For the first time in eight years of marriage, Nancy was speechless. That morning, her husband had begged her to stop losing weight. At 5'3 and 240 pounds, Nancy always wanted to be thinner, but it took a recent diagnosis of type 2 diabetes to motivate her to succeed. She was already down 17 pounds and felt energized, happy, and motivated. The rest of her family cheered her on. How could her husband make such a request? Why couldn't he be proud of her like everyone else?
Mike was scared. He wanted his wife to be healthy, but couldn't handle the changes that he saw in her. She was getting thinner, which was a good thing, but she was also becoming much more assertive and wouldn't talk about anything other than diabetes. On top of that, the more that everyone praised and encouraged the "new and improved Nancy," the more uncomfortable he became. The entire thing was getting to him. He couldn't handle it any longer. This new Nancy was overwhelming. He missed the meek, cuddly Nancy who put his needs first…always. Their relationship was now stressed and he was not pleased.
Fortunately, Mike shared his concerns with Nancy and they decided to explore ways to improve the situation. They tried the following:
— They set a weekly "date night." Many experts recommend that couples schedule a regular time to connect with each other. It helps keep the excitement and fun in the relationship. There would be no talk of meal plans, exercise, or blood sugar results. Instead, they discussed a variety of different topics and had a terrific time. Their recent outing boosted Mike's confidence in their relationship significantly.
— They discussed ways to support each other. Their marriage had been a traditional one with Nancy as the main caretaker of Mike's needs. Now she needed him, which was a foreign role for him. Instead of making vague requests, such as asking him to "be there for her," Nancy began to clearly state what she wanted from Mike. That afternoon, she asked him to keep the children busy for 25 minutes so she could complete her treadmill workout. Mike happily obliged.
— Nancy agreed to find additional support options. Nancy still shares diabetes concerns with Mike, but found others to connect with also. She now attends a diabetes support group at her local hospital and interacts with participants on an Internet diabetes message board. Her talks with Mike about diabetes continue to be meaningful and her new friendships offer her a great outlet for even more discussion.
Those we love don't always react to our diabetes the way that we hope they will. Some rise to the occasion and surpass our expectations, and others fall short. If your needs are not met, open up the discussion and see what changes can be made. Seek additional support, if available. Diabetes is an unwelcome guest in any relationship. Help your loved ones learn to live with the change.
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
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Janis Roszler MSFT, RD, CDE, LDN
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 MSW, BSN, RN, CDE
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).