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Loving a partner living with type 1 diabetes

The Riva View

We were already engaged when I said to my husband-to-be, “If you want to reconsider, I’ll understand. Marrying someone with diabetes will not be easy.” He wrapped his arms around me and said, “You’re with me now and I’m with you, and that’s all that matters.”

I have a loving husband. We were friends for a dozen years before we got married and weren’t spring chickens when we took the dive. He was forty-three and I was forty-eight. Of course Bou, short for Boudewijn, knew I was living with type 1 diabetes, but he didn’t know it in a close-up, personal, intimate, day-to-day sense. He was on a learning curve for the first few years of our marriage. Actually the learning continues still, so take heart. We’ll be married twelve years this October.

Certainly, there were faux pas along the way. Early in our marriage, Bou thought standing with me over my meter in the morning while waiting for my number to appear was being supportive. I didn’t. I was sure I was going to be embarrassed.

So I told Bou what he could do that would support me: point out new things he reads about diabetes, or listen to me when I’m having a “bad diabetes day.” Deciding to carry glucose tablets in his pockets when we go out for a walk was his own lovely idea.

A friend who was recently writing a diabetes article asked Bou for a quote about how we make our relationship work with type 1 diabetes in the mix. Bou wrote his quote, and then he kept writing. Perhaps some of his thoughts may help you if you have a partner with diabetes.

The Bou View

I have always accepted that diabetes is just a part of Riva, like the color of her eyes or her curly hair. While not a conscious act, I think acceptance is an act of loving someone. Since she lived most of her life without me and managed her diabetes well, I also had to stop myself from being overprotective. I had to let go and trust her abilities.

But I did want to know all I could about type 1 diabetes and how it affects her, so I read several books and articles and still often ask Riva – all great resources.

I also asked what I could do that would support her since I was clearly told hovering over her meter wasn’t it. Riva said if she wasn’t up by 7:20 in the morning to wake her up and bring her meter to her. Now I do that, and get to say that ‘love is throwing used test strips in the trash can!’

As a partner of someone living with diabetes, having things I can do makes me feel in some small way that I can help her manage it. When she’s going through a difficult time because her blood sugar levels aren’t cooperating, I know I can’t do much, but I can listen and give her a hug. Both are highly appreciated.

I’ve also had my scares. Like the time we were visiting friends and Riva had just swum in their pool. Lying on the bed, she began to shake and asked me very quietly to go downstairs and bring her a glass of juice. I ran down those stairs so fast I nearly broke my neck and ran back up them, gave her the glass, and, yes, hovered.

Sometimes when I would be away on business and call and hear the phone ring and ring and ring, or she didn’t answer an email, I would be terrified she was lying on the floor from a low. We’ve since agreed to communicate regularly throughout the day.

Riva’s diabetes has never gotten on my nerves, it’s just blended into our marriage like so many things. I’m proud of her discipline, that she checks her blood sugar as much as she does, anytime and anywhere and always wants to educate others.

She has taught me how to be protective and supportive without making her feel small. She has shown me what it’s like to live with diabetes, how to work so hard at managing it and still not be able to control the results, and just keep going. And all of that has only made me love her more.

Riva Greenberg’s instruction book for managing diabetes is Diabetes Do’s & How-To’s. She writes on The Huffington Post and blogs on her website, Greenberg is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributors, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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  1. David
    May 16th, 2013, 12:20 PM

    Bou & Riva, thank you for sharing your story. I have always found your relationship inspirational. You two have this wonderful blend of intelligence and emotional sophistication.

    Life throws waves of challenges up on the beach, but as you both show, love, listening and mutual respect provides a sturdy shelter.

    Bou, I will quibble briefly with “Riva’s diabetes has never gotten on my nerves.” That seems inconceivable that anyone can live with or next to diabetes without occasionally experiencing a heightening of emotions towards it. So… should I be marveling at your skill at managing those emotions or the absence of them?