When Diabetes Affects Your Relationship

Managing your type 2 diabetes is a big part of your life. If you have a partner or a spouse, diabetes becomes a part of their life, too. Studies show that a supportive partner can help you better manage your disease. And as a bonus, teamwork can bring you closer as a couple.

How Diabetes Affects Your Partner

It’s obvious but bears saying: No one other than you is more touched by your diabetes than the person who lives with you. Your condition can take an emotional or physical toll on your partner or create conflicts.

It’s common for your partner to worry about:

  • Serious health complications, like blindness or amputations
  • How to help you control your diabetes day to day and to deal with any blood sugar emergencies
  • If you’ll be able to take care of your family and other responsibilities
  • Money and insurance coverage

If you don’t talk about these issues candidly, the stressors over time can put a wedge in your relationship. Here are ways you can strengthen your bond as you navigate your new normal.

Educate Your Partner

The better you understand your diabetes, the better you can manage it. Ditto for your partner. Both of you should learn about the danger of high and low blood sugar levels, insulin and other medications, the benefits of exercise, and the best diet to keep your blood sugar under control. Consider taking your partner along on your doctors’ appointments or to diabetes classes.

Know Your Roles

Every couple is different. You may be grateful if your partner checks that you’ve taken your insulin or suggests testing new diabetes-friendly recipes. Or you might chafe at those gestures as nagging and controlling. The key is to talk openly and clearly about how to work together so you’re as healthy as you can be.

Don’t assume your loved one will feel burdened by diabetes-related tasks. Also don’t expect them to be your caretaker around the clock. Ask them how they’d like to help. Be honest about what support you hope for, too. Clear expectations and boundaries will help you avoid the stress of not enough -- or too much -- support.

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Change Together

Managing your diabetes can take a lifestyle overhaul. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and lowering stress are important parts of your medical care. That might mean cooking more often at home or joining a gym. The changes can affect your partner’s daily routine in a big way. It’s hard to adopt and make new habits stick unless you tackle the challenges as a team. Look for new dishes you both might enjoy, and take up physical activities you can do together, like a 30-minute walk after dinner. You’ll both benefit.

Seek Outside Support

If you and your partner feel out of sync in managing your diabetes, couples counseling might help. Whether your diagnosis is new or you’ve had the condition for a while, a counselor can help you communicate better so your health becomes a shared goal.

You could also lean on diabetes support groups. They can help you feel less alone or different and offer advice and tips. Some groups cater to women or men. Others are for couples, families, or even specific ethnic groups. Ask your doctor or diabetes educator about groups near you.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on May 12, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Medscape: “Type 1 Diabetes Puts Strains on Marriage.”

Diabetes Care: “Personal and Relationship Challenges of Adults With Type 1 Diabetes.”

Diabetes Forecast: “5 Tips for a Happier Marriage With Diabetes.”

American Diabetes Association: “8 Tips for Caregivers.”

National Women's Health Resource Center: “Don't Let Diabetes Affect Your Relationship.”

Joslin Diabetes Center: “Finding the Right Diabetes Support Groups.”

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