Expert Blog Compelling advice, stories, and thought-provoking perspectives straight from YourTango's lineup of Experts to you

OK, So Diabetes Changed Your Happily Ever After—​You Still Get One!

Photo: WeHeartIt
Couples Counselor: Diabetes Affects Both Of Us
Love, Heartbreak

Diabetes doesn't have to be the villain and you can still have your Knight ... with a little work.

One night I had a conversation with a good friend who inquired about referring someone to my educational and therapeutic services. She was telling me about a situation that happened to an acquaintance's husband. As she talked and I listened, my analytical mind couldn't ignore the obvious issue in front of me.

I would not only need to work with the person's husband on self-care and self-protection, but I would need to see them as couple, as well.

But, this is what was obvious: it's not just the husband who is struggling with diabetes. They are both struggling with it.

The husband received his diagnosis of juvenile diabetes in his teens. He's now in his 40s and struggling with controlling his diabetes. This is a fairly common scenario for my clients. The wife has her own issues about the diabetic conditions affecting their relationship and safety, just as the husband has his own self-care management issues.

More specifically, he's having his own challenges with accepting his diabetes and getting it under better control. While, she's struggling with accepting that he has a chronic illness that requires 24/7 observation. It's obvious that she loves him and cares about him, but she is at a loss for the proper steps to effectively support him.

Most people with diabetes reading this would agree that accepting diabetes is a tough thing in itself — no matter how long you've lived with it. It's even harder to live with if you're in denial or afraid of change.

The fact is, diabetes requires a constant changing of plans and lifestyle, sometimes from day-to-day, or even moment-to-moment.

Diabetes also affects more than just the person with it. It affects everyone around those who have been diagnosed.

In this particular case, the husband had a severe low blood sugar reaction that led to a seizure and him needing an emergency hospitalization. I listened further to the wife’s reaction and the husband’s subsequent feelings about going into the hospital.

She felt frustrated with him because, once he came home, it seemed as though the episode was over for him. For her, the episode had left a massive wake of worry, panic, and disruption of the lives of those around him — his struggle with controlling his diabetes, disrupted and affected everyone in their family.

Unfortunately, the elephant in the room is in full effect here, because it's never over for the person with diabetes after a severe reaction. Most people living with diabetes sit in silent shame and guilt feeling as if they should have prevented the reaction. They feel deep sorrow for those they impact. It's unfortunate and often difficult to verbalize the feelings they have with the ones they love.

Now, because she cares so much, she is also understandably frightened by this recent incident. It has now gotten to the point where this wife wakes up her husband in the middle of the night to test his blood sugar levels and make sure he's okay.

This, unfortunately, is not that uncommon between significant others who share their relationship with diabetes.

In most relationships, husbands and wives care deeply about the health and safety of one another. After all, don't you watch your husband or wife every time they take a shower to make sure they don't fall? OK, maybe not every time, but if you hear a weird noise don't you go running to see if they're OK?

When someone who is living with diabetes is involved in a relationship, the focus can become the diabetes. Diabetic's behavior and mood are often impacted as a result of the disease. At times, things can get very intense between the couple. This same behavior can also affect the entire family, close friends, and even co-workers.

Low, fluctuating, and high blood sugars are not intentional — they're more akin to stubbing your toe on the corner of a table — an accident! They are the result of an uncontrollable variable that the person with diabetes didn't see, causing sugars to reach one level or another, and get out of control.

Every day, every moment, every second is different than the last. The individual with diabetes never knows when it may happen, just like stubbing your toe. You do your best to control it, but it still happens.

Low, fluctuating, and high blood sugars are part of even a very stable and well-controlled life with diabetes. They're part of the package and come with the person you love.

All the sudden visits to the hospitals, feeling ill often, and turning around because they forgot to bring the shot/meter/Glucophage injection, the depression from the highs, the distracted moments of the lows and a lot more B.S. than you could ever imagine. If they could, you, your husband, wife, best friend, or co-worker would make the diabetes all just go away.

So you have a choice ... you can let the diabetes destroy a perfectly good and loving relationship, or you can get help.

You can accept the diabetes with patience or fight the reality that your husband or wife, best friend or co-worker — your "person" — is living with diabetes. Plans will always be subject to change. This fight will cause continued frustration and anger. If you fight the reality, diabetes will become the elephant in the room and you both wind up losing.

For right now, let me offer a pointer and a simple change that may seem very difficult for many people. It takes a lot of practice to do, but it can make a world of difference. 

When something happens to someone you care about that has diabetes, that may also change your plans. Whether it's a sudden trip to the hospital or just taking a few moments to sit on a bench, while your friend or significant other tests his/her blood sugar. Don't get frustrated. Be patient.

This stuff happens all the time. No matter how in control of your blood sugar you are or your significant other is, these things will happen and they'll continue to happen.

My advice is to learn to go with the flow, accept change, enjoy life and each other — live in the here and now.

If you're having trouble taking heed to the advice or if you're thinking to yourself, "easier said than done, Eliot" ... ask for (professional) help.  

If you are having a seizure every month. If you are struggling quietly with the management of your own diabetes. Please go see someone who can help you figure it out — a psychotherapist specializing in diabetes, a Certified Diabetes Educator, or your endocrinologist.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.


Explore YourTango