How is fecal incontinence (FI) affecting your romantic relationships?
If you are single, do you avoid meeting new people, dating, or sex? If you're married, are you worried that your partner no longer finds you attractive? Dealing with incontinence during intimate moments can be a frustrating experience for both partners. Most of us have problems talking about sex at all, and talking about problems in the bedroom is just about impossible. It might be an uncomfortable conversation to have with your partner, but talking about FI is the best way to gain the support and understanding needed to get back to enjoying your sex life again.
The causes of FI can include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, diarrhea and, for women, weakened muscles in the anus or rectum after childbirth. In most cases, incontinence is not a permanent condition, and will improve when the cause is treated. If incontinence is a long-term issue, then dealing with the problem directly and how it affects romance becomes even more important.
Talking about fecal incontinence with your healthcare provider.
The first step to improving your sex life will be to work with your doctor, or nurse practitioner, to explore the ways that you can treat the cause of the incontinence. Make sure your healthcare provider is aware that incontinence is affecting your romantic relationships and that you are interested in finding ways to treat the problem. This can be a difficult conversation so use the words you are most comfortable with and remember that your healthcare provider has heard about all of these problems before. The treatment of FI will depend largely on the cause. Your doctor or nurse practitioner may have some new suggestions for you once you have made him or her aware of your concerns.
Think about ways your sex life can be improved. If you're avoiding intimacy, obviously you'll want to get back to it! How can you and your partner work together to make your romantic moments more fulfilling for both of you? When is incontinence the most troublesome and how can you improve it so you can enjoy your sex life? If you find that incontinence is a problem during intercourse, perhaps exploring different positions or other forms of intimacy would be helpful. If avoiding intimacy is causing you emotional stress and worsening your symptoms, perhaps beginning to talk about it with your partner will help lower your stress level.
Discussing FI with your partner.
Now for the more difficult conversation: discussing how FI affects your sex life with your current or future partner. If your partner is not already aware of the condition that's causing the incontinence, you'll want to discuss it first. You can talk about all the ways your life is affected, including everything from your job to your feelings about your medical problems. Your partner may not be aware of the stress and difficulties you are having and that you are worried about how it's affecting your relationship.
Once you both have the whole picture in mind, you can move on to discussing how FI affects your intimate moments. Bring up the ideas you have on how you can be more comfortable being romantic. Your partner will likely also have some suggestions and ideas. Work together to come up with some solutions, whether they are short-term or long-term.
When you need more help.
The above approaches will be helpful in a perfect world. But we're often not in situations or in relationships that are perfect. If your healthcare provider has not proven to be helpful you have the option of searching for a provider who is more willing to listen to your concerns. If your partner does not want to talk about your intimacy concerns, you don't have that same options. In that case you will want to seek outside help. The best option is to seek counseling as a couple but if your partner is unable or unwilling, you should seek help alone.