Happily ever after… diabetes?
Couples who have been married or in a romantic relationship for a number of years have likely overcome some financial, family, or health issues. Diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2, may also pose a challenge in a relationship. Yes, some potential issues might arise, but these loving couples have figured out how to minimize the stress that may impact even the most supportive relationships.
(If you have concerns about emotional support for you or for a loved one, be sure to speak with your diabetes care team.)
Read more: Are you “married to diabetes”?
Marriage was not on Susanna Opper’s radar when, at a college reunion in 1990, she met her future spouse, Will Ryan, who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over 10 years earlier. But it was love at almost first sight: they were engaged 6 weeks later!
With regards to diabetes, Susanna said she learned to take her cues from Will. “I feel really educated about it because he’s so educated about it,” she said. “To me, he seems like a poster child for managing diabetes. He gives me things to read or sometimes I’ll ask him questions. Even though I’ve been living with him and his diabetes for all these years, there are still new questions.”
Offering diabetes support may be a delicate dance, according to Susanna. “It’s very tricky as the partner of somebody living with diabetes not to tell them what to do,” she said. “There are times when I have a strong opinion on something about managing diabetes and I know that he doesn’t want to hear my opinion. I will give it to him anyway.”
So how do they handle the moments of anger or stress?
“He will sometimes get angry with me,” Susanna admitted, “but a lot of times will do something about it. We’re pretty much a team on managing anything that is out of the ordinary for either one of us.”
And also: Finding joy in your diabetes journey
“I think the biggest thing I did was give her the space to figure it out for herself and what she wanted to do,” he said. “I’ve really tried to stay away from giving advice unless she asks for it. My support is more of being a sounding board. She wants to have a person to bounce an idea off of, to make sure her math is right for calculating carbs and insulin at a restaurant, for example. I’m not so great at math, but I try to support her in that way. I think I’ve really worked with her.”
Mike remembered a conversation that was a turning point for him. “Naomi told me one night she didn’t think I knew anything about type 1 diabetes,” he said. “I said, ‘I know something. I know a little about this.’ She said, ‘I don’t know if you do.’ It was a real clear message to me that I needed to learn more about type 1 diabetes. I thought, what is a way I can do that?”
It turned out be the primary purpose for starting his blog, My Wife has Diabetes. “I wanted to show Naomi that I am thinking about type 1 diabetes and holding myself accountable to learn about it.” On his blog, Mike chronicled his education efforts and fundraising for diabetes research through JDRF where he’d raised about $1,300.
Lori’s husband, Steve, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in May 2011 at the age of 48. “It came at us right out of the blue,” she said. “He had no clue. He had gone to the doctor for a routine exam, and they did some blood work. The blood work revealed that his A1C was 13 percent. When we got the call, we were both in shock.”
Now Lori says they take a team approach to caring for Steve’s health. “I told him we would do this together instead of me constantly harping at him about testing and what he’s eating. If he’s having a really bad day, I try to motivate him, and we try to figure out together what’s causing the high blood sugar and what adjustments he needs to make. I feel more like a coach to him.”
With this approach, Steve enrolled in a wellness program. “When we go to the grocery store, we go together,” Lori said. “We look at the food labels and compare products to see what the best food choices are for him. We’ve learned we can still enjoy some of the things we did before; we just have to learn how to manage it.”
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Disclosure: Will Ryan, Susanna Opper, Mike McDonnell, Naomi Chayter, and Lori and Steve Kuzma received no compensation for their interviews on Discuss Diabetes. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2016 The DX: The Diabetes Experience