When discussing what to make for dinner one night, my boyfriend asked me whether or not I wanted any carbs with our meal.
This might sound insignificant, but to me, it meant a lot because it showed that he was thinking about me and my diabetes. He knew that our planned meal of salmon with salad was very low carb, and that my blood sugars and I tend to do better in the evenings with at least some amount of carbohydrates at dinnertime. This was his way of acknowledging that, and it made me feel loved – just as it does every time he does something with my diabetes in mind.
Whether he’s buying me a giant bag of smarties (because they taste so much better than regular old glucose tabs) or experimenting with low carb versions of my favorite cocktails (he sought out sugar-free simple syrup at the grocery store recently, just for me), my partner is constantly proving to me that he cares about me and my diabetes – and it’s not just through these small acts. From day one, he asked me thoughtful questions about life with diabetes so he could learn about it and understand how he might be able to help me in certain situations. His genuine curiosity was simultaneously endearing and genuinely appreciated, and every day since then he goes above and beyond to keep me and my diabetes top of mind. I’m a lucky lady.
In recognition of that, I also realize that there are people who aren’t as fortunate and might be in a relationship with someone who just doesn’t get it – or is trying to, and might be missing the mark. (In my past experiences, rest assured that I can identify with that.) So I thought it could be useful to list some of the ways that someone can support their loved one with diabetes, based on what has (and hasn’t) worked for me:
- Ask questions. Not sure what exactly life with diabetes is like and how someone with diabetes might have different needs? That’s okay! That’s why I encourage my partner – or anyone new that enters my life – to ask me questions about diabetes, even if they think the question is silly. In my opinion, asking questions is a great way to drive conversation about diabetes, dispel any stigma, and get on the same page faster about the ways diabetes may or may not affect a relationship.
- Avoid judgement. I totally get it – it can be difficult to resist the temptation to judge a person with diabetes when their blood sugar is frequently crashing at a particular time of day, or when they don’t realize that their PDM battery is about to run out on vacation in an unfamiliar city, which will leave them unable to take anything other than basal insulin. Both of these things have happened to me and my partner and instead of him scolding me for letting my blood sugar go low or neglecting to charge my PDM, he’s brought me juice boxes and scoured aforementioned unfamiliar city for a charger that was compatible with my PDM so we wouldn’t have waste hours of our time going back to our Airbnb for my charger to get it back up and running. Take it from me…life with diabetes is tough enough without judgement. With it, diabetes burnout is just that much more likely to happen, as well as feelings of resentment and disconnection. Nobody wants that, which is why I recommend staying as non-judgmental as possible.
- Attend appointments. This is one way of helping a partner understand the time and energy that goes into managing diabetes. All it takes is asking a partner to go to a single appointment so they get a general understanding of what endocrinologists, certified diabetes care and education specialists, dietitians, and other members of a PWD’s healthcare team are looking for in terms of diabetes management. Plus, it could help partners who are more left-brained (logical, analytical, and scientific) understand the medical side of diabetes a little better.
- Check out the diabetes online community. This could mean looking at different hashtags across social media platforms like Instagram or Twitter, following prominent PWD’s accounts, or reading Reddit threads – really, any type of research can be done about diabetes and the community online, and no matter where it’s done it can absolutely contribute to a partner’s understanding of diabetes. I know my boyfriend has perused multiple Reddit threads when helping me troubleshoot problems or get feedback from other people with diabetes. It’s nice to know that we can both get support from online communities.
- Offer support – in all kinds of forms. To me, support is more than just a shoulder to cry on when experiencing a tough diabetes day. It’s the little gestures that my partner often makes, such as stocking up on extra low supplies, waking up in the middle of the night to check on me when my blood sugar is low, checking carbohydrate counts of foods we buy at the grocery store, and so much more. This level of support helps me feel less alone when it comes to managing my diabetes – while I’m in the driver seat when it comes to my diabetes, he’s definitely up front with me in the passenger seat making the whole ride easier.