Diabetes, Squared: When both partners have diabetes
Diabetes impacts our relationships in all dimensions — family, friends, significant others because seriously, how could it not? But how does diabetes impact a relationship when both people are living with diabetes?
We were able to reach out to two Podder couples (with active Instagram accounts,) willing to talk, (see what I did there), answer questions and share what it’s like living with diabetes, squared.
Diabetes as A Meet-Cute
Life with diabetes isn’t only filled with challenges — it’s also filled with opportunities. For engaged couple, Sara and Asher, collectively known as @theinsulintomypump on Instagram, diabetes was the topic of their very first conversation on July 4th, 2018.
We were both at an event on the beach and had met once before - this time, Asher wasn’t wearing a shirt and had a dog tag around his neck that read "diabetes T1".
Sara approached Asher and shared that she also had diabetes. Low and behold, Asher asked Sara out on a date a few weeks later.
When Diabetes Is Already Part of Your Relationship
For Michelle and Tyler, aka @inspiringthegirls on Instagram, diabetes also played a starring role in their connection, but it wasn’t something they had in common at the beginning of their relationship. That changed soon after the couple moved in together.
We met in college when a mutual friend called him to drive me to the hospital when my blood sugar and ketones were elevated due to expired insulin. He stayed with me until I was discharged the next day, so diabetes has always been a part of our relationship.
Tyler was diagnosed 4 months after we got married, we were moving into an apartment and I started noticing the symptoms of constant thirst and frequent urination. I took his sugar and it was over 400. He was diagnosed with T1D that day and it became an even bigger part of our lives and story.
Is It Helpful When Your Partner Also Lives With Diabetes?
Michelle & Tyler: Absolutely, it is nice to have an understanding of what each other is going through. When either of us experiences a high or low we understand exactly how the other feels. Plus, it’s nice to always have someone else there to lend you a test strip if you run out.
Sara & Asher: We find that having a partner with diabetes is very helpful. We understand each other's day-to-day experience in a way that another partner would not. This empathy deepens our connection to one another. It also adds kind of a fun dimension to our relationship, we created a joint "diabetes couple" Instagram account which is fun to do together, and has been fun to plan out matching Pod and Dexcom® placements :)
Diabetes Management Isn’t One Size Fits All
Diabetes isn’t a one size fits all disease, and diabetes management styles can differ. After all, what works for one person may not work for another. So, we asked the couples if weighing in on each other’s diabetes management choices is a “no-fly zone” in their relationship, or if they are actively involved in the other person’s diabetes management?
Michelle & Tyler: We are very involved in each other’s diabetes. We’re constantly checking in on each other if the Dexcom alerts us of a high or low and we even do our pump change outs the same day.
Sara & Asher: We aren't necessarily involved in each other’s "management," however we are fairly involved in a lot of the aspects of each other’s diabetes. We eat most meals together and as a result, discuss carb counts and pre-bolus lengths together. We share if we are high or low, especially if we are feeling frustrated or burnt out with a bad day of sugars, and often wake up with the other when we are having bad blood sugars in the middle of the night.
While we might sometimes make suggestions "hey, I would take another correction” or "maybe pre-bolus a little longer for that," we don't "tell" each other what to do or manage it for the other.
What has diabetes taught you when it comes to your relationship?
Michelle & Tyler: Diabetes has taught us that we need to be each other’s support. We need to support each other with typical couple things as well as being each other’s partner in diabetes and health.
Sara & Asher: Diabetes has and always will be a part of our relationship. We probably would have never connected in the way that we did if it wasn't for diabetes. We find that we were meant for each other in this way and that we both learn from one another in different ways when it comes to diabetes.
In Life And Life With Diabetes…. Patience Is A Virtue
Michelle and Tyler have advice for someone with no diabetes-related life experience starting a new relationship with someone living with T1D.
Michelle & Tyler: Have patience.. Diabetics live with all the same stress as everyone else plus the stresses of diabetes. Be observant, listen, and learn their symptoms. We each have our own unique symptoms when experiencing highs and lows - learning these symptoms can be a huge help to us and allows us to get the things we need to help fix the situation.
Like diabetes, relationships require communication; respect, patience, forgiveness, humor, the ability to pick your battles wisely, get back up when you fall and learn from your mistakes. These couples are proof that two partners “diabetes squaring it,” makes for a good match!