How to disclose an ostomy to a new partner?

Feb 16, 2012 4:45 pm

I am a 37-year-old, single mom of 3 and I am a colorectal cancer survivor going on 3 years now. I am dating and find it very difficult and stressful to try to tell someone I want to be intimate with that I have an ostomy. How do you tell someone? I would also like to know how can I hide or keep my bag from getting in the way during intimacy. I am so worried that I will never find someone who will accept the fact that I have an ostomy. I feel so embarrassed asking these questions, but I don't know who else to ask. Thanks! Please help!!

Past Member
Feb 16, 2012 5:10 pm

Good question, I look forward to seeing the answer.

(I fear there will be some comment about if they love you they will accept you as you are)

Good luck with your relationship though, hope it works out well for you


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ron in mich
Feb 16, 2012 5:30 pm

Hi Beccalea, there's a company, Ostomy Secrets, that has clothing items to cover ostomies. They might have something for you. Good luck, Ron in Mich.

Feb 16, 2012 5:51 pm

Thanks Ady, I have been told "It shouldn't matter how you tell them as long as they really love you, there shouldn't be any reason why he won't accept it." I find this hard to believe, I think it's a lot for someone to accept and be okay with it, but who knows, maybe he will understand!

Thanks Ron! I have ordered from Ostomy Secrets, but their products are just so uncomfortable. Has anyone tried the stoma caps? I ordered a bunch of them but don't dare to use those during intimacy because they leak, and then having to put them on before or take them off afterwards takes a toll on the skin... Ughhh

Feb 16, 2012 6:16 pm
This is a challenging question, Beccalea. In my experience, there's a place deep within each of us where answers to challenging questions can materialize. Some people may find that a peculiar statement; however, here's proof of that place within:

If I give you a specific answer to your question, you will not embrace that answer if it doesn't resonate with that place within you, and there's your proof that something within you knows more than part of you realizes. I'll now give you one of many possible answers to your question so you can sense how that place within you responds:

Allow your partner to be the one to initiate intimacy, and when he does, stop him by saying there's something you want to share with him that may affect his desire. What happens next is a wonderful way to learn more about this man you are with and for him to learn more about you. The benefit of this approach is you do not have to worry about when to bring up the subject.

Now I could go on and give you some radically different answers, but I hope others will do that, and I hope you will enjoy exploring that place of answers within.
Stories of Living Life to the Fullest from Ostomy Advocates I Hollister
Feb 16, 2012 7:02 pm

Three ~ Ya know, I think that's a really good way to approach this and I think you're right! I'm really going to take this into consideration, thanks so much!

Feb 16, 2012 8:10 pm


You know, this is seemingly an age-old question and there are just as many good responses, some have already been given as you can see. I think it really comes down to that instant when you know that intimacy is 'ready to happen'. I have found that at this instant neither party gives a care about dealing with an issue of an ostomy. It is quickly put on the back burner so to speak. What happens thereafter is the true test and I feel this is good. At least that is what I have experienced.


Past Member
Feb 16, 2012 8:24 pm

There are certain types of caps you can wear if you have a two-piece bag. It's a cap that clips on. You can wear them when swimming or when you're wanting to be intimate. I've tried this device and it's very good. As far as telling a person what you have, I myself at the time knew when it was the right time to reveal as far as my ostomy. It's hard to say how or what way to tell, but I think when the time is right, you will know when and how. Hope some of this has been of some help. Good luck in both TC Ambies.

Past Member
Feb 17, 2012 4:49 pm
Hi Becca, sorry for being so negative the other day. I'm usually such a positive person, but things are pretty bad between my wife and me now. I had hoped that given time, we would be having a normal relationship, but after 16 months with the stoma, it's far from normal. I don't really know what to do. At the moment, I'm just sticking with it because I don't think I would be any happier on my own, but I feel our marriage is dying the deaths of a thousand cuts.

I do have some advice about new relationships, not from experience but from thinking about it.

