So, what do you do if you find your chronic illness is having an impact in the way you express yourself both physically and emotionally to your partner? This is what I’ll be discussing in this blog post explaining how things like fatigue, pain and medications can affect intimacy and what you can do to overcome it and I will be revealing the one key thing that is so important to overcome relationship and intimacy issues.
Now what people find hard to talk about is the impact of crohn’s disease on intimacy in a relationship. For many of us intimacy in a relationship can take different shapes and forms and isn’t just about being physical. So, I’ll first give a brief overview of how symptoms of crohn’s can affect intimacy, then move on to the effects of surgery and medication before giving you suggestions that could help improve physical and emotional acts of intimacy.
Let’s start off with fatigue. You can find out more about fatigue by watching a video I did here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Or_6z_C740&t=8s but essentially fatigue is so unpredictable and leaves with you very little energy to do even the most basics of task. If you or your partner suffers with fatigue it’s worth having a conversation about how you may not have enough energy for physical acts of intimacy and so try and explore other ways to give and receive pleasure. This can include agree which physical acts are on and off the table, exploring with the sensation of touch, using aromatic oils or scented candles to create an ambience.
Incontinence just like fatigue can be unpredictable and a constant fear for IBD sufferers. Some may people can be afraid of having an ‘accident’ and so may abstain from being physical with their partner. What you could try to do is going to the toilet before being intimate to help improve your confidence or you could take anti-diarrheal beforehand – but it’s best to check with a doctor which one is best for you and your IBD.
Some complications of IBD such as abscesses and fistulas can affect the genitalia and so can make the physical act of being intimate very uncomfortable for some or even impossible and so using lubrication can help not only improve comfort but sensation as well. These complications can be very embarrassing and if you have noticed anything unusual down there then it’s so important to get checked out by your doctor as in most cases these can be treated with medication but can require surgery to treat which brings me onto my next topic.
Depending on what type of surgery you’ve had will depend on the type of impact on your physical relationship. If you have a minor procedure then once you’ve recovered you should be able to go back to your normal practices. But if you’ve had a bowel resection where parts of your bowel are removed or if you’ve had to have a stoma then not only will you have a slightly longer recovery time but having visible scars or a stoma bag can make you feel less confident in your own skin and worried if your partner will still want to be intimate with you. For stomas there are specialized lingerie for women that help support the bag and cover it which can help boost confidences. The other thing about surgery is the pain associated with it can impact on other symptoms such as fatigue and so discussing with your doctors about pain killers you can take can help with the pain.
Lastly, with IBD you’re constantly on different medications unless you’re medication free. But taking medication can cause changes in your mood and can make you depressed which can then cause a loss of interest in being intimate with your partner. Additionally, some medications such as suppositories are inserted via the back passage and so you may need co-ordinate with your partner when you want to be intimate so it doesn’t interfere with your medication routine. Sticking with medications, some can cause physical changes to your body and so you can suffer with a negative body image which can cause anxiety about being intimate. Similarly, the fear of experiencing symptoms such as needing to rush to the loo, or if your stoma makes noises during intimacy can cause anxiety about being intimate and so some find it easier to abstain which can put strain on a relationship.
Now to finish off, regardless of how your IBD affects your relationship the one key thing that is vital in solving relationship and intimacy issues is communication. Talk to your partner and make them aware of your fears, yes it isn’t easy and can be embarrassing but this is a great way of relieving the stress and anxiety associated with intimacy and crohn’s or colitis. The more you talk about your concerns the more comfortable you become with each other and form and understanding between each other helping you to relax and start enjoying the intimate aspects of your relationship more. Whatever you do don’t shut your partner out as it can lead them to start feeling frustrated and can cause even more problems in the relationship.
Hope that has helped and this is such a complex topic that there are loads more tips and information that I will include in future posts.