The subject of incontinence is delicate, awkward, and, for many people, one that they’d prefer never having to discuss, even with people they should completely trust. According to Dr. Tomas L. Griebling, a urologist with the University of Kansas, Kansas City, 50 percent of people suffering from incontinence fail to report their condition even to their own doctor.
But silence and secrecy — while completely understandable human responses to having this problem – aren’t healthy approaches to improving one’s own situation, especially because incontinence – in many cases – is a treatable condition. Talking about one’s own incontinence is never easy, but free and honest communication offers the prospect of hope, understanding, and the means to make things better for the incontinence sufferer and those who care most about his/her well-being.
Here, then, are some tips for discussing incontinence with one’s life partner.
- Do your homework. Before talking with your partner, get the facts. Francis Bacon’s observation that “knowledge is power” directly applies to incontinence, because the more facts you know about your condition, the more likely it will be that you’ll be able to find an effective solution. Your first and best source of factual information should be your own doctor, who can, if necessary, refer you to a specialist who can scope out the dimensions of your problem and prescribe a program of therapy. Doing your homework also means that you can answer any questions your partner might pose with certainty and strength.
- Choose a good time and place to discuss the topic. You – and your partner – should be feeling, calm, relaxed, and comfortable before the topic of incontinence is broached. The environment in which the discussion occurs should be private, safe, and stress-free, with enough time allocated to ensure that the discussion isn’t rushed. The website Caring.com recommends that you introduce the topic when your partner is already engaged in an enjoyable activity.
- Be frank about it. Incontinence isn’t the end of the world, but it’s a serious problem that impacts intimacy, both in a physical sense and in terms of creating so much fear, anxiety, and embarrassment about being close with your partner that it often results in people “turning off” to the idea of intimacy itself. Your partner will likely appreciate the fact that you’re “man/woman enough” to address the issue. And by broaching the subject, you’re proving to your partner that your intimacy together matters a lot more than any damage to your pride and ego you might suffer as a result.
- Stress the positive. Effective treatments for incontinence, ranging from medication to physical therapy, abound. Exercise, changes to diet and other behavioral changes can make a big difference. Let your partner know that you’re “with the program” and are taking steps to make life better for yourself and – most importantly, your relationship.
Sure, incontinence can be a tough, awkward, embarrassing problem to discuss, even (and perhaps especially) with those you’re closest to.
But it’s far better – and far more caring – to be up-front and frank about it than to attempt to bury, evade, or gloss over it. Far too many intelligent, caring people – both men and women – suffer in silence and ignorance, and the sad result is often damaged relationships and missed opportunities to make things right.
You deserve better, and the path to this better life begins with an informed, honest, and positive conversation about incontinence with the one you love best.
NOTE: This article was not written by a medical professional and is not intended to substitute the guidance of a physician. It includes facts and data collected from various reliable medical and health sources.