1. I would tell the guy, probably on the 3rd or 4th date, before it got any further than petting. This is before either of you get too attached.
2. I would email them or write to them, giving them an easy, unembarrassing way out. You have to be brave here, but if the guy doesn't call, he is dirt and isn't worth bothering with.
3. Be prepared to be hurt, but never forget 85% of the population are nice people, just a bit screwed up, and 100% all want to be loved.

With regards to clothing, I have always thought it was easier for a lady. Wear your normal pouch, and I think they are called a lacy teddy, sort of all-in-one. Let's be honest here, guys are after 3 things (two up top and one downstairs!!!!) if they can see the pouch, they ain't going to worry about it.

Good luck,
Ady X
Feb 17, 2012 5:44 pm

I see that all the usual comments have already been made;
"If he really loves you, it won't get in the way". That's true,
but by the time the love thing is beginning to happen, you will have already
gotten to the exploring stage. While the theory is admirable, it just doesn't hold water.

As far as clothes, covers, etc. go, "that dog won't hunt either",
you are starting off with trying to deceive, a bad thing.
There is no advice that will work every time, but I DO have an idea, try it on for size.

Instead of just coming out and telling the guy to see how he reacts, try this;
Begin by telling him about an "acquaintance" of yours (a guy or a girl who has this
bag that they must wear constantly. And that they are afraid to tell for fear
of losing the prospective date. Say, "Do you think that is right for other people to feel
like they don't want to date anyone with a bag?" "My "acquaintance" is really having a bad time
with this problem," "What do you think?"
If nothing else, it will give you an insight as to how your potential date will react to the situation.

As everyone else............I too wish you luck and well-being.

P.S. By the way, there are single guys in this with them and see what their feelings
are, after all, they are "wearing" too.

Feb 18, 2012 4:49 am

Let the relationship develop awhile to see if you think he meets your standards. [Need to know basis] At that point, be honest. If he walks, he wasn't right for you anyway.----- Brad-----

Past Member
Feb 19, 2012 8:15 pm

Three has good advice.

May I make so bold that you show him such a good time, your bag won't even come into it.

When I was first fitted with a stoma, I was in an induced coma for 5 weeks. My partner and my son sat either side of my bed coming up with ideas for bag covers (I know there are companies that do this). I have a strong passion for motorcycling, so you can imagine the idea of leather covers.......

What I am trying to say is make light of your situation as much as you can. Take life as it comes, and sad as it is, if your man can't handle your situation, then he ain't the one!!

Past Member
Feb 19, 2012 8:17 pm

Just seen this advertised here on the forum. May be worth a shot!
Feb 20, 2012 6:18 am
Hi Becca,

My name is Marsha, and I've had my ileostomy since I was 15 years old....and that was more than 45 years ago. It wasn't easy back then, and in the 18 years since I've been divorced, I've relived the "telling" over and over.

What a group of us, young adult ostomates decided back in the 1960s was that it's better to be the one to decide when to tell rather than feel pressured or "caught". I decided that if a guy's hands were going below my neck then I'd be the one to say....we need to talk.

It worked for me then...and it continues to work now. Back then, it could take months to get to that point.... Sadly, social mores have changed through the decades, so the "reveal" happens these days sometime around the second or third date. I've found that some men have absolutely no problem with the ostomy, or my scars....and laugh at my attempts to "hide" it with some sort of pouch cover.

A few years ago, I told a guy I thought would understand, and he couldn't get out of the restaurant we were in fast enough. Later, he told me he had a real problem with it, so that was that.

I started to see someone a few weeks ago, and when it seemed appropriate (wandering hands) I told him about the surgery. He seemed to have no problem with it, and we probably shouldn't have gone any further.

But things did progress.....Without going into details.....without the layers of clothes....the inopportune "gurgling" became disruptive. In retrospect, that's what he said he couldn't handle. In this case, I think it was too much....too soon. But then, I'd rather know sooner than later.

So there are no really easy or right answers. My ostomy is my "battle scar", and I know that if someone is really going to care about me, it won't make a difference. But I learned something by getting involved a little "too soon". It can take someone a little more time to understand, and accept..... and I have to be willing to give them that opportunity.

