Pillow Talk Relationships: How to navigate complex and uncomfortable conversations

- By

When entering the dating scene, conversations can vary. Do you snore when you sleep? Where do you like to travel? What is your favorite food? Do you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)? Well, not everybody asks the last one, but an estimated 3.1 million individuals in the U.S. have IBD, says the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation (CCF). With this comes potential anxiety in sharing that diagnosis with new partners. If this is something you can relate to, know you are not alone.

On this episode of Listen to Black Women, co-hosts Tiffany Ervin, Taryn Finley and Chris Miss welcome therapist and wellness expert Davia Roberts to talk about living — and dating — with IBD. Davia Roberts is a licensed counselor and relationship therapist who helps patients overcome intimacy issues associated with chronic illness. She’s an expert on approaching tough conversations and shares her advice with those navigating a love life and dating while living with inflammatory bowel disease.

How to open up the conversation

African couple sitting at table having heart-to-heart talk

Source: fizkes / Getty

The women discuss how they each prepare for challenging conversations, and a common theme found is to understand your own feelings before opening up to someone else.

Roberts is a big proponent of using humor to enter into these conversations. It shows a partner you’re comfortable with the topic, so they can be, too. But also, it’s okay if it’s still a bit awkward. “Lean into the discomfort,” Roberts says.

The emotional side of IBD

Worried black woman laying in bed with insomnia looking anxious and concerned, having infidelity and relationship issues. Man sleeping while his wife lays awake at night feeling depressed or troubled

Source: LaylaBird / Getty

The physical symptoms of IBD can potentially be disruptive to your life and relationship. Roberts notes that these symptoms may cause a person to not want to have sex, be touched or even go out on a date. But there’s also an emotional component — it can be very isolating, explains Roberts.

People living with IBD can, at times, also worry that their condition is an inconvenience to their partners. To that Roberts says, “As a Black woman…you deserve to have someone who can show up for all of you…Let’s not settle for the people who feel inconvenienced by it.”

How to be a supportive partner to someone with IBD

If you don’t have IBD but love someone who does, you probably want to be the best support system you can. Roberts suggests taking the initiative to do your research and be open to future conversations. This will be an ongoing dialogue, as symptoms and needs will likely change over time.

What about dating someone new when you have IBD?

Talking to an established partner is tough enough, now what about telling new people who have entered your life? How do you bring it up? When? Roberts says there’s no rush — per se. Make sure you actually enjoy spending time with the person and see more time in the future being spent together before sharing this with them.

It’s all about having open conversations and finding someone who is compassionate and empathetic enough to be the support system you need.

This episode of Listen to Black Women was created in partnership with Janssen Biotech, Inc.

© Janssen Biotech, Inc. 2023 03/23 cp-367343v1

Interested in learning more about IBD? Check out our Listen to Black Women episode “Real Talk About Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis in the Black community.”