Dating with Diabetes

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Cheryl Alkon

Dating can feel daunting when you live with diabetes. Hear about dating from others with diabetes, and learn what you can do to prepare for dates.

My now-husband David and I met at a friend’s birthday party where there was bowling and a lot of birthday cake.

Knowing I had diabetes, he was surprised by how much cake I ate at the party. I love cake, so I had calculated the carbs and increased my insulin pump dosing accordingly. That night, Dave couldn’t understand how a person with diabetes could be okay eating a lot of cake.

Couple

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He has since learned.

The next day we talked more about what diabetes is, how food and insulin dosing intertwine, and how ongoing diabetes management requires both a daily and a long-term focus. Later on, when things got more serious, Dave asked for, and I found him, a book that covered more detail: Eve Gehling’s The Family & Friends’ Guide to Diabetes. While the book is now outdated and doesn’t cover some current medications and technologies, the focus on support is universal.

Dating with diabetes, like any dating, relies on honest communication. Supportive actions – such as keeping glucagon or sources of sugar readily available, or sympathizing with you, rather than dismissing you, when you vent about a frustrating aspect of living with diabetes – can go a long way. Whether a person with diabetes is just beginning to date, has been at it for a while, or is returning to dating after a hiatus – no matter if they are looking for a serious relationship or not – a thoughtful approach can reduce the challenges of dating with diabetes.

To Tell or Not to Tell

It’s up to you to decide when to tell someone that you have diabetes. You might feel you want to keep it quiet on a first or second date, especially if you don’t know if you’ll see that person again. Or, you may decide to be more open about diabetes from the start – especially before something like an insulin dose or treating low or high glucose levels needs to happen during the date.

It’s important to be comfortable with your diabetes yourself first, because it can be hard to open up and share it with someone else,” said Lexi Rosendahl, 21, who attends nursing school in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Rosendahl, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 11, started dating Jordan Paulsen, 24, in October 2020, after meeting him on a dating app. She said she was nervous about disclosing her diabetes.

Couple

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“I was super up front about it, though some people said, ‘Don’t say anything right away,’ but I thought, ‘This is a part of me,’” she said. “If you are talking to someone, and they aren’t accepting or they make you feel bad, drop them. Don’t settle. Someone out there will love you for who you are.” This advice applies to anyone, with or without diabetes.

Rosendahl said Paulsen asked many questions on their first date, when they got ice cream.

“He said, ‘I want to know about this as much as possible,’” she said. “As a nursing student, I do a lot of educating, and I made a little chart he keeps on his fridge about what I look like if I am low. He is also good about throwing a bag of fruit snacks in his pocket in case I go low. I am pretty self-sufficient, but it’s nice to have someone who gets it. It’s really cool; I like to be independent but he is supportive but not smothering me.”

At the same time, many advise not overwhelming a new relationship with too many diabetes details. It’s a balance that can be tricky to strike.

“You don’t have to give a full dissertation on diabetes during your first date,” notes Stephanie Watson in an article for Healthline.com. Also, she writes, “be open about your condition but don’t dwell on it. Try to keep the conversation light. You don’t want to worry your date by talking about [long-term complications], especially if you’ve just met.”

Anyone who would be frightened away or otherwise dismissive of someone’s diabetes doesn’t deserve a moment of your time. If nothing else, someone who has a problem with your diabetes, cites inaccuracies or myths about it and isn’t open to learning why those myths are wrong, is sending indications that spending time with them will likely be more of a burden than bliss. Learning this makes it easier to move on to someone who will be so much better for you.

Ultimately, you already deal with the day-to-day aspects of diabetes. You want to be with someone who supports and promotes you during that journey – not someone who will make it harder.

Dating Logistics

Whether you’re having a date over a meal, an activity like hiking, or something low-key like watching a movie, plan ahead so you have what you need to keep your focus on the date, not on your diabetes.

Like anything else with diabetes, preparation is key.

  • If you are eating at a restaurant, look at the menu ahead of time to figure out what would be a good choice and what the carbohydrate count would be for that meal.
  • If you are drinking alcohol, know how alcohol affects your blood glucose numbers before the date. Sweet drinks will cause increases, while less-sweet drinks can cause your blood sugar to drop, especially if you aren’t eating at the same time.
  • If you take insulin, ensure you have a source of fast-acting carbohydrates on you (in a purse or pocket) so you can treat a low blood sugar early on, rather than needing to rush to find something to treat in the middle of your date.
  • If you’re planning an activity for the date, adjust your insulin if necessary to avoid low blood sugar, and eat a snack either ahead of time or carry one on the date to manage your glucose numbers.
  • If you use a glucose meter, take it with you and make sure you have enough strips, working batteries, and anything else you need to make it work correctly. If you use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), make sure the sensor is functioning properly.
  • If you wear an insulin pump make sure it is working properly before the date; fill the pump ahead of time if it’s almost time for a site change or the insulin is running low.
  • If you use syringes or insulin pens, make sure you have them handy so you can take your medication easily before a meal or in case the date is going well and continues longer than you anticipated.
  • If you wear an insulin pump and it malfunctions, carrying a syringe and a vial of fast-acting insulin in a glucose meter kit can help you have access to your insulin immediately, instead of needing to end the date.

