A question we get asked all the time: Should I date someone if I have diabetes? or Should I date someone who has diabetes?
Take a look at these Diabetes & Relationship stats:
Relationships are tough in this day and age. With approximately 60 percent of all marriages ending in divorce, does diabetes stack the deck against you in a committed, long-term relationship?
When Dennis contacted The Diabetes Council last week, he was concerned that dating Susan with Type 1 diabetes may not a good idea. He didn’t know if he could handle her having a low blood sugar during their time together, and he worried that his own fear of needles would make him too squeamish to deal with the day-to-day aspects of diabetes care.
Dennis and Susan have only been out on three dates. Dennis enjoyed his time with Susan, and wanted to see if they could have a future together. However, it was at the end of the third date when Susan informed Dennis about her diabetes.
Dennis had been at a loss for words since finding out about Susan’s diagnosis. He was ashamed to say that he had not called her in three days.
So what kind of advice should we give Dennis? Although we may not be in the position to give him an answer as to whether or not he should date Susan, what kind of relationship advice might be helpful in this situation?
For starters, if Dennis wants to pursue a future relationship with Susan, he should ask himself just how much he cares about her, and whether or not he thinks that he is capable of supporting someone with diabetes through the long haul of life.
If the answer is yes, then a diagnosis of diabetes should not preclude Dennis from pursuing a relationship with Susan. If the answer is no, then Susan is better off without Dennis. As a person with diabetes, Susan will need someone who is capable of supporting her because she may need assistance with some things related to her diagnosis from time to time.
The other way around
We received another inquiry here at The Diabetes Council. This was interesting -it was from Susan. She said that Dennis said we had some good points, and recommended that she contact us. She wanted to know if she should date Dennis because she has diabetes and if so, how could they have a healthy relationship.
Susan sounded unsure if she should get into a relationship having Type 1 diabetes. She used words like, “burden,” and phrases like “it might be too much for him to handle.”
Obviously, the two of them have a lot of soul searching to do! But we are here to help. So what are some common relationship problems that could become an issue when one person has diabetes in a relationship and the other doesn’t? Let’s see if we can help Dennis and Susan think through their relationship woes.
Common problems and solutions in relationships with diabetes
Helicopter boyfriend or girlfriend
Much like the helicopter parent, a very common relationship problem is too much involvement with their beloved’s diabetes. At one end of the spectrum the helicopter boyfriend (or girlfriend) does just what a helicopter does. They hover.
“Have you checked your blood sugar this morning?” they ask, as you take your first bite of cereal.
“Yes, of course I did,” you reply. “I do every single morning when you ask me this exact same question,” you think sarcastically.
What might be a remedy for this particular situation? How about the following method of communication with one another:
“Yes, I checked my blood sugar. I do check my blood sugar every morning. I don’t really need a reminder for that, but I keep forgetting to rotate my injection sites. Can you remind me to do that?”
In this way, the person with diabetes lets their partner know what their exact needs are. There is no guessing.
The other person doesn’t feel like they are responsible for managing their loved one’s diabetes. The person with diabetes has already taken responsibility for their own self-management.
They have also let their partner know exactly what they need them to do in order to help them in managing their diabetes.
The partner feels that he or she is helping with their partner’s diabetes, but they do not feel an overwhelming need to take over the care of their loved one.
When a person with diabetes takes an active role in managing their diabetes, and are coping with their chronic condition, they make it easier to be cared for in a relationship. Primary care providers would serve a patient better by examining the dynamics of their relationships, and providing referrals and interventions that serve to nurture these relationships. The end result would be better self-management of diabetes where support is enhanced.
See one you-tuber with diabetes discuss this issue, more commonly referred to as the “diabetes police” here, http://www.diabeticconnect.com/diabetes-videos/general/185-my-life-as-a-pin-cushion-the-diabetes-police.
The Hands-off Harry or Hillary
At the polar opposite, is the Hands-off Harry or Hillary boyfriend or girlfriend. While the helicopter boyfriend or girlfriend hovers and becomes overbearing, the Hands-Off Harry or Hillary seems to be pretending that it’s business as usual.
This type of mate seems to be under the impression that their loved one doesn’t have diabetes. They may even be in denial. They may not understand the severe consequences that uncontrolled diabetes can have.
Whatever their reason for being completely hands off, these partners don’t offer much in the way of support. This is the spouse that brings home a pantry full of candy and treats, stocks the fridge with regular sodas, and doesn’t see any reason to attend diabetes education classes with their partner.
They may have the attitude that it’s your problem, and will not implicate themselves. They may even make you feel like a burden that they have to deal with. This is not helpful and is also hurtful to the person with diabetes that genuinely needs the care and support of their partner.
A solution to this is to let the person know of the level of involvement that you would like for them to have. As with many other situations in life, you cannot make the other person do what you want them to do. You can only ask, and hope that they will come around to supporting you.
If they still won’t support you in your efforts to live healthy with diabetes, then consider them just another life obstacle or barrier that you must figure out how to navigate around.
You can stock your own cabinet or pantry with snacks and foods that are more likely beneficial to you in managing your diabetes. Though it may be harder to avoid snacks that people who live right in the house with you bring in than it is to avoid that annoying co-worker that keeps putting a Krispy Kreme on your desk, it can still be done.
