If you are in a relationship, you can be intimate in many different ways
You might feel discouraged from making new relationships when you have Crohn’s or Colitis
It may be that your preferences and needs have changed because of your Crohn’s or Colitis symptoms or treatments. Perhaps activities that used to bring you pleasure are now uncomfortable or painful. Talk to your partner about this and also what you would like to do and what still feels good. Discussing such sensitive issues can be difficult at first, but it will get easier with time and should help you feel more emotionally intimate.
This is likely to relieve your anxiety, and if there is a negative response, the let down should be less of a blow than it might be later on in the relationship
Some couples find that having a sense of humour can be a real help. While it is important to be sensitive and caring, sometimes being able to see the funny side of things, and having a laugh about it, can ease the situation and bring you together.
You (and your partner) may find it useful to discuss some of these issues with a sympathetic member of your IBD team. IBD nurses are often very supportive.
If you find it really difficult to talk through your feelings and worries with your partner, you might like to think about seeking help from a specialist relationship counsellor. A counsellor with experience of working with people with chronic illnesses may be particularly helpful.
Sometimes even when I feel well enough to be sexually intimate, it is my partner who becomes worried that I will be too sore, too tired or that he will hurt me in some way, due to the ongoing symptoms of my Crohn’s. I make sure that we talk about his worries, and that I reassure him that I feel OK and I want to be intimate with him.
You don’t have to focus on sexual intercourse to give and receive sexual pleasure. You might agree with your partner to avoid the sexual activities you don’t want to engage in, and to explore other ways to be sexually intimate. Find a time that you are not rushed when you could try experimenting. This could be, for instance, with the sense of touch, each letting the other know ‘what turns you on’, and spending more time on these sensations. You could try using aromatic oils to massage each other, creating an intimate atmosphere with music and candles. Another idea is to try bathing together, or even taking it in turns to bathe each other. The key aim is to find activities that will bring you closer together in a way you both enjoy.
Deciding whether, when and what to say to a new partner is not easy. You may be wondering how much they really need to know. Do you tell them before you begin to get close, or wait until the relationship is more established? What if they can’t cope with the news of your Crohn’s or Colitis, due to their own fears, inhibitions or embarrassment?
When you are attracted to someone and hope to develop a relationship with them, try to feel comfortable about yourself. Feeling good about yourself improves your self-confidence which others pick up on. This in turn gives a more positive impression. Try and be clear and concise in your explanations of your illness and to avoid being apologetic. Being lovable and having self-worth doesn’t depend on a body part.
Talking about your Crohn’s or Colitis to a new partner may be difficult, but it might be better done earlier on in a relationship, as soon as you feel you would like your partner to know this key fact about you.