It may be a bit cliché, but if there’s one thing the movie “The Holiday” has taught us about Christmas, it’s that everybody loves love this time of year. Love is warm, it’s fuzzy, it’s fun, it’s challenging, and it’s intrinsically special to all of us. Whether we are currently in love with a person, city, TSwiz’s 1989 album, Netflix, or our Sushi delivery guy…it’s very real all the same.
Whenever I think about relationships, I only view them through my own lens. But one thing I’ve never really thought about is what it’s like for someone to be with me. Or, to broaden the question even more, what is it like to be with someone who has diabetes? Obviously, we know first-hand how much of a challenge it can be to take care of ourselves, but what is it like for a significant other? There are a lot of ups and downs (quite literally), physical annoyances, and an added degree of worry and stress. But, as someone who has been in a few relationships since my diagnosis 10 years ago, I’ve never once thought to ask a single one of my boyfriends, “What is this experience like from your perspective?”
My curiosity recently got to me, and lead me to interview a few rather fine gentlemen that have some first-hand experience with this job.
Before I go any further, I would like to sincerely thank them for their honesty. And, even though I will keep them anonymous, they know who they are, and frankly, they’re pretty fucking awesome dudes. Some of the stuff they have to put up with is really scary and tough, but their ability to see the positive, and bigger picture while providing endless support to the ladies in their lives is really pretty rad.
You hear the quote a lot, “diabetes doesn’t define us”, and that certainly resonates with me. But, no matter how you hack it, having diabetes is a gigantic part of our lives. It’s not something we can ever really let slip our minds, or have put on a back burner. However, on the flip side of things, I genuinely cannot imagine what it’s like to be in a relationship with a diabetic (let alone me…yikes).
When interviewing these guys, not a single ounce of negativity came through in their tone. No one said, “she’s high-maintenance because she can’t just fly by the seat of her pants every day.” Or, “She’s a worry wart that dodges all spontaneous adventure.” Which, frankly, I was really stoked to hear. This means we’re doing our job as diabetics to fight back by simply just…being ourselves.
So, without further ado, here’s one couple’s story…
“She’s my suga momma.” he said (good one, dude). “But in all honesty, her drive, determination, and refusal to quit are my favorite things about her. She was diagnosed just a few months ago, and she’s already kicking the shit out of her ‘betes.” …A man after my own heart; a potty mouth and he abbreviates things.
He went on to share that when his new-to-diabetes girlfriend went to the hospital initially, he was by her side through the whole experience. Learning together how to count carbs, calculate insulin, and correct highs, he looked at it as just another reason to live the healthy lifestyle they were already pretty committed to. “Obviously now there is more planning, questioning, and figuring things out, but its more like a puzzle than a burden…and who doesn’t like puzzles?!” he joked. I mean, I personally don’t like puzzles, but only because I have the attention span of a 3-year-old, and don’t like to mentally work hard unless it’s deemed 100% necessary. I appreciated his sentiment none the less.
I asked him how involved he was in her diabetes stuff, and how often they talked about it together. He explained that they talk about it daily because the learning curve is still so intense, but he tries to be sensitive of overkill to avoid hyping it up to be too much of a focus in their relationship. He also said that truthfully, their lives haven’t changed that dramatically, and he hopes that he can be a voice of “time and patience”. Though he admits, “Who am I to tell her how to feel? We have the same mindset; and I’d be pissed too if I wasn’t getting perfect results within a day. I think working at it together helps take some of the stress off her…I hope so, at least!”
“It helps to know that we can work through difficult things together as a team rather than individuals.”
I kept poking, because I’m a nudge, and asked him what this experience has taught him. “I believe the whole situation thus far has proven how much of a badass she is. Like I said, she was diagnosed less than 2 months ago. The initial diagnosis obviously hit her like a ton of bricks, but we got up, dusted ourselves off, and carried on beating the ‘betes.” I couldn’t help but chuckle at this one, as I pictured Pauly D from the Jersey Shore quite literally beating up diabetes instead of his Italian flag laden DJ turntables.
“Just to see her drive to learn, understand, and conquer the disease is inspirational enough for me…knowing that she has taken a life changing curveball and hit it out of the park, makes me realize there is nothing she can’t accomplish and has inspired me to always see the silver lining in things.” First of all, great sports analogies all around. But second of all, that’s one hell of an attitude and this couple has their shit together. Kudos to them for being an unbreakable support system to one another and for navigating such new and scary territory together as a team.
Another guy shares his experience…
“There have been times when I’ve had to talk her through lows over the phone just so she wasn’t scared to be alone, or afraid of anything bad happening. Those calls are always fun.” “Fun how?” “That was sarcasm.” He said. “Duh,” I replied. “It’s not fun because I feel helpless. There’s nothing I can do to make it go away.”
This gentleman dates someone who’s been diabetic for almost 10 years, and has an insulin pump. He is one to check-in, and ask frequently about the last time she’s tested. He likes to run a tight ship around her attention to diabetes (and all) detail. I asked him if he could tell when she’s high or low. “We’ve dated for a little over a year now, so I can definitely sense when her mumbling is more mumbly than normal that she has probably dropped to an unhappy territory.” He has family members in the medical field, so I asked him if he knew anything about diabetes before dating his main squeeze. “Not really, but she’s so open about it, that I learned pretty quickly. I’ve had her test my blood sugar, and even wore an infusion set overnight to see what it felt like. Fun fact: it’s annoying. I really, genuinely want to know what she goes through so I can be more understanding of her daily process.” He takes the route of compassion, I admire that.
But… guys. What about the other stuff…ya know, the physical part? I remember a few years ago when I first got my very own insulin pump. I immediately thought, “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BOYS?!” because…vanity. I would hide it, I would tell little white lies about what it was, and I would purposefully turn my body so my infusion set wouldn’t be visible. Turns out…like most things…boys don’t even notice. And, if they do, they don’t say anything because something that small standing between them and the lady they like just seems ridiculous. One guy in particular says, “When I see her infusion set, I just think…’yep, she has diabetes.’ that’s literally it. She’s my little robot!”
“If anything, her insulin pump is something that just continues to make her stand out in a good way.”
So there you have it ladies, the men in our lives seem armed and ready to protect and serve, but don’t see our diabetes as a game changer for them. If anything, they’re happy to help, and just want to see us happy in return.
Understandably, dating as a diabetic can be nerve wracking. We have to share a big part of our lives that is very personal, private, and somewhat of a nuisance more often than not. However, if you team up with your bf or gf to get through it together, it does take some of the weight of it all off your shoulders. And, as cheesy as it sounds open lines of communication and maintaining a positive dialogue about it, can only help your relationship get stronger over all, right? Just call me Dr. Phil.