Sometimes family can be the worst, but take heart, you too can muster up the will power to let your husband or wife know that you don’t want that Little Debbie cake they keep shoving in your face.
Often, if you can get your significant other to come to a doctor’s appointment with you, then the primary care provider can explain various aspects of care for the person with diabetes to the partner.
The “I want to help, but she won’t let me” syndrome
You may have a significant other with either managed or unmanaged diabetes who just so happens to be an independent sort. This person doesn’t need your help. They just got a new pump, and they know how to use it. They are completely managing things on their own, or are they?
You, as their significant other, just don’t know. You have an uncertainty because you are not asked to be involved. They don’t tell you what their blood sugars are from day to day. They don’t ask for your help. They don’t even need you to go to the doctor with them. You don’t even know what their A1C has been lately.
Great that they are managing alone…or is it?
This happened recently to Isabel, who contacted The Diabetes Council. Her boyfriend, who used to need her help with managing his diabetes, had recently obtained a new pump. He was cell-phone savvy, and he had a new T-slim. He went to his Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) appointments by himself, even though Isabel offered to attend. He became extremely independent in the use of his pump. He rarely spoke to her of his diabetes anymore.
When she asked, Isabel was told everything was fine, and for her not to worry about his diabetes anymore. “I’ve got this,” her boyfriend would say. Unable to communicate about the status of her loved one’s diabetes, Isabel felt shut out.
She didn’t feel close to him anymore, even though she said that she felt better knowing he was now comfortable with his own care.
In this situation, open the lines of communication. Let your loved one know that you care about them, and it helps you to feel more connected to them when you know how they are doing with their diabetes. Tell them of your fears and worries, and ask them how you could be involved in their diabetes care. It may be something as simple as a reminder about an appointment, or to pack a healthy lunch for them to take to work.
Whatever the level of involvement that the person with diabetes chooses, their significant other should try to respect their wishes and offer assistance if needed. Otherwise, they should allow the person with diabetes to maintain whatever level of independence that they desire.
A happy medium
If you are fortunate, your spouse, friends and co-workers that surround you on a day-to-day basis are somewhere in the middle. A supportive friend or spouse will help you when you need it, and back off when you want to do things for yourself. They will support you by not offering you tempting foods, but also won’t become a “Di-a-boss” if you decide to have a dessert on your own occasionally.
Most people with diabetes express satisfaction with the level of involvement they receive from their significant other. In one focus group, a small percentage of people with diabetes reported an “increased emotional distance, sexual intimacy issues, and concerns about caring for young children in the face of the constant threat of low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia.”1
Issues with sexual intimacy
Both men and women with diabetes can have a decreased interest and responsiveness to sexual intimacy as a result of diabetes. Women tend to get vaginal dryness, and this makes for an uncomfortable sexual experience. Men tend to get erectile dysfunction.
The good news is that both problems are remedied best by self-managing diabetes and obtaining good control over it. There are also some good over-the-counter products for women with vaginal dryness, and some good medications on the market for erectile dysfunction.
Be sure to ask your doctor if you are experiencing these problems in your relationship.
Having a spouse or significant other who supports you in your diabetes serves to increase communication and intimacy, which can improve your sex life. For relationships, with diabetes or without, communication is the key. For more on communication in relationships, read our article: The Effects of Diabetes on Relationships.
Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Did I yell at you when my blood sugar was low?
It’s no joke when your blood sugars go low and you get a short fuse. You may hurt the feelings of your significant other, even though you do not mean to.
Confusion from your low blood sugar makes you agitated, and you snap at your loved one more than you would like to admit. The best way to combat this is to avoid a low blood sugar.
Check your blood sugars if you feel the slightest bit “off.” Always keep your carbohydrates with you to correct a low. Make sure that your partner knows about what to do if you do get a low blood sugar, and communicate that you might not be yourself, and could say something that you don’t mean. Explain that this is due to a low blood sugar, and not anything they have done.
Over to you
We invite our readers to add their input related to their experience with diabetes in relationships. Feel free to make comments in the comments section below.
My editor wanted me to do a chart about dating someone with diabetes vs. not dating someone with diabetes – pros and cons. And to that, I give him a big eyeroll, smiley face! I think he has a sense of humor to not edit this out!
If you really love someone, it is not a deciding factor as to whether or not they have diabetes or not. A little open communication about what to expect, how to deal with it, and what kinds of things you need help with, etc. can go a long way!
At any rate, if you are a positive person, you can make sunshine out of rain. Let’s look at some ways that are beneficial for dating someone with diabetes, as well as the downfalls.
Dating someone with diabetes VS. Not dating someone with diabetes
|You will eat healthier||You may worry about the future|
|You will exercise more||You may worry in the present (about low blood sugars)|
|Helping someone brings satisfaction||You may struggle with policing your loved one|
|Your loved one will help you if you need it||You may have intimacy issues related to diabetes|
|You will be with the one you love||You may have more financial worries due to the high cost of diabetes|
|If self-managed, they will live healthy||If not self-managed, they will have complications|
|If living healthy, they will not have mood swings||High or low blood sugars can cause more moodiness|