Crohn’s disease can occur in people of any age. It usually presents itself in the late teens and early 20s, a prime dating time for many.

No matter what your age, a Crohn’s diagnosis can be difficult, especially if you’re single. If you’re dating with Crohn’s disease, you may wonder when you should tell a date about your condition. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the dating world.

Social networking for Crohn’s

One option when dating with Crohn’s is to connect with others with the same issues. It’s possible that they’ve also experienced difficulty in dating and will understand what you’re going through. Internet forums for people with Crohn’s may be a perfect place to start. Social networking sites such as Ostodate.com or MeetAnOstomate.org can also be great places to meet others.

However, it’s important to note that some research has shown that Crohn’s may have a genetic link. Certain changes in genetic code seem to make some people more susceptible to developing inflammatory bowel disease, like Crohn’s. Since the genetic connections are still being investigated, people of childbearing age with Crohn’s may prefer to date outside the Crohn’s community to lessen the potential risk of the disease in their children. But remember, how the body deals with genetic information is never straightforward.

Dealing with symptoms while dating

In the first few months after diagnosis, you might find it easier to stay away from new relationships while you learn to manage your symptoms. You may find that you need to spend a good deal of time understanding more about your symptoms and how to handle their ups and downs. Like any chronic illness, once you’ve developed your own management system for living with Crohn’s, you may be able to better accommodate someone else into your life.

One of the biggest issues you may tackle early on are flare-ups. Given the unpredictability of flare-ups, it may benefit you to have a plan in dealing with this potentially stressful aspect of Crohn’s. Having a partner who can be flexible and is willing to make last-minute changes can be a significant benefit and provide much-needed support.

When to tell your partner

One of the toughest decisions a single person with any chronic illness has to make is when to tell the new person in their life about their condition. While it’s probably not a conversation for the first date, it’s important to discover early on if this is someone you can trust with personal information.

Once you’ve been on a few dates and it seems like you may want to continue to see this person, it’s likely a good time to bring up the topic. In your initial conversation about the disease, keep it as simple as possible. There’s no point in divulging the intimate details of your daily symptoms. Simply explain the disease and what it means to you and your daily life. Make sure your partner knows this doesn’t have to get in the way of having a great relationship.

If your date has more questions, you may want to direct them to one of the many informational websites about Crohn’s. There are also brochures and fact sheets you can download before your talk.

Dealing with those who can’t deal

Not everyone is comfortable dating someone who has an illness. It’s better to know this up front rather than later on in the relationship, when you’ve formed an attachment. Remember that when you’ve been up front about your Crohn’s, you’ve done your best to be honest about your health.

In some situations, however, you may begin dating someone who seems fine with your disease until you actually have a flare-up or complication. While it can be painful to have the person you’ve grown to care about suddenly pull back from you, keep in mind that it’s not your fault and that not everyone has the tools to provide the kind of support you need. A long-term partner should be one who wants to be with you when you’re healthy and when you’re sick. Remember everyone will experience sickness at some point in their lives. It’s important to find someone who will be there for you, no matter what.

There can be many obstacles and challenges of dating when you have Crohn’s, but be patient. It’s important that you surround yourself with people who understand and support you regardless of how the disease may impact your life.

What’s the takeaway?

Dating is often fraught with challenges, and having Crohn’s disease can add another layer of complexity. However, being well-informed about Crohn’s and communicating your own experience with the disease can be helpful. This includes finding the support you need early on from those important to you. When you’re ready, being honest with your date can weed out a partner who isn’t in it for the long-term. Telling your new partner can also help you find someone who will support and care about you, in a way that is healthy for the both of you.