Dating Tips for Teens With Diabetes
Good news: After 124 days of "serendipitously" bumping into your crush between classes, you have a date. Cue the hysteria.
Among the other very important issues you may be freaking out about—what to wear, which topics to talk about, when to kiss, and whether one more spritz of perfume or cologne will make you irresistible or a breathing hazard to anyone within a 5-mile radius—is the issue of your diabetes. Should you tell? And if so, how do you avoid the always awkward, "Nice ride. I have diabetes."
If your diabetes is common knowledge at school, your date may understand why you need to prick your finger before a meal. For those whose dates are clueless about their diabetes, read on for eight tips on spilling the beans and dating with diabetes.
1. Face the Fear
If the idea of revealing your diabetes makes you sweat more than the SATs, don't worry: You're not alone. "Being vulnerable and revealing parts of your life that are personal and serious and important can be scary," says Peggy Hasenauer, MS, RN, executive director of the University of Chicago Kovler Diabetes Center and head of the center's InTransit program for teens with diabetes. "It's really hard to share that with someone you're into."
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Maybe you're afraid your crush won't like you. Or maybe you're nervous he or she won't know anything about diabetes. Both are legitimate concerns, and you have a right to worry. But most of the time, the stress is for nothing. Your date isn't likely to care that you have diabetes. Chances are, you wouldn't even want to date a boy or girl who would judge someone based on health.
2. Don't Settle
Might someone stop liking you because of your diabetes? There's always the chance. As much as the rejection might hurt (and, let's be honest, any rejection hurts), you'll be saving yourself future heartbreak. "It can be painful when people don't really get it or support you," Hasenauer says. "We don't belong with people who aren't going to love us for who we are."
3. Have "The Talk"
So how do you reveal all? That's up to you. There's no rule that says you can't text or e-mail your date. There's also no guideline on exactly when to spill. You might see an opening during date No. 1, or you may want to wait three dates in before you explain.
Keep in mind, the longer you wait, the more awkward it'll be to mention. Plus, your boyfriend or girlfriend may be hurt that you didn't trust him or her with the information from the start. "If you are open and courageous and willing to share your story early on, chances are you're going to have a more successful relationship," Hasenauer says. "You should never be afraid to tell the person you are into who you are."
4. Avoid Eager Teacher Syndrome
Of course, none of this means you need to launch into a presentation on diabetes. "You can overeducate people so that ... they are overwhelmed," Hasenauer says.
You're familiar with the terms and steps that go into managing the disease, but your date may not know a thing. Launching into a lecture on the ins and outs of diabetes may make your date seem more like a pretest cram session than a fun, get-to-know-you game.
How do you know how much to tell? Your date will be your guide. Simply explaining that you have diabetes but manage it so you can live a normal life may be enough for a first date. Or maybe your date is interested and asks a lot of diabetes-related questions. That's OK, too.
Whatever you say, make sure your date gets to know about you, not just about your diabetes. "It's only part of who you are," Hasenauer says. "You may tell your boyfriend you have diabetes, but you also like to skydive and you went to Italy with your family over the summer."
5. Keep It Light
There's more than one way to overwhelm your date. What you say can scare someone unfamiliar with diabetes. That's why it's important to keep the discussion light. You can tell your date about potential complications of diabetes, but be sure to explain that they're not a given. With good management, you can drastically reduce your chances of complications.
6. Express Your Needs
Believe it or not, your crush is probably just as nervous as you are, especially after learning about your diabetes. Someone unfamiliar with the disease may stress about the right things to say, which questions to ask, and how to strike a balance between interested and prying.
Once you're in a relationship, put your boyfriend or girlfriend's mind at ease by voicing your preference on how involved he or she should be in your diabetes management. Is mentioning the number of carbs you're eating going too far—or is it helpful? Do you need a reminder to check your blood glucose before soccer practice—or is that annoying?
"Be straight up and give some thought on how you want your boyfriend or girlfriend to handle your diabetes," Hasenauer says. "They don't know what to do to support you, so you need to tell them."
7. Don't Slack
Yes, things are usually amazing and wonderful at the start of a relationship, but don't let that get in the way of your diabetes management. If you think avoiding your diabetes care will make you seem cooler, think again. "Not taking care of your diabetes can be more of a turnoff than having diabetes in general," Hasenauer says. "If you're not managing your diabetes now, is the person you're dating supposed to manage it? Get your act together."
8. Stand Up for Yourself
If you're over the age of 12, you've probably learned the perils of peer pressure in class or through personal experience. But there's a good chance you haven't learned the ways unhealthy activities can affect your diabetes control. Smoking will do more than destroy your lungs and make your clothes and hair reek. It'll up your risk for diabetes complications.
And do you think a few beers are no big deal? They're a pretty big deal if you consider the number of carbs in each and the fact that alcohol can make your blood glucose drop even 24 hours after you drink.
If your crush is pressuring you to do something you're not comfortable with or something that may harm your diabetes management, don't be afraid to say no. "Whatever choices you make to live a healthy lifestyle, anyone you date should be OK with it. Period. Regardless of diabetes," Hasenauer says.
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