Straight From The DUH Files…

My pump cartridge and my wedding ring.

Relationships are hard. 

Duh, says everyone. Millions Billions  A gazillion dollars have been spent by humankind over thousands of years to find out what makes us click – or not. Poems, books, movies, therapy sessions, divorce courts, and Facebook are mostly  about relationships. If someone actually figured out the magic formula, the world wouldn’t know what to do with it. We’ve been conditioned that conflict is good –  in moderation.

Diabetes is hard. 

Duh, says… most of us. Some medical professionals and people not familiar with the disease have this idea that managing diabetes is a couple of shots and watch what you eat and why aren’t your blood sugars perfect? You must be cheating. Managing diabetes is complex, convoluted, and confusing (Look! Alliteration!), even with better technology and better drugs and the ability to share and learn from each other. You know the old adage: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”? When it comes to diabetes, the adage becomes: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting the same results.”

Relationships and diabetes together are…say it with me…hard. 

I didn’t need a study to tell me that, but here it is, straight from the annals of Diabetes Care, published for their March edition: Personal and Relationship Challenges of Adults With Type 1 Diabetes . The researchers did a small study, using focus groups split into two categories: the Type 1s and their partners, asking pertinent questions about their relationships. Know what they’ve discovered?

Four main domains were identified: 1) impact of diabetes on the relationship, including level of partner involvement, emotional impact of diabetes on the relationship, and concerns about child-rearing; 2) understanding the impact of hypoglycemia; 3) stress of potential complications; and 4) benefits of technology. Themes suggest that, although partner involvement varies (very little to significant), there exists significant anxiety about hypoglycemia and future complications and sources of conflict that may increase relationship stress. Partner support is highly valued, and technology has a positive influence.

Again, I say: Duh.

I love the little quip about “…there exists significant anxiety about hypoglycemia and future complications and sources of conflict that may increase relationship stress.” I know this. I live this.

I see the worry lines in John’s forehead when he watches me struggle to come up from a low. Every day, we engage in some discussion about blood sugars or what I’ve eaten or some aspect of diabetes. He has been incredibly brave when I’ve been a coward, helping me choose the decisions that are best for our family. It is tiring to me, so I can only imagine how tiring it is to the people around me. Or if I didn’t have a supportive husband but a Diabetes Police new recruit. But you know what’s worse?

I once had a relationship with someone who just didn’t care at all. Despite being a medical professional, he chose to act as if it was just my disease alone to handle. No encouragement for the good days and no comfort for the bad days. Begrudgingly helping when I was sick or needing assistance when I was in severe hypoglycemia. I’m surprised the relationship lasted as long as it did.

So, we already knew what researchers have told us in this article. What do we do about it?

  • Talk about your feelings and fears, if not with your spouse, then with someone who can give constructive steps to deal with the issues in your relationship (and your relationship with diabetes). Not talking about it won’t help either of you feel any better. And you want to feel better, right?
  • Friends for Life, the annual conference in Orlando  that used to be just for Type 1 kids and their families is now offering an Adult Type 1 track with some interesting classes. Dr. Bill Polonsky will lead a Couples Discussion Group, while Jill Weissberg-Benchell & Kerri Sparling offers up a Dating and Diabetes seminar and Diana Naranjo will facilitate a Significant Others Discussion Group. Come hang out with the rest of us and get some insight as to how other couples handle diabetes and relationships.
  • Read more about the impact diabetes plays in relationships at dlife.com  – lots of great articles from people you already know.
  • Personal experience: The worst time to talk about diabetes is when a Type 1 is having a low. When John asks: “Why do you think you’re low?”, it results in me giggling, telling him that I’m not wearing socks, or growling angrily. Sometimes all three at once. Talking about diabetes after the diabetic has come up from a low and when the effects of adrenalin and cortisol coursing through the system can result in a coherent, cogent conversation (Look! Alliteration again!) and probably not a discussion about socks.

I’m married to my diabetes. No option for divorce or at this point, even a trial separation. My husband still married me, knowing this. I love him all the more for that. Even on the tough days.

If you take nothing else away from this, remember:

Relationships are hard.

Diabetes is hard. 

I say duh a lot. 

Got suggestions on dealing with diabetes + a significant other? Resources to add? Bring it on! 

0 comments

  1. @ninjabetic

    I find letting my wife know everything about my diabetes helps her to be more understanding. She is pretty understanding anyway but it helps when she is informed.

  2. Ginger Vieira

    Great post.

    I really feel the same way Ninjabetic says. By including my boyfriend in my diabetes, he simply understands what’s going on and can therefore be more supportive when I do want/need his support.

    I really think our spouses and partners deserve a lot of credit because even if we are managing our diabetes well and taking care of it mostly ourselves, it still becomes part of their life, too. And something they rightfully probably worry about, just because they love us!

  3. StephenS

    My spouse is great, and I try to give her all the information I can, probably to the point of overkill. But even with the information overload, there are still times when she doesn’t get what I’m talking about. So while she’s very understanding with my diabetes, she still has trouble with the understanding of my diabetes, if you know what I mean.

  4. Cassie

    I’m a d wife and mom. My son was dx in August, my husband in December. I am the researcher, supporter, calculator, plus whatever else they need. No way I can ever know how they feel, but I am there every step of the way. In our favor on the relationship part, we have been married 22 years. My husband was misdiagnosed as a type 2 for several years. The lack of control during that time was honestly more stressful than it is now that his diagnosis is correct and he is finally feeling better.

  5. Mike Hoskins

    Thanks for writing this, Christel. I try to bring my wife into as much as possible in regards to my D-Life, and she can handle it all. But there are times when I just don’t. Because sometimes I get down, and I don’t want to bring that into her world on top of all the other regular life and relationship stresses. I know that I couldn’t do this without her, and so many of us are here because of those loved ones. One of the things I remember as a really good resource is the Just for Partners Program that Bill Polonsky and team over at the BDI started last year (think it was also Nicole Johnson’s handywork, too!). That site is: http://behavioraldiabetesinstitute.org/Just-For-Partners-Program.html. Anytime I see D-Spouse blogs or stories share, I really enjoy reading those and seeing their perspective on D-Life aspects.

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