Finding out a partner is flexible when things happen can be reassuring, said Rosendahl. “We were ice skating when my Dexcom CGM failed,” she said. “We had to run back home so I could change the sensor out, and Jordan said, ‘No judgment, whatever you need,’ It was a nice sign of unconditional love.”

Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes helped Liz Cambron identify some of the things she valued both in life and in a partner. Cambron, 29, who has a PhD in cellular and molecular biology and manages a research lab in State College, Pennsylvania, described herself as “a partier and drinker who ate a lot of fast food” before she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes seven years ago. After her diagnosis, she changed her eating patterns, drank far less alcohol, and began working out each day. She now runs in half marathons, lifts weights, and is a partner in an on-demand online exercise program.

“It helped me re-evaluate my priorities and what type of life I wanted to live,” she said. “If I was dating a person who ate a lot of junk food or was a heavy partier, if I took the drinking or the partying away, the relationship didn’t last long and there wasn’t a lot there.”

Couple

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She met her fiancé, James Kopco, four years ago when both attended a group counseling program for graduate students at North Dakota State University. “I would vent about frustrations about having to deal with low blood sugar events in the lab,” she said. As they began dating, they would keep each other accountable by eating healthy meals and exercising together. “Voice what your needs are,” she said. She offered other advice:

  • “Many first dates are going out for a meal or a drink, and if you say you can’t, the person will expect an explanation. There is stigma around type 2 diabetes – that people are overweight – and it can be a challenging first impression. But diabetes is not something to be embarrassed by. You are not a stereotype and don’t be embarrassed to have open communication.”
  • “Be open with your healthcare team about your medications and any side effects. A lot of medications can affect your libido and that can affect your relationship. If that is putting stress on your relationship, don’t feel like you’re stuck on that medication.”

Dating Another with Diabetes

Some people go looking to date another person with diabetes and some just find each other. Shanna Walker, 42, is a recruiter at her local fire department in Spotsylvania, Pennsylvania. She dated someone for about a year; they met through an online dating site and lived about 40 minutes from each other.

“As we were talking, I mentioned I was a diabetic, and he was like, ‘Me too!’” Walker has lived with type 1 diabetes since age 16, while her boyfriend was diagnosed with type 1.5 diabetes (also known as LADA) at age 35, six years ago. “It was very convenient, to be honest. We both had a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor, and we gave each other supplies. We know about highs and lows, so it was nice not to have someone freak out when an alarm went off. We would kid and show each other our numbers to see whose were ‘better.’”

There’s at least one Facebook group devoted to single people with type 1 diabetes: T1der. Launched in 2019, the group exists for people to “Meet other single type 1 diabetics, complain about the struggles of dating as a type 1, post memes and more.”

Couple

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The group was started by Nathan Elmen, 24, who met his girlfriend, Heather Chambers, soon after the group began when she commented on his photo in a group post. Besides diabetes, they share career goals: Elmen is a registered nurse and Chambers is enrolled in the nursing program that he graduated from. The couple lives together in West Melbourne, Florida.

Regardless of diabetes, dating should evolve naturally, Elmen says.

“My advice is to not force yourself into a relationship,” he said. “It can be like winning the Lotto sometimes, and you really just need to bump into the right person – that was how Heather and I met.”

Ultimately, diabetes is just one aspect about you, and when looking for a new relationship, it’s important to focus on all your positive traits. “Just be yourself,” said Walker. “Diabetes doesn’t define you.”

About Cheryl

Cheryl Alkon is a seasoned writer and the author of the book Balancing Pregnancy With Pre-Existing Diabetes: Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby. The book has been called “Hands down, the best book on type 1 diabetes and pregnancy, covering all the major issues that women with type 1 face. It provides excellent tips and secrets for achieving the best management” by Gary Scheiner, the author of Think Like A Pancreas. Since 2010, the book has helped countless women around the world conceive, grow and deliver healthy babies while also dealing with diabetes.

Cheryl covers diabetes and other health and medical topics for various print and online clients. She lives in Massachusetts with her family and holds an undergraduate degree from Brandeis University and a graduate degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

She has lived with type 1 diabetes for more than four decades, since being diagnosed in 1977 at age seven.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

When a Child’s Type 1 Diabetes Takes a Toll on Couple’s Relationship

This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.

