Talking About Bodily Functions With Your Significant Other — How Much Disclosure Is Too Much?
We talk a lot about women’s body autonomy these days, and while there are a lot of disheartening things about the conversation, the fact that there is increased discussion of our physical selves at all is a positive. One thing that I’m grateful for all the time is the liberation I feel with regards to talking about my bod. It can be an amazing bonding mechanism — if you’re in a room with a bunch of women and the conversation is lackluster just yell “Periods, amirite?!” and everyone will perk right up. In this day and age, I've yet to meet anyone who (openly) expects me to be a perfectly-groomed, hairless, snot-less, rosy-scented lady all the time, and that’s more than my grandma could say when she was my age. She never spoke to her husband about her period in any sort of technical terms, opting to simply allude to it euphemistically when necessary. WTF man!?
Ask your mother or grandmother how much she spoke with her friends or significant others about her bodily functions and you may get blank stares. Show her an article on the many types of female farts, and even the most progressive of foremothers will blush. Today, I’m on a mission to find the perfect balance between good manners and brazen body confidence in relationships (according to...me and only me). Of course, this recipe will be different depending on lots of factors including: length of relationship, gender (we’re still socialized differently, blah), cohabitation situation, etc. But whatever. Balls to the wall. I’m going to make some mass generalizations and share with you my definitive guide to the most common and inevitable bodily functions that our romantic relationships will see.
*For the purposes of this article I’m leaving the terms “significant other” and “person you’re dating” open to interpretation.
** This is not about being “ladylike,” because that’s dumb.
*** All guidelines go out the window when it comes to discussing illness or discomfort with a significant other. If you’re on an alternate diarrhea-vomit cycle with a killer stomach flu, it is way too exhausting to hide that. Discuss details at your discretion. I’ve never experienced food poisoning, but my happily married friend Sheryl told me that once you’ve experienced a spouse’s food poisoning episode then the mystery is completely gone.
Also, the subtext of pretty much every sentence here is “…if you feel comfortable with it.” That’s always the subtext, right? But best to make the implicit explicit sometimes.
So, let’s talk about talking about our bodies.
Conventional wisdom says that in many cultures a burp after a satisfying meal is a tribute to the chef and while I can neither confirm nor deny this personally, I get it. Sometimes some of the tastiest food goes down too quickly or doesn’t digest as smoothly. If you have the urge to burp in front of a significant other, don’t hold it in for propriety’s sake (though covering your mouth is certainly polite). You don’t want to date someone who would rather you sit with tightness in your chest then hear a cheeky burp, right?
But somewhere along the line some of us got confused and decided that “don’t be ashamed of your burping” meant “you just go ahead and be super proud of your burping.” This common misconception really needs to end here. Regardless of relationship with people in the room, an open-mouthed, intentionally-loud burp followed by no “excuse me” is still impolite. If you feel like you really need to have the privilege of open-mouthed belches in your own home (which you probably don’t) then you could maybe say something like “yo baby I’m not going to beg your pardon when I burp because I don’t care about manners and our home is our castle and I know you love me anyway, right?” #communication
Whatever. Talk about it. Your period is rad. If your S.O. is a dude and he’s clueless, tell him to read up. Talk about your cramps, your menstrual cup, your period underwear. As a general rule I think the more we talk about periods, the less they will be stigmatized. Remember when menstruating women were considered unclean?
Farting in front of someone you’re dating is a straight up milestone. It’s the final frontier on the path to significant other-hood. Honestly, it’s silly how much we worry about flatulence, especially if we’re co-habitating.
Whether you like it or not, it’s going to happen. For starters, I always argue that we can’t be held accountable for what our bodies do when we’re asleep. You don’t want to avoid Indian food forever, do you?! I’m willing to bet/hope that the person you are dating is also a human who also has a digestive system and if I’m correct in that assumption, lucky them! Even Katherine Duchess of Cambridge herself is royally ripping farts on average 15 times per day and maybe even up to 40, depending on her digestion situation. (You too can have this information if you google “average fart frequency per day”). I told my boyfriend that I was writing this article, which lead to an in-depth discussion about what the appropriate response to one of us farting is, depending on the situation. We covered flatulence during sex, during walks, during sleep, and in the car. If you feel like you’re “there,” I highly recommend having this discussion.
4. Yeast Infections
When I posed the question of discussing intimate body stuff to my friend Isabelle, she had this to say: “I’m coming around to the idea that life would be simpler and less full of embarrassment if we all got less prissy about bodily functions. I bet we’d have better sex, too.”
YES! Listen buddy, you probably played a role in screwing with my pH levels. You made that infection bed and now you must sleep in it. Let your partner know how it affects them (i.e. DON’T TOUCH ME) and complain about how uncomfortable it is to your heart’s content, if you’re not shy about it. If you’re ill, you share as much as you feel you need to share! I have spoken in detail about all sorts of varieties of vagina-citis (NB: not a real word) both personally and professionally, but I respect the fact that my partner has not. As far as he’s concerned, he really only needs to know that it’s happening and how much yogurt he should bring me.
This feels like a good time to mention that if you're talking about including any of these bodily functions in your sex life, that's a different ball game.
Aside from that, pee is...boring.
My friend Hannah agrees so much so that she told me that she feels like peeing is allowed and anything else is decidedly not. We do it so many times a day that it just feels like less of an issue. Maybe just keep the door closed? That's what it's there for. As for talking about it, is there really anything to say? Kinda no.
The whole enchilada.
For the purposes of this discussion, assume there are two types of bowel movements in the world: not normal and normal.
Cool. So let’s discuss them one by one, shall we?
A.) Not normal
You are constipated or you have diarrhea. It’s OK, we’re all friends here. If we’re ill, we should all be comfortable enough with our grown-up bodies to say it. If that means talking about symptoms, so be it. If you're just sharing to avoid car ride silence, best to leave out the details. While it is likely that the person you're dating cares about your health, it's unlikely that they want to hear about your shit just to be nice to you and win brownie points.
Ew. Sorry (not sorry).
There's no reason to discuss your normal bowel movements. We know it happens. If you're in there for 15 minutes, they know what you're doing. No news is good news on that front.
Haven't had to deal with any of this stuff with your significant other just yet? Wait until you move in together. Nothing kills mystery like a shared bathroom.
Image: Cora Fox/Bustle