Watch out for...The Look!

Entire family gets caught in cycle of diabetes guilt


Has a loved one ever given you "the look?" You know what I mean. That nasty glance that says, "You can't do that! You have diabetes!" Dave knows that look quite well:

"I love gooey, chocolate covered cookies. When I grab a handful from the pantry, I suddenly transform into agent 007 and sneak around to make sure that my wife, Susan, doesn't spot me eating them. If she sees me, watch out! I get ‘the look'- the horrible glance that says that I'm bad. After I've eaten them, I feel a ton of guilt, my blood sugar jumps, and I hate myself."

To help sort this out, I'd like to introduce you to a neat idea called "Circular Causality." A bit of a mouthful, but a terrific concept I recently learned in a Family Therapy course. In simple terms, circular causality means that no single person is to blame for a particular issue, but the way we react to one another keeps the problem alive. Dave and Susan both play important roles in their situation. Susan either disregards or is unaware of Dave's diabetes needs and buys the cookies. Dave eats them. Susan gets angry, Dave feels guilty, upset, and unwell. And this situation repeats itself over and over every time Dave acts in a way that is not appropriate for his diabetes.

If cycles like this happen in your home, try to identify the roles that you and your partner play. Once you have done this, explore ways to adjust your behaviors so that you break the cycle of blame and guilt. Dave needs to be in an environment that supports his efforts to stay healthy. Susan needs to understand the important role that she plays in Dave's health. Both need to learn more about diabetes. To do this, they can try the following:

Attend a diabetes class together to learn more about diabetes and the actions they can take to make their home healthier for Dave and the entire family.

Meet with a registered dietitian to learn how foods affect Dave's diabetes control and develop a list of diabetes-friendly items they can purchase for their home.

• Review the quizzes and discussion questions in the book The Secrets of Living and Loving with Diabetes that I wrote with top diabetes psychologist Bill Polonsky, PhD, CDE, and endocrinologist Dr. Steve Edelman. It offers great advice that can give them a better understanding of diabetes and help them find ways to reduce the level of stress that diabetes is bringing to their marriage.

• Schedule a session with a family therapist who will help them learn how to be there for one another and better communicate their needs.

Life with diabetes isn't easy. With just a little effort, you can change how you and your loved ones react to one another and make "the look" a thing of the past.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.


Last Modified Date: June 20, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

dLife Weekly Poll

Do you have all the doctors you need on your diabetes care team?

Sign up for FREE dLife Newsletters

dLife Membership is FREE! Get exclusive access, free recipes, newsletters, savings, and much more! FPO

You are subscribed!
You are subscribed!
You are subscribed!
487 Views 0 comments
by Lindsey Guerin
I am in desperate need of a nap. Between frequent bathroom trips and constant tossing and turning overnight, my sleep has dwindled. But what do you expect at almost 33 weeks pregnant? My whole body is tired these days though. Two weeks ago, a mix of severe lightheadedness and some weird blood pressure readings at home had my doctor send me to Labor & Delivery for a couple of hours of observation. My blood pressure was fine while at the hospital and I haven’t been checking as...

dLife's Sex & Intimacy Content is contributed & moderated by

Jamis Roszler
Janis Roszler

Janis Roszler, MSFT, RD, CDE, LD/N is the American Association of Diabetes Educators' 2008-2009 Diabetes Educator of the Year.  She is a certified diabetes educator, marriage and family therapist, and registered dietitian. Her books include Sex and Diabetes (ADA) Diabetes on your OWN Terms (Marlowe & Co) and The Secrets of Living and Loving with Diabetes (Surrey books).

Donna Rice
Donna Rice

Donna Rice MBA,RN,CDE,FAADE is the 2007 Past President of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. She is a registered nurse, diabetes educator and has developed numerous educational programs on sexual health and wellness.  She is the co-author of  Sex and Diabetes (ADA) and Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction - A Quick ‘n' Easy Handbook For the Diabetes Educator (Bella Vita).  Her newest publication is a children's book, The Magic is Me (Searchlight Press).

  • Watch dLifeTV online now!

    Click here for more info