Engaged? Newly married? Congratulations! By now, you may have discovered that three of you were joined together at your recent ceremony – you, your spouse, and diabetes! While dating, diabetes care may have rested exclusively on the shoulders of the person living with it. For example, you may have chosen what to eat and decided how closely to monitor blood sugar levels alone, with no input from anyone else. Now that you are married, your spouse may want to play a role in your diabetes management because your health may make a difference in the life the two of you build together.
It can be comforting to have a spouse who cares about your health, but too much attention and monitoring, no matter how loving, may cross a line and cause stress in your relationship. In my experience, there are two great ways to help prevent this from happening. First, help your spouse become more informed about diabetes. Second, develop a communication style that helps you both share concerns in a productive, non-blaming way.
To help your spouse learn more about diabetes, invite him or her to join you at an appointment with a doctor or diabetes educator; in fact, I’ve met with many engaged or newly married couples. Our chats have covered a variety of topics, but the most important goal is to give both halves of the couple greater peace of mind. When you schedule your appointment, let the office know why you want to come, and that you would like some additional time with your healthcare provider. Another option is to take your spouse to a local diabetes education class. Many hospitals offer programs that are informative and worthwhile.
Here are some tips that may help both of you discuss diabetes-related concerns with one another in a productive way:
1. Make an appointment with your spouse. If you have something important to discuss, set up a mutually convenient time to talk with your partner. If you bring up a topic while he or she is watching a favorite television show or is in a hurry to go somewhere, the conversation is more likely to be frustrating and unproductive.
2. Use “I” statements. When either of you share a worry or concern, focus on how the issue makes you feel, not on what your partner does. Stay away from “you” statements that accuse and place blame. “You promised your doctor you would be active, but rarely are,” or “You have to stop reminding me to check my blood each morning,” or “You always eat the wrong things when we go out with friends.” “You” statements can be very hurtful and frequently start arguments. Instead, use “I” statements, such as: “I feel horrible whenever I nag you. Please tell me how I can help you stick to your exercise program,” and “I feel pressured when you tell me to check my blood every morning,” and “I get so upset when I see you eat something that’s not in your meal plan.”
“I” statements share how you feel about an issue. They may help you open up a productive dialogue that is more likely to lead to a compromise or positive change. This type of language may also help you grow as a team and weather more challenging problems should they arise.
Your first years together can be challenging as you learn to live with each other and with diabetes. I recommend learning all you can about diabetes and trying to share your concerns and questions with each other in a productive way. These tips will, hopefully, help you enjoy a more meaningful future together.
Janis Roszler, MSFT, RD, CDE*, LD/N is the American Association of Diabetes Educators 2008-09 Diabetes Educator of the Year. She is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and marriage and family therapist. Her books include Sex and Diabetes and The Secrets of Living and Loving with Diabetes. Roszler is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience