There are several factors affecting our relationships when we have IBD: surgery, medications, flare ups, self-esteem and body image, fatigue, depression, embarrassment
Here are my top 10 tips to enhance your social and intimate relationships:
1️⃣ Plan ahead for social events or intimacy when you anticipate you’ll have the most energy
2️⃣ Be in control of when you arrive and leave to social activities and speak up for yourself and your needs
3️⃣ Have at least one IBD Buddy-One go-to person you can share openly with (someone in a support group, a trusted friend or family member, or someone on social media who also has IBD)
4️⃣ Plan your IBD elevator pitch. Practice telling people you have IBD in a simple way that you are comfortable with. This may include sharing your dietary needs, that you may have to cancel plans, etc
5️⃣ If you share your condition with someone and they can’t handle it, kindly wish them well and let them go 😇
6️⃣ If you’re having concerns with intimacy, talk to your healthcare provider about your specific condition. They may have suggestions to help. Also remember intimacy can mean many things - kissing, massage, cuddling, etc
7️⃣ Celebrate your body for what it can do! Practice self love to increase body positivity and self-confidence. The more confident you are in your body, the more willing you will be to be open up to others
8️⃣ Take charge of choosing restaurants and locations to get together (with food that works for you and bathrooms you know are clean!)
9️⃣ If you don’t feel like going out and socializing, invite your friends to come to you!
🔟 Connect with people virtually. No...it’s not the same and maybe not as fun. But it will still give you the same benefits AND you don't have to put on jeans 😉
If you are a friend, family member, or partner of someone with IBD reading this, these tips are for you:
👉Ask if it’s ok to offer advice, rather than give it unsolicited
👉Don’t be the food police. We’re concerned enough about the food that goes in our mouth. Let us make decisions for ourselves
👉 Talk about it and ask questions. It's worse if you feel like you have to walk on eggshells
👉 Be supportive if we need to cancel plans
👉 Say things like, “I’m so sorry you have to go through this” vs “It could be worse!”
👉 Rather than searching for a cure or telling us the new diet that heals, just be there for us. Having IBD can feel very isolating; most of the time we just need a friend
👉 What are friends and family for if not for laughter and joy? Make us laugh, watch a funny movie with us, or feel free to add in some poop jokes!
I hope these tips are helpful for you and your loved ones!