5 Tips for Dating With Diabetes
Diabetes management can add an extra layer of anxiety to dating. Luckily, a little preparation goes a long way
1. Go at Your Own Pace.
When it comes to telling a date about your diabetes, timing is up to you. If you’re uncomfortable talking about your condition with someone you just met, that’s fine. Still, there are good reasons to share sooner rather than later. “When people wait too long, then it becomes this secret they’ve held,” says Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE, director of the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health in Solana Beach, California. “You’re thinking about how to keep this secret instead of focusing on getting to know the person in front of you.”
2. Plan Ahead
Choosing a suitable activity can make all the difference on a first date, especially when you have diabetes. A meal is always an option, but if you’d like to avoid explaining insulin injections, skip the restaurant and go to a movie or a museum. If dinner is still in the cards, look up the menu online ahead of time to help with carb counting and meal planning. And bring along any supplies you would ordinarily carry when leaving the house, including your meter, medication, and fast-acting glucose. A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) can be particularly helpful in the dating game; with a quick glance, you can see what your glucose is doing at any given time, taking the stress off you and keeping your focus on your date.
No matter the activity, keep in mind that those first-date jitters you’re feeling could cause your blood glucose to rise. “If you’re really anxious about a first date, think about what that’s going to do to your blood sugar, too,” says Deborah Butler, MSW, LICSW, CDE, associate director of pediatric programs at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.
3. Keep It Casual.
There’s no right or wrong way to tell a date about your diabetes. Go with what’s most comfortable for you; it’ll put both of you at ease. “The nonchalant approach is always the most effective one,” says William Polonsky, PhD, CDE, president of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute in San Diego. “Someone told me the other day that the last time she was on a date, she just whipped out her insulin pen at dinner and said, ‘I told you I have diabetes, right?’ ” If that approach sounds too bold for you, Polonsky suggests offering a calm explanation as you quickly check your blood glucose.
4. Talk About Sex.
Diabetes can feel like an intruder in bed (after all, two’s company; three’s a crowd), but it doesn’t have to. “Technology has come a long way. There are [tubeless] pumps and devices that don’t require a lot of wires or gadgets,” says Leila Khan, MD, an endocrinologist with the Cleveland Clinic. “During intimate moments, you can remove your devices.” You can do it discreetly in the bathroom, if you prefer, but don’t forget to reattach your devices before falling asleep. Keep glucose tablets nearby in case you go low. And no matter what, use protection. Unplanned pregnancies can be dangerous for women with diabetes.
5. Communicate Your Needs.
Let’s say things have progressed and you find yourself in a full-fledged relationship. This is an exciting stage, but it may also introduce new challenges for diabetes management. A well-meaning significant other may try to micromanage your diet and lifestyle choices, so it’s important to communicate your needs. “The person with diabetes has to be specific about what’s helpful and what’s not,” Butler says. “And that can change over time.” Stress that it’s your diabetes and that you’ve learned to manage it.
Don’t want your significant other asking whether you did a blood glucose check before lunch or helping you calculate an insulin dose? Say so. If the person you’re dating still seems concerned, address questions about food or alcohol in a matter-of-fact way. And remember, your partner means well, so try and take a calm, nonconfrontational approach.
Likewise, it’s important to explain what you do need help with. If, for instance, you sometimes miss the symptoms of low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), let your significant other know that you’re OK with him or her pointing out times when you may be going low. If you’ve been dating for long enough, you may also want to share your CGM data via a smartphone app.
On the flip side, anybody who knowingly tempts you into unhealthy choices can be a big problem. Set some ground rules early on. “You don’t want to be with someone who’s not supportive,” Butler says.