Treatment of Type2 Diabetes

5 Tips for Navigating Diabetes in a Relationship

Relationships are hard, but navigating a relationship with diabetes is harder.

Here are some common issues that may arise:

  • If you are caring for someone with diabetes and he or she is in a state of denial about diabetes and refusing to participate in self-care or to listen to medical advice, this can be extremely frustrating.
  • For the non-diabetes partner, feeling like you have to be the diabetes police and nag is no fun. Conversely, if you have diabetes, it can be easy to get aggravated with “sugar-shaming.”
  • Problems with intimacy due to nerve damage, such as erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness, can make for painful sex.
  • Finances often are an issue. Good diabetes self-care is expensive, and poorly controlled diabetes is even more expensive.

Any chronic illness can stress a relationship. While there are no quick fixes to deal with this added stress, here are some tips on how to work towards being more supportive and supported in a relationship that includes diabetes:

  • Let go. We can accept the things that we can change, and accept the things that we cannot change. Picking your battles helps, too.
  • Allow space for change. If you are doing everything for a partner with diabetes, you are not allowing him or her to self-manage. Instead, you are trying to control his or her behavior, and this can be disempowering and annoying.
  • For both parties, it’s important to clearly let your significant other know how you feel. Take time to have a long, and possibly difficult, conversation about your mutual needs, what you will handle yourself when it