3 Tips for Navigating Diabetes in Marriage

3 Tips for Navigating Diabetes in Marriage

In love and living with diabetes... it can be tough!

How much of your diabetes do you want to share with your significant other? What role should he/she play, if any?

My wife and I have been navigating type 1 diabetes (T1D) together for the past 6 years and we've learned so much. We're by no means perfect, but I thought it would be great to share our story and some of the tools that have worked for us.

An Early Crash Course

A couple of weeks after my wife and I started dating, we were talking on the phone when my blood sugar crashed. Trying to keep up my end of the conversation got increasingly difficult as my brain became more deprived of glucose.

At some point, I accepted that this wasn’t going to get any better on its own and I was able to piece together a sentence explaining that I would have to call her back.

She was thoroughly confused. When my coherence returned, I called her back and she got a crash course in diabetes. That was seven years ago.

Luckily she was, and is, very patient and we have been married for four and a half years.

As a psychologist who works with people who have diabetes, I hear a lot about the challenges diabetes brings to a relationship. And I know first-hand how hard it can be. 

Having a "third wheel" in my relationship hasn’t always been easy. But in a lot of ways, having to deal with diabetes together has been really beneficial to our relationship.

These are the 3 strategies that have helped the both of us navigate my diabetes, together. 

1. Low Blood Sugar Rules

Low blood sugars are by far the most difficult part of diabetes in our relationship. When it comes to low blood sugar, I can be stubborn and I’m certainly not immune from the “I’m fine” syndrome.

After a couple of scary lows, my wife and I agreed to some basic rules:

First, any time she thinks I’m low, she has full authority to tell me to check my blood sugar, and I will, without argument.

Second, any time she puts something in front of me to treat a low blood sugar, I will eat or drink it, no questions asked.

Agreeing ahead of time to do these two simple things has made my wife a lot more comfortable and has made navigating lows much easier for the both of us. 

2. Always Be Prepared

There have been countless times when, while we're out on date night for instnace, my blood sugar goes low and I have nothing to treat it. There's also that time on vacation when my pump broke and I didn’t have any Lantus, syringes, or any other backup insulin plan.

We’ve learned the hard way how important it is to be prepared with diabetes. I have made an effort to be better about keeping emergency supplies with me and my wife has started keeping extra supplies in her purse for me.

This team approach has worked well, both for my health and for the health of our relationship.

3. Patience, Patience, Patience

As hard as we try not to let it happen, diabetes still affects our relationship.

Dealing with diabetes in a relationship takes patience from both people. I am constantly amazed by how patient my wife is with me, but I have learned that for our relationship to work, I also have to be patient with myself, with diabetes, and with my wife.

I know that when I get frustrated and impatient with diabetes, I’m not all that fun to be around. Similarly, I’m not as kind as I could be with my wife when she is trying to help out.

I have to remind myself that she’s doing this because she loves me and wants the best for me.

A Little Creativity & A Lot of Hard Work

The first years of marriage are notoriously tough and the difficulty level definitely ramps up when diabetes is involved!

But with a little creativity and a lot of hard work, my wife and I have found that we can navigate not only diabetes, but all of our stressors much easier. 

As frustrating as it can be to always have a "third wheel" around, it's definitely helped us grow closer and understand each other better.

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Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE
Mar 23, 2019

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