Best of luck to you.

Feb 21, 2012 3:02 am

Hi Becca, I am a 39-year-old single mom of 2 and I'm dealing with the same questions that you are. I have had some very bad reactions but some good as well. I think after a few dates is the best time because they are not in too deep yet. Also, sending them a link about an ostomy is a good idea as well because some people just don't understand what it is and how it works. I'm still looking for the right guy and I'm sure there is somebody out there for us both. Good luck and if you ever want to chat, you can send me a message whenever you want.

Feb 21, 2012 6:19 am

As for a cover, just wear a tube top or bandeau around your trunk. It fits firmly and gets the bag out of the way. This suggestion was from a wife telling what her husband does. It works great for me, a woman, and you don't have to think about the bag. As for noise, I had a colostomy and it made such embarrassing noises, I was so nervous in public. Now, with an ileostomy, it is so much quieter. Life is good, lots better than years of being on toilet watch. I have heard much better stories of intimacy than these suggestions. Be brave and outgoing and if it doesn't go well, know you have friends who understand on this and other websites.

Feb 21, 2012 11:02 am

Hi Becca and Sunshine 9
I'm 43 and a single parent and also hoping that there might still be someone out there for me, though I think I maybe am nearer to giving up! We are all in the same situation, but there is strength in numbers. x

Past Member
Feb 21, 2012 3:52 pm

Always remember the most important thing: it's 'Only a Stoma'. It's not the end of your life. The right man/woman is out there somewhere waiting to meet you. You might meet a few shallow people that run when you tell them. That's just life. They're not good enough for you with or without an ostomy. They would do the same thing if they didn't like the color of your hair. A lot of problems in relationships and with new partners come from the person with the ostomy. We don't realize we're doing it. We push them away and think, "No one could ever love me with this bag on my stomach." You have to learn to stop putting yourself down. You're just the same person inside and out as you were before having an ostomy. The right person won't care. They will just be pleased you're as well as you can be.

Feb 21, 2012 5:37 pm

Becca: You've been given good advice here. I was young and single when I had the original surgery (27), subsequently married, two children. Divorced after 27 years. Single again in my 50's. Have dated a lot, several longer-term relationships. The ostomy hasn't bothered anyone. I do advise waiting to share your personal information until you decide if you care enough about this person. I was a realtor in Virginia. I went to a seminar that said on the way to a listing appointment, don't say "I hope I get this listing." Instead, say "I'm going to go and see if I WANT this listing." See? An attitude change. Don't feel like damaged goods, etc. You are, in fact, once again made whole. In my 20's, I had a tendency to blurt it out too soon. One night I was in the car with this guy, told him about my surgery (It had only been a few months) and he said JESUS! Wait until I tell my buds I was out with a girl with no asshole. Well - no cell phones in those days. At the next stoplight, which was near a shopping center, I jumped out of the car, and went to a pay phone and called a cab!

If it does bother anyone, and it will, they're just not who you want to hang out with.
As my doctor told me when I had the original ileostomy (have had several revisions due to Crohn's), this is your chance to separate the men from the boys. He said the same type of person who would hold this against you would do the same thing if in the future you were to lose a breast, or be in an accident that scars your face.

Best of luck! I'm 67 now, and haven't met anyone in the past couple of years I'd want to share my time with, so I guess I've quit dating. Just make sure someone is worthy of knowing your very personal information.


Feb 21, 2012 10:00 pm

You're pretty, so I don't think most guys would care about your ostomy.

Feb 22, 2012 8:17 pm

Well, after some preliminary rounds (first couple of dates), I just tell the lady. I don't feel guilt or maybe that's not the correct terminology, but anyway, it's just blah! Take it or leave it. Now, come to think about it, since I recently left my wife due to a number of reasons (that of which I've been contemplating for over the last 7-8 months), I guess I'll get back in the practice of saying blah; LOL!!!!. Not unless, of course, I connect with a fellow ostomate lady through this site. For what it's worth, I live in Maryland close to Washington, DC.

