone off?
There’s a little relationship talk in the sex after stoma surgery blog, which is definitely worth a read if you’re feeling a bit anxious when you get there!
I asked ostomates on Twitter when they feel the right time to tell a prospective partner about their stoma is. 104 people voted. 45% said at the very start, 29% said when there’s trust, and 19% said after a few dates. The remaining 7% said before meeting in person. (Percentages rounded up.)
My dating experience
I dated with my second stoma, and I’m personally in the “at the very start” group. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t petrified of having the conversation! I was worried about feeling rejected. Even if I knew in my heart and in my head that I didn’t want to be with the kind of person that was put off by it, my stoma and body image is a constant work in progress. I didn’t want my hard work to be undone. I’d had first-hand experience of depression after ostomy surgery, and I didn’t want anything to tilt me that way again! But, I didn’t want to waste my precious time and energy dating someone who was ultimately going to have an issue with it, so putting my cards on the table from the start felt like the best route forward. I even know people that have it in their dating profile bio!
I only had one negative experience. A guy just stopped talking to me once he knew about my ostomy. I felt relief more than anything else, like I’d dodged a bullet!
I spent time with my current partner when I had an ileostomy, but I’d had it reversed by the time anything actually started in a romantic sense. I was very clear that the possibility of me needing a stoma again in the future was pretty high, so we went forward with that in mind.
Heading into dating with an ostomy
You might want to work on yourself before dating with an ostomy. Increasing your body confidence is one element that you might want to focus on. Fittleworth’s “I’m still me” body confidence webinar recordings are a great starting point! I also wrote about mental health, and included some tips and resources for anyone looking for support in that area.
I think the main thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong time, really. The right time is simply when you feel good and ready. It can feel so much more difficult when you’re not fully comfortable with your stoma yourself. Sometimes, dating can actually help with that, but sometimes it can go the opposite way. I won’t pretend that I’m certain that everyone is going to be great, and understanding about it. They might not, but do you really want to be with someone who thinks less of you because you have a stoma? You deserve someone that appreciates you, flaws, baggage, and all. We all do.
I wanted to include some dating stories from the community, but I know I run the risk of making this blog too long. So instead, if you’re interested, you can head over to Twitter and join the conversation!
About the advice and opinions of our bloggers
We hope you enjoyed this article from our guest blogger. They are expressing their views or knowledge on a topic because of their experience & background. Some of the opinions expressed may not reflect the views of Fittleworth or your NHS professional.
It goes without saying, but this is not clinical advice. Each person will have an individual set of medical factors to consider. So please do not to make significant changes to your diet, exercise or treatments before consulting with an NHS professional.
Sahara was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of 19, after just two weeks of being incredibly unwell. One week later, she had emergency surgery to remove her colon and rectum, and had her first ileostomy. A turbulent journey followed; a multitude of treatments, complications, seven surgeries, a failed J-Pouch, and three ileostomies later, she is living with a permanent stoma and is a pro-active IBD and ostomy advocate.
Sahara joined the online IBD and ostomy community in 2014, and it very quickly became apparent to her that whilst awareness is important, even more important than that is providing support to others as they navigate the stormy waters of life with IBD, or an ostomy.
She runs #IBDSuperHeroes fundraising and awareness campaign, and the Facebook support group. She is a blogger for InflammatortyBowelDisease.net and an IBD Patient Consultant for merakoi – bridging the gap between patients and healthcare. She gets involved with research whenever she can, and is a volunteer for Cure Crohn’s Colitis, where she donates her time and expertise in social media marketing and content creation.