There's a Legitimate Reason Why Husbands Are Always Pooping


man sitting on toilet

It's a stereotype we're all familiar with -- the man who disappears into the bathroom with a newspaper and emerges four hours later claiming he just had to take a poop. In 2018, it's more likely he's sitting in there with a cell phone than a physical newspaper, but the parameters are the same. They go off to sit atop their porcelain throne, and their partners are left waiting, tending to the kids solo, and wondering if the toilet is actually a tear in the space-time continuum that they didn't know existed.

  • The complicated relationship between men and their toilets is well-documented on social media.

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  • But what is really going on here? Are they constipated? Is it a gender stereotype? Did they fall in?

    The short answer is, it could be a lot of things. But the first thing to understand is that dudes who disappear into the bathroom forever probably aren't spending all of that time actually pooping.

    "There’s no evidence that says men take longer [to poop] than women or women take longer than men," says Dr. Niket Sonpal, assistant clinical professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. "In fact, by epidemiological standards, it’s approximately equal in the rates of constipation, with a little more constipation favoring women."

  • On average, he tells CafeMom, people shouldn't be spending more than 15 to 20 minutes trying to have a bowel movement.

    And when we end up sitting there longer than that, it's usually for an entirely different reason. For one thing, a lot of people -- both male and female -- take their phones with them into the bathroom. "For fathers, this may be the time when they can shoot off an email or reply to a text or finish reading an article," says Sonpal, though he cautions that sitting there too long can lead to things such as decreased circulation in the lower extremities and even hemorrhoids.

    But the more likely culprit for those poops that never seem to end is that men and fathers may be using the bathroom as a way to escape. "I have a lot of patients who are men and who are fathers who have simply just told me it’s their few minutes of peace," says Sonpal. "So a lot of the time that feeling that men take longer tends to be because of social issues -- that they’re getting that few minutes alone."

    Jonathan Alpert, a Manhattan psychotherapist and the author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days, echoes that sentiment. He tells CafeMom the bathroom can seem like the perfect hideout to some because no one can really ask why you're in there.

    "I guess I would call it a safe place," he says. "You know, most people aren’t going to question someone’s activities or motivation for going to the bathroom. … Everyone deserves their privacy to go to the bathroom, and I think some people might be using it for a little more than that and to their advantage."

  • Contrary to popular belief, Alpert says it's not only men who need a way to escape the stresses and responsibilities of family life.

    "I have plenty of patients who are women who tell me they need a break, they need alone time, they need to recharge," he says. So, why aren't women and moms also notorious for spending 45 minutes on the toilet?

    Well, besides the fact that many women can't get into the bathroom because it's already occupied by their husbands, it could be that dads simply aren't encouraged to practice self-care and seek outlets for stress in the same way that moms are. Moms have Facebook parenting groups, mom-centric websites, and mommy and me groups. But the same structures aren't in place for many dads.

    "I do think there’s more support out there tailored to moms, but it probably just speaks to men being generally perceived as or expected to be the 'strong' one and not to rely on people as much. That might be coming into play," Alpert says.

    But, he adds, plenty of dads still find time to blow off steam in healthy ways, such as by exercising or spending time with their friends. If your partner is struggling to find an outlet, getting him to go seek adventure away from the toilet could be as simple as just talking about it.

    "I think there should be a conversation with a significant other about how can we prioritize our kids but also ourselves as individuals," Alpert explains. "Some of my patients will come up with an arrangement where maybe mom has Saturday afternoon to herself for a few hours, dad watches the kids, and vice versa. So trying to give each other a break and some alone time I find to be helpful."

  • Of course, if the men in your life are genuinely trying to poop for 30 to 45 minutes or longer, there could be other health issues at play.

    "If patients tell me, 'Listen, it takes me a long time to have a bowel movement,' it tells me one of three things," notes Sonpal. "One, there’s not enough water in their diet. Two, there may be not enough fiber in their diet. ... And three, it may be that they have some kind of, what we call, a defecatory disorder."

    With men, he adds, the most likely culprit is the lack of fiber and water, which leads to constipation. "The Western diet that we all experience tends to be poor in fiber, and Americans in general don’t consume enough water," he explains. "The eight glasses of eight ounces a day actually is less than what is recommended but ... eight by eight is an easy number to have from a public health standpoint that people will remember."

    Instead, he says, many people should be drinking closer to 96 ounces of water per day and striving to eat a high-fiber diet. And, as Alpert said, men should seek healthy ways to de-stress.

    "We know that stress can yield a great deal of havoc on the digestive system. It can cause diarrhea, it can cause constipation … stress can even yield what’s called irritable bowel syndrome," Sonpal says.

    Over time, digestive issues associated with stress, poor diet, or chronic constipation can lead to more serious health problems, so it's important to address those underlying issues.

    A man spending forever in the bathroom isn't necessarily abnormal. He's as likely to be trying to get to level 362 on Candy Crush as he is to be struggling to go poop. But, regardless of the reasons for the extra-long bathroom trip, it's worth having a conversation before you write it off as a "guy thing" and start forwarding his mail. Those marathon poops, while funny, may also be a really good indicator that something -- be it diet, water intake, or just a method for coping with stress -- needs to change.