Who hasn’t yet heard of the Girl’s Guide to Diabetes? It’s a longstanding resource for all of us super-sweet females living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), run by sisters Sysy (Morales) Munoz and Ana Morales. Sysy is a diabetes advocate, wife and mother of twins, and a freelance writer.
DiabetesMine is delighted to feature her take on a woman’s view of good diabetes support.
By having twins as a type 1 diabetic two months before my husband and I even celebrated our first wedding anniversary, I was able to discover early on that I had a guy who would be respectful and loving no matter how tough life got. I am very lucky. This doesn’t mean I didn’t have to constantly communicate with him about my diabetes, however. I couldn’t just expect him to be insightful about my feelings regarding aspects of my diabetes without any explanation… Why the man has never even had a headache!
Aside from thinking over my own relationship over the years, I often got a lot of emails from (mostly) guys wanting information about “dating a diabetic girl.” If you happen to be one of these people, or you’re already in a relationship with a woman with diabetes, this post is for you!
Ladies, definitely post any additions or different opinions you have in the comments section. We’re all unique, and I would expect some of this to vary.
For anyone in a relationship with a girl who has diabetes, here are 10 things we want you to know:
1. Pay attention. Recognize that your girl might be very emotional about her illness. Sometimes she needs you to listen to her rant. Let her. Most likely she doesn’t need you to solve a problem. The thing I loved most about my husband while we dated was his willingness to listen. Now, if you have to force yourself to listen and couldn’t be more uninterested, ask yourself why. Don’t waste a girl’s time.
2. Be the voice of reason. Diabetes often makes us girls paranoid that ANY physical ailment is somehow caused by our diabetes. Don’t tell us we are paranoid or try to “reason” with us. Help us find out the truth by suggesting we call the doctor so we can rest easy.
3. Believe in us. In case you were wondering… diabetic women are able to have perfectly healthy babies, rock climb, swim in the ocean, get a doctorate, travel, and stay very healthy. Understand that what you’ve heard in the past about diabetes is often outdated and inaccurate information.
4. Be reassuring. Your diabetic girl MUST absolutely take good care of her blood sugars. This is required to stay healthy. Your support in this matter is CRUCIAL because you mean a lot to her. Encourage her to check her sugar anytime she feels she should. If she is hesitant on testing in front of you, reassure her by saying that you want her to do what she needs to do to be well and that you don’t mind her testing in front of you. Ever. If you notice that she seems “off,” don’t tell her that she must be high or low. Instead, ask how she is feeling.
5. Stay cool. Never get mad over any incident where her diabetes might seem to be an inconvenience. It’s heartbreaking when this happens. Instead, support her diabetes management and her feelings about it. It’s OK if you feel overwhelmed by her diabetes, but do your best to communicate this without making her feel personally rejected. She doesn’t need any more reasons to feel bad about having diabetes.
6. Stand ready to help. If she says her blood sugar is low, ask her what you can do to help. If she asks you to retrieve juice or glucose tablets for her, do not stall. This is not the time to say, “I will in a minute, Honey.” Lows are emergencies. That said, don’t treat her like a baby. After a few minutes in most cases, her blood sugar will be back up, and she will be herself again.
7. See all of her. She wants you to know she is strong and capable despite the fact that she will have moments of desperation, weakness, and sorrow. Be a shoulder to lean on and an ear she can trust, but also take note of and admire her efforts and persistence in managing her diabetes.
8. Ask questions (respectfully). If you have questions about her diabetes or how it affects her body and thoughts, do ask. You can gain insight from websites like this one, but your diabetic girl has a mind of her own, and the only way to truly answer your questions is to ask HER. Personally, I’m extremely cheery when my husband asks me about my diabetes. It means he is interested and cares about me. Yet, I’m sure other women are different, so ask.
9. Learn! At the beginning of my relationship with my husband, he said this: “If I had diabetes, I’d always keep my blood sugars under control.” I half laughed and half gave him the evil eye. I looked him square in the eyes and said firmly and politely, “Don’t you ever say that again to me or any other diabetic.” Then, I asked him why he felt that way. He explained that after seeing me suffer the highs and lows, he realized how painful they were and that he couldn’t imagine dealing with all that, so if he had diabetes, he would simply avoid the roller coaster. Ahh. I saw this was a simple matter of ignorance. It took the next few months to educate him all about the tiny details and factors involved in diabetes management. I would spend all day with him on the weekends, and he would see what I would eat, how I’d test, count carbs, dose insulin, and still deal with some ups and downs. It was enlightening for him. He finally understood that keeping perfectly steady glucose levels is not always a matter of choice. And now he rights others who once thought as he did. It’s an understandable thing, ignorance. If you’re a man dating a girl with diabetes or married to one, recognize that you are probably ignorant about diabetes because you don’t have it. That’s OK, but now is the time to learn a few things.
10. Share compliments. I always feel like my diabetes messes with my “looks,” and as trivial as that is, the feeling is real. I also feel wimpy on days when my diabetes beats me up. I suspect I’m not the only one. When you think to yourself, “Wow, she looks pretty today” or “The way she deals with her diabetes is amazing,” then for the love of God say it out loud! We’d love to hear it.
A list after our own hearts, Sysy — thank you! Plus we’re betting a lot of these support tips work just as well vice versa, for women supporting their diabetic partners.
[For further advice, see also DiabetesMine’s 10 Curious Things People Think They Know About Diabetes.]