By Bonnie O’Neil

“You have to fly home now!” was all I could say before bursting into uncontrollable sobs. “Austin has diabetes.”

My worst nightmare had come true — my 5-year-old son was just diagnosed with the same disease that claimed my brother’s life when he was eight years old and has afflicted my sister since she was sixteen. We had been in New Jersey that weekend celebrating my mother’s birthday when my suspicions began to mount, but I kept them to myself. On Sunday afternoon I drove our three children home to Connecticut, while my husband flew to Florida for a business trip.

By Monday afternoon I could contain my suspicions no longer. I purchased a urine test kit at the pharmacy and made the diagnosis myself, in the first-floor powder room of my Connecticut home. Urine testing for diabetes wasn’t new to me — because of my family history, I had done hundreds of tests over the years, both as a child and later, as an expectant mother.

The nurse shepherded my son and me into the pediatrician’s office while my other two children waited in the waiting room. She attempted to allay my fears with comforting words, but I knew. And the meter knew. We had entered a new reality.

“You caught it early, his blood sugar is only 387, no ketones, no need for hospitalization. Here’s the address of an endocrinologist, you have an appointment tomorrow.” The doctor’s words rang out in muffled tones, as if through a tunnel. No insulin? No hospitalization? The irregularity of what he was proposing didn’t feel right, but nothing felt right about this so I tried to suppress my fears for my son’s safety.

Returning Home

Once home, I settled the children and called my husband. Never before had I asked him to return from a business trip. Being strong was always important to me, but I knew I didn’t want to muscle through this alone. I barely slept that first night knowing my brother didn’t survive his T1D diagnosis. Pulling Austin into bed with me, I watched over him like a mama hawk until moonlight gave way to the break of dawn.

Austin and I saw the endocrinologist the following morning before my husband could get home from Florida. The doctor was a kind man who tried his best to assuage my worry and Austin’s fears about diabetes. Austin received his first shot of long-acting insulin and I found I could breathe again. We were to return two more times that week — with my husband — to check on Austin’s dosing and so we could be educated and trained. Austin still wasn’t given any fast-acting insulin, so we were told to keep his carbs to a minimum.

“The prescribing and monitoring of Austin’s fast-acting insulin will be up to his new doctor,” the endocrinologist told me.

Did I neglect to say that we were moving to Philadelphia less than a week after Austin’s diagnosis?

Two weeks after my son’s diagnosis, he finally received his first dose of Novolog. I had yet to learn about sliding scales and insulin-to-carb ratios, glucose tabs, and glucagon. It was time to play catch-up and learn all we should have been taught in those earliest days of diagnosis, when the world is still frozen in time and parents push pause to get themselves up to speed.

Graduation had come and we were caught not having gone to class.

Thankfully I at least had some familiarity with diabetes from my sister, but that’s not the same as managing it yourself. And so, I spent every day reading and researching, in hopes of better understanding my son’s disease. And my husband spent every day at the office.

I’m sure the doctors in Connecticut thought they were offering us a gift in not hospitalizing our son, but they unwittingly deprived us of the space to pause amidst the crisis and learn. With no real diabetes education under our belts, we eventually returned to our established routines — I took care of the children while my husband went off to work.

As we settled into that pattern, a certain asymmetry developed in our relationship that created a dissonance between us. The more I learned, the less qualified he felt to participate in our son’s care. And the less he learned, the less capable I felt he was to participate in managing our son’s diabetes.

Reset, Roles & Responsibilities, Respect

Even if offered the best diabetes education at the time of diagnosis, unhealthy patterns in the caregiving couple’s relationship can unintentionally be established very early on. It’s important to step back and take inventory from time to time to evaluate where we are and where we’d like to be. Often there’s a great chasm separating those two spaces.

To undo some of the unhealthy patterns we’ve fallen into requires us to take the time to reset our expectations. We begin by nurturing a relationship built on open communication so each partner feels safe in sharing what they’re observing. Setting aside time for occasional check-ins to see what might need resetting is the best way to change unhealthy patterns before they get too well established.

When we’re engaging in a reset conversation, we have to give an honest and open look at our respective roles and responsibilities. Some of these can’t easily be changed because of work or family constraints. Others have been artificially created if an asymmetry has developed in the relationship. Openly sharing our feelings of abandonment and judgment from our partner is critical to moving forward. One partner likely needs to be willing to accept help, while the other must be willing to participate more.

Above all, when seeking to reset our unhealthy patterns, offering respect to one another is paramount. Respect is the opposite of resentment. Resentment breeds in the gap between our expectation of our partner’s actions and the reality of how s/he chooses to act. We provide fertile soil for resentment to grow when we refuse to allow our partner’s responses to be different from our own. But, when we stop asking the question, who’s right and who’s wrong, we begin to operate out of respect.