Anyway, Becca, someone will accept you for who you are. Let's keep our chins up.

Feb 23, 2012 4:58 pm

I don't believe that crap about accepting the way you are and if they don't they are "dirt" or not worth it. People have a right to accept what they want and that doesn't make them a bad person! Anyway, it seems we are talking about having sex here, not a relationship.
Ostomy Secrets have a wrap. Wear the pouch sideways and any type of wrap around it. There are other products out there which wrap around the waist, velcro, etc. Also, wear a tube top over it like the girls say. At intimate moments with beautiful girls like you, it's not going to matter to a guy.

Feb 23, 2012 7:04 pm

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Past Member
Feb 24, 2012 2:02 am

Sit him down, tell him your intentions (where you'd like the relationship to go) and above all, be honest. There are plenty of web sites that deal with this very topic. Research a few or as many as you can, be prepared, then talk things out. If he's an understanding, caring man who is truly interested in you, it shouldn't matter - your ostomy does not define you as a woman or a person. As a man, I know from personal experience.

Feb 24, 2012 6:50 pm

It doesn't make someone a bad person, no. But it does indicate squeamishness, or a less than open mind. I wouldn't want to be with someone narrow-minded. PERIOD.

Mar 17, 2012 10:31 pm

I can totally relate to you. I recently met someone and had concerns about how to explain the colostomy, and it went really badly. I then met someone else, and the issue had to be resolved rather quickly as I think we both wanted to be together. It was an easy connection, and he didn't care at all about the bag, though I did. I have an Ostosecrets product that looks like lingerie, and it worked for me. I don't know how he felt about it, but for me, it was a way to keep the bag safe.

Regrettably, we haven't been intimate in a few weeks, but that is not colostomy-related.
Past Member
Mar 18, 2012 8:13 am

I found it the most difficult moment to tell a guy that I had a stoma. I thought it only right they should know before the relationship went any further. But I find it's the same thing over and over again. I am bombarded with so many questions which I get fed up of answering, and then they find an excuse and no more dates from them. I find a lot go to Google and then "Oh no, I don't think I could cope with that." Not everyone is the same, and Google should say this in some way. I did see someone for a few months, but every time we met up or saw anyone he knew, the first thing he would do was look at my stomach area to make sure (I think) that no one could see anything. I think I was more of an embarrassment to him if anyone found out. I thought I'd try once more when someone wanted to meet for coffee and they knew there was something and asked what. Sadly, I told them, needless to say, no coffee. I wish you luck on your relationship and remember there is someone out there that can look further than our bags. I'm just yet to meet that person, and yes, I'm also divorced.

Past Member
Mar 18, 2012 6:13 pm

Starry, thanks for sharing. It sounds like you have had some rotten luck and kind of sum up all my fears. Never mind, we press on. If ever I'm over Bridgend way, I'll drop you a line and maybe have a coffee.
Ady X

Mar 18, 2012 8:54 pm

The biggest problem we all have is between our left and right ear, meaning that if we're okay with it, then everyone else is going to be fine. Now, that being said, there are a couple of things to do to make the medicine easier to handle than just straight.

1 - Don't call it a bag ever again. Call it a bandage, because that's what it is and people (including me) can get their heads around that easier.
2 - Love yourself by dressing your bandage up with one of those support items - covers. They look pretty cool and sexy. Use what God has given us and feel sexy.
3 - Turn up some music to cover up the sounds.
4 - The conversation starts up front and honestly - after a couple of dates - I have something to share with you. I have a bandage that I'm going to have for a while. It's given me a lot of gifts in life - one is being more accepting of other people's bodies. It has to do with some intestinal issues that I've had and some surgeries that I've had. It's no big deal.

None of the women I've dated have had an issue with it. Ultimately, we go to the bathroom out of our stomach instead of our anus! It's nothing to get freaked out over. It's our egos that don't like change, but our minds control our thoughts. Take control of your life and change the way you look at things. People will follow you.

Mar 18, 2012 9:02 pm

Nicely said and from the heart.