Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.
Expectations of family bliss can be tested to their very core when chronic illness is stirred into the pot.
As challenging as diabetes may be for you if you are diagnosed with it, you also have to consider your spouse because diabetes may just put your relationship to the ultimate test.
Expectations are high for your spouse. He or she may be responsible for juice delivery at 1 a.m., picking glucometer strips off the floor, preparing healthy home cooked meals, asking how your feel, and even locating lost diabetes equipment. Yes, your spouse is indispensable — and this is only the short list.
William Polonsky, PhD, CDE of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute in Diabetes Monitor states that “most spouses and partners receive very little instruction or guidance in the ways of practically supporting a loved one.”
Education is clearly an essential piece of the puzzle that shouldn’t be missed. It may be up to you to educate your spouse as much as you can about the particulars of the disease, but there is a fine line between helpful suggestions and overdoing it. Clearly communicating the essential information about the disease to your spouse becomes critical.
Identifying the sore spots
According to Diabetes Health: “The common thread that runs throughout each spouse's story seems to be one of sacrifice and service”; both of which are easily overlooked.
Mood swings can be a daily part of this disease as blood sugars fluctuate. This means you need to have a supportive and patient spouse that knows that diabetes can be a wild ride, especially if it’s not well managed. But you should also recognize the effort of your spouse and go out of your way to thank him or her for helping out.
A study in Diabetes Journals on both sexes living with type 1 diabetes found that their disease “had an impact on certain aspects of their marital life, at times leading to friction and causing a financial burden.”
In sickness and in health
Remember that you must both work as a couple to incorporate diabetes healthfully into daily living. The stress of managing diabetes may serve to pit couples against one another and can become the focal point and the final blow for an unstable marriage.
Remember that the burden of diabetes falls on everyone. Diabetes is a family disease – not one to be shoulder alone.
“Even when the marriage bonds are holding, there are many, many couples who are hurting; raw from emotion and the rigors…” according to Allergic Living; this holds true with foods allergies, special diets and other chronic diseases. Remember, many people living with Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are also living with other medical diagnoses such as depression, thyroid, celiac and cardiac disease."
• Don’t try to reason with your spouse when you know her or she has low blood sugar. Quiet support is best – it’s incredibly difficult to sort out input when you don’t have enough sugar bathing the brain.
• It’s important to remember that the person with diabetes is consumed by continuous pressure to be as perfect as possible; this is an exhausting process.
• Just as people aren’t perfect, diabetes isn’t either. Blaming someone for the precarious situation they’re in usually isn’t helpful.
• Be part of the equation — not just the ‘diabetes police,’ but a supportive and guiding partner. Seek couples counseling if needed.
• Get educated, go to support groups with or without your loved one, read, ask questions and understand diabetes as best you can – education is powerful.
• Join the Diabetes Online Community (DOC). Follow Diabetic Connect on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. There are many great resources online such as Joslin Diabetes Center; explore and get connected.
This all serves as an opportunity, albeit sometimes a challenging one. In the words of Karen Swallow Prior: “It was not the days of ease that made our marriage stronger and happier; it was working through the difficult parts.”