Parents are the heart of any family. It’s worth spending a little extra time to take inventory and evaluate what might need a reset. And you may just rekindle a little love along the way!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

How to Speak Your Partner’s Love Language

You’ve probably heard of the five love languages before. They are based on Dr. Gary Chapman’s 1992 seminal book, “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.” The book outlines five of the best ways people can effectively communicate and bond with their mates for better relationships.

Chapman argues that all five love languages are enjoyed by all people to at least some degree, but every person has a primary love language and a secondary love language, that they feel the most loved when spoken to and communicated with in that way. People who read his book and take the profile test at the end can figure out their love language, but most people know theirs intuitively.

The most successful relationships, Dr. Chapman argues, are when both partners speak each other’s love languages fluently, and give and receive love according to their partner’s wants and needs. Remember, most people’s preferred love language (how they like to be treated) is also how they speak their own love language (the love language they use to treat their partner), but learning your spouse’s preferred love language and speaking to them that way is the best recipe for success.

Dr. Chapman is a world-renowned speaker, preacher and author whose works have touched millions of lives, and while living in quarantine it’s more important than ever to communicate effectively (and not want to kill) your spouse. So, what are the five love languages, and how do you speak your partner’s love language in quarantine? Read our suggestions, below!

Photo credit: Silviarita (Pixabay)

Words of Affirmation

If your love language is words of affirmation, you love communicating your feelings, sending and receiving text messages, and a handwritten love letter sends chills down your spine. If you or your partner’s love language is words of affirmation, we suggest:

  1. Leaving love post-it notes around the house with reasons why you love them
  2. Writing them a love letter and leaving it on their pillow to discover later that day
  3. Telling them one thing you appreciate about them every day
  4. Writing about your experience together during this time in a gratitude journal
  5. Sending them an extra “I love you!” text once in a while, even if you’re sitting across from each other every day working from home together

Quality Time

People whose love language is quality time love creating memories with those they care about. Quality time can mean playing a board game together, or baking brownies as a couple; sitting mindlessly together while you’re both on your phones, unfortunately, doesn’t count. Some ways to show love if your partner’s love language is quality time include:

  1. Baking a special brunch together once a week
  2. Dressing up together, setting a fancy dinner table, and having a romantic dinner at home (include candles!)
  3. Having a board game and/or puzzle night (no electronics or distractions!)
  4. Dusting off the bikes from the garage and go biking to a park (pack a picnic for a sweet surprise)
  5. Ordering several of their favorite wines and do a wine and cheese pairing event at home

Receiving Gifts

People who speak the love language of receiving gifts aren’t selfish, they love to both receive and give gifts. This need not be fancy or expensive gifts, but thoughtful intentions from the heart count the most. Some ideas to speak their love language during quarantine include:

  1. Creating a special “Quarantine Mix” on your Spotify of their favorite songs. Better yet, burn a CD for them to jam out to for a future drive!
  2. Ordering them a special treat when you do your weekly InstaCart order (mint chip ice cream, anyone?)
  3. Making them a special “Quarantine Care Package” for a spa night at home- think face masks, nail polish, bath bombs, a juicy novel, and maybe a delicious dark chocolate bar
  4. Donating to their favorite charity in their honor
  5. Taking a peek at their Amazon Wish List and ordering something they’ve been eyeing for a while

Acts of Service

If your love language is acts of service, you enjoy it when your spouse takes out the trash, but you also may show love by doing the same. Nothing says romance like a freshly cleaned house and groomed pet. Some ways to speak your spouse’s love language of acts of service include:

  1. Letting them sleep in and cooking breakfast/doing dishes for the children one morning
  2. Washing and vacuuming their car
  3. Tuning up their bike (oiling the chain, fresh air in the tires) and encouraging them to enjoy some alone time with a solo ride
  4. Taking over dish duty after dinner for a few nights per week
  5. Surprising them by tackling the ever-growing laundry pile

Physical Touch

If your spouse’s love language is physical touch, they feel most connected to you when you’re cuddling, snuggling, and generally in close proximity, especially but not limited to sharing moments of physical intimacy. Some ways to speak their love language include:

  1. Allowing for extra snuggle time by sleeping in together on the weekends
  2. Giving them a back massage
  3. Randomly approaching them and hugging them throughout the day
  4. Putting the kids to bed early one night and cuddling up on the couch together to watch a good movie
  5. Having a good ol’fashioned make out session

These pandemic times can be especially tough, but learning to speak your partner’s love language can make all the difference between growing and thriving as a couple during this time, and seriously getting on each other’s nerves. Have you found ways to better connect with your partner during this time? What strategies have worked for you as a couple? Share this post and share your stories below; we love to hear from our readers!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

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