5 Tips for a Happier Marriage With Diabetes
After you bolus for your wedding cake, here’s what you need to know
It has been said that the first year of marriage is often the hardest. Learning to live as a pair and work as a team when diabetes is in the picture often requires some adjustments, even for the longest-term couples. Here are some expert tips:
1. Unite as a Team
After planning a wedding and celebrating the big day, then coming back down to Earth, you may find that you have neglected parts of your relationship. Starting off as a married couple means investing in togetherness—even when it comes to tackling diabetes. “We know from research looking at mismatched couples, where one has a disease and one doesn’t, if both have a mind frame that we’re in it together, they have better outcomes [and] marriage satisfaction,” says Tai Mendenhall, PhD, LMFT, who specializes in medical family therapy at the University of Minnesota. When one partner is removed from the other’s disease management, it can get in the way of a team approach and healthy relationship.
2. Be Aware of Care
Your partner should not be left in the dark about your diabetes management. Anne Safran Dalin, 63, of Hillsborough, New Jersey, has been married to her husband, Jim, for 41 years. She was diagnosed with prediabetes in 2005 and now manages her type 2 diabetes by following a healthy diet. “It’s up to the [person with diabetes] to educate their partner in the care of their health,” Dalin says, noting that Jim commits to eating healthy meals with her. “If a partner is willing to attend an educational program or [a] session with a diabetes counselor, that would be a huge step forward for the couple.”
3. Have Patience
Sarah Mart, 45, of Fort Collins, Colorado, has been living with type 1 diabetes since she was 7 years old. Her wife, Anne Kirven, doesn’t have diabetes, so her learning curve has been a bit steeper (the couple has been together since 1995 and married in 2015). “Life with diabetes, or a new life with a loved one with diabetes, is like learning a new language,” Mart says. “There are lots of new terms, new tools, different meanings, and jargon to learn. Anne read all kinds of things about diabetes, but that was only part of the story.” Talking about expectations for both partners, as well as any assumptions either might have, has helped the couple navigate life together.
4. Set Some Rules
Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE, a diabetes psychologist and founder of the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health, says that when he and his wife, Gayle, got together, they set ground rules for how they would manage his type 1 diabetes as a shared responsibility. When his wife thinks he’s low, she has permission to tell him to check his blood glucose, no questions asked, and Heyman will comply. But they also have boundaries: Heyman says there is a risk for the partner without diabetes to become the “diabetes police,” over-managing the spouse’s health—and likely frustrating both. Allow people with diabetes to make their own decisions about their diabetes management, Heyman says. “It’s important that the person without diabetes … be flexible and understanding.”
5. Safeguard Reproductive Health and Pleasure
Problems with blood glucose control can affect intimacy in the bedroom, too. Men with diabetes, especially those with poor glucose control, can develop erectile dysfunction. Women with diabetes who are trying to get pregnant should aim for excellent glucose control—an A1C as close to normal as possible—and should have their thyroid function tested before trying to conceive. (For more on pregnancy with diabetes, click here.) Women may face urinary tract infections, experience pain during intercourse, or require additional time to become aroused, says Janis Roszler, LMFT, RD, coauthor of the book Sex and Diabetes: For Him and For Her. “If your spouse begins to have sexual issues, don’t take them personally,” Roszler says. There are effective treatments. Talk to your health care provider about what may work for you and your spouse. And if one doesn’t work, try another. “Intimacy is a very important area of your life together,” says Roszler. “You don’t have to say farewell to it just because one or both of you have diabetes.”
Dating and Diabetes
Learn the ins and outs of dating with diabetes at diabetesforecast.org/datinganddiabetes.
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