Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist, patient advocate, and writer who specializes in helping clients—as well as their family members and professional caregivers—deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

The road can feel pretty lonely when you don’t have that one special person walking along beside you. I can’t even count the number of times in an average week that a client tells me how much they want to be in love, and I often read posts from members here on Diabetic Connect who feel sad about being alone and lament how hard it is to meet someone to have a life with.

Let’s face it, whether you’re in your 20s and maybe just starting to look for a life partner or you’re further along in life, it’s not easy to find the right person.

Finding a relationship begins with working on yourself

Living with diabetes can add an extra wrinkle to the process of connecting with people who might have dating potential. Needing to eat different food to stay compliant with your diet, or to break away to check your blood sugar. Maybe having your numbers go too high or too low and explaining why you aren’t feeling well.

The simple truth is that diabetes affects the people in your life. It requires that they be patient, compassionate, and willing to make some accommodations. Not everybody you meet is going to be willing to step up to the plate. As a result, you may be feeling a little hesitant to take the risk of meeting new people. And if you’ve had a few disappointments along the way, you might also be wondering if having a partner is even in your future.

In my experience, when you are living with a chronic condition like diabetes, getting connected with the right person is an inside job. By that, I mean it starts with working on your own attitude toward dating and having a relationship. The important work you do on yourself is a whole lot more important than the dating tips you might be reading about, or your well-meaning friends may be passing on to you.

To have a healthy relationship, it’s important to be comfortable with yourself and confident in your ability to meet your own needs. Even to be able to face the future on your own and not only be okay with that, but to feel like you have a quality life even if that means being single. After all, we all have to be able to make ourselves happy first. Nobody else can do that for us.

So with that in mind, here are some ideas to consider:

Build a strong friendship network. We need people in our life who care about us and whom we care about, to be with during the good times and the hard times. Friendships help you to maintain a solid foundation. When your foundation is solid, you are in a better position to be open to a relationship because it will enhance your life, and not out of neediness or desperation to have someone to make you feel complete. After all, you’re already complete.

Build yourself up. If you are caught up in reminding yourself how unlovable you are, then your dating life will be all about proving to yourself that you’re right. Stop labeling yourself. Especially with labels you don’t want – or need – to live up to. Sure, being diabetic presents some challenges. But you are the same lovable and caring person you have always been. You are not your diagnosis.

Take your eye off the ball. By focusing too hard on something, we can end up getting in our own way, and sending other people running for the hills. Instead of making finding a life partner your mission in life, make it your mission to have a quality life. Quality in all areas of your life. Right now and not sometime in the future (like when you have a partner).

Just be your best you. Because you is what you got. Your interests, your talents, your unique personality, your compassion for others. Let your light shine! By the way, when you’re happy with your life, and living it on your own terms, you are more attractive to others. Who isn’t attracted to confidence?

Make it fun. Finding a partner is a numbers game. You just have to keep putting yourself out there in the world. Make it about getting to know someone new. Share a smile and few friendly words, and make the day a little more enjoyable. If you’re able to accomplish that much, then that’s a lot. Take the pressure off yourself, and let go of expectations for other people.

Be happy with yourself! You’ll be that much more able to make someone else happy.

More from Dr. Gary:

Feeling Lost? How to Find Your Way Back
Having Fun Yet? Seven Steps toward Bringing More Fun into Your Life
Depression? Or Diabetes Distress? Here's Why It Matters and What You Can Do!