As someone who has spoken on the “ostomy patient perspective” for the last few years, I have found the most common questions asked during Q&A revolve around dating, relationships, and sex. So, with it being Valentine’s Day, I found it most appropriate to share my experience of dating, relationships, and sex with an ostomy.
Dating & Relationships
I never thought I could date or have a serious relationship with an ostomy until I did. The dating scene can be stressful and often causes the fear of rejection (and that’s without an ostomy) so entering the scene after having surgery can feel a bit intimidating. However, dating can also be a fun and exciting experience, and having an ostomy should not scare you away from enjoying someone else’s company. I’ve had my fair share of dating since having my surgery over 10 years ago, and to be honest I didn’t date much prior to my ostomy (mind you, I was 15 years old at the time of my first operation and I’m not sure what you would even classify as “dating” at that time). None the less, the majority of my dating experience has been with my ostomy.
“I never thought I could date or have a serious relationship with an ostomy until I did.”
When and How Do I Tell Someone?
With this topic being amongst the most popular questions, I am often asked, “When do you tell someone you’re dating that you have an ostomy?” The answer is, whenever YOU want! It is your body, this is your journey, and this is your potential relationship. Personally, I preferred to feel it out, see if the relationship had potential, and made my judgement from there. I rarely ever told anyone before the 3rd date, because in my opinion, having an ostomy isn’t really one of those – “Hey, what’s your sign?” kind of ice breakers. I usually kept things under-wraps until I knew I was really interested. Now that I am more open with my disease and my ostomy in the efforts to raise awareness, who knows, maybe it would be a first date topic?! Plus, these days with social media, things like Instagram and Facebook pictures tend to blow my cover (Que bikini photo on the beach, ostomy out – loud and proud!).
The (gut) Reaction
I’m not sure if I’ve just been lucky, but I never experienced a negative reaction when telling someone I’ve dated about my ostomy. I’ve experienced a variety of reactions; more in the sense of empathy, understanding, and downright fascination (literally asked if he could touch my stoma), but they all have been positive and very supportive. In all honesty, if I ever did come across someone who had a poor reaction, I would have been grateful. My grandmother joked that my ostomy ruled out the losers, and I would have to agree. I would have never wanted to be with someone who couldn’t accept my ostomy, it is a part of me.
“I would have never wanted to be with someone who couldn’t accept my ostomy, it is a part of me.”
I do believe that presentation is key. The reaction you receive from others often reflects the attitude you have towards your ostomy and how you share that information. So be positive and proud of your body- it is beautiful.
“The reaction you receive from others often reflects the attitude you have towards your ostomy and how you share that information.”
Surgery has its own timeline as to when you are physically able to get back to sex; but whether you are emotionally ready for sex after ostomy surgery may be within a different time-frame. Be patient with yourself. An ostomy pouch isn’t necessarily the latest and greatest bedroom accessory to make you feel sexy, or boost your libido, and sex can be intimidating with an ostomy. However, whether it is with your spouse or a one-night stand; it is important for you to feel comfortable.
Sex as a single/dating person is obviously different than sex as a married couple- ostomy or not; and where you are in your relationship may factor how much you’d like to share with someone. But again, whether or not you choose to share that you have an ostomy is entirely up to you. You might be asking yourself, “How can I keep my ostomy a secret once it comes time to enter the bedroom?” Take it from me- it can be done! If and when you do decide to tell your sexual partner about your ostomy, be sure to let them know how you are feeling, what positions you are comfortable with, and inform them that they aren’t going to hurt you (same advice applies to your spouse as well). Fortunately, if you’re still not comfortable baring it all, there are lots of accessories including belts, wraps, specialty underwear, and even lingerie; all designed to conceal your ostomy pouch- allowing you to focus less on your ostomy and more on what’s really going on. Finding love is a different journey for us all, and although having an ostomy may be an added twist in the road, it is definitely not a road block to a loving relationship and a fulfilling sex life.
“Finding love is a different journey for us all, and although having an ostomy may be an added twist in the road, it is definitely not a road block to a loving relationship and a fulfilling sex life.”