Dating is stressful because it leaves you vulnerable to rejection. That is the reality for anyone who is dating to meet that special someone. However, dating can present special challenges if you have a physical disability – and dating with a colostomy is no exception! If you are between 20-40 years of age and going on a first date with someone, you can ease the stress of dating by realistically preparing for your planned time together. Whether you are seeking to meet someone for casual fun, a domestic partnership, or marriage, your colostomy does not have to be as much of an obstacle as you might imagine.
In this post I will suggest some ways to decrease the stress involved in dating with a colostomy, as well as issues related to colostomies that can affect normal activities of daily living. Also described are some common health disorders that can result in a permanent colostomy.
When Bowel Surgery is Necessary in Younger Adulthood
Loss of social confidence is common in people who have a colostomy as a result of colon cancer surgery. If you are a person who was diagnosed with colon cancer before age 40, that diagnosis probably was unexpected and terrifying. As a cancer survivor, your life has been significantly changed – and this probably has affected your expectations in terms of intimate relationships.
Severe Crohn’s disease can also result in a permanent colostomy (and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation notes that Crohn’s disease patients are at a higher risk for colon cancer). Or maybe a colon infection was the underlying health disorder resulting in your colostomy.
Regardless of the underlying reason, having a colostomy can leave you fearful of beginning an intimate relationship with anyone. Yet, it need not prevent you from intimacy and a wonderful future life. Moreover, you are more likely to regain your social confidence if you get back to meeting new people and focusing on your goals as soon as you are able to do so!
Eating in a Restaurant on a Date – Good or Bad Idea?
Dining out in a restaurant is often considered the default choice for a date. Whilst dining out in a restaurant can be awkward for anyone on a first date, it can be especially problematic for someone with a colostomy. In contrast, a café that offers bottled water or tea can be both more manageable and less emotionally awkward. (If you have nothing in common with the person facing you in the opposite chair, you can leave a café far more quickly than if you are consuming an entire meal together!)
One out of every 500 people in the UK has experienced a colostomy, and eating is something that frequently requires an adjustment for a person living with a colostomy. Loud gurgling sounds from your stoma can occur after consuming certain foods, and this can cause you embarrassment (or fear of possible embarrassment). Diarrhoea can cause a foul odour emanating from your ostomy bag. Meanwhile, a stomal blockage (resulting from eating difficult-to-digest foods) can produce abdominal cramping.
You probably already know the food items that your body can no longer easily digest, but – according to the National Health Service (NHS) – six of the foods most typically associated with stomal blockages are:
- Nuts (e.g., peanuts)
- Dried fruits (e.g., dried apricots)
- Potato skins
Choosing the Exact Location for Your First (or Early) Date
The place not to choose for a first date is your flat or house (or someone else’s flat or home).
After all, your safety needs to be your absolute priority. For this reason, it is always best to choose a location that is public (such as a café or park) – but not one that is your customary place for meeting friends or your Mum. A movie theatre or library is not a good choice, because you want to pick a place where you can talk and get to know all about each other!
Unlike someone without a colostomy, it is advisable to ensure the availability of bathroom facilities in the chosen location during the time period of your scheduled date. That way, you can change your colostomy pouch if necessary.
When to Tell Someone on a Date that You Have a Colostomy
A close friend may want you to meet a cousin, or you may have found someone who seems potentially compatible through an online dating service. Therefore, you go ahead and agree to a first date. While you may want to tell the person you are meeting in advance that you have a colostomy, this is not something you have to divulge right away. If you are using a specialist disability dating site then you might have mentioned this a health issue on your site profile.
Instead, the first date is a time for you to see if you like this man or woman enough to want to schedule a second date. If you really do like the bloke or lass enough to want to schedule a second date, you can share more intimate details about yourself – but you do not owe this person such personal information on the first date. Most importantly, you do not need to feel any guilt at not mentioning your health issues on the first (or second) date.
As someone living with a colostomy, the most crucial thing to remember when dating is that you are so much more than your health-related limitations!
David Miller M.Sc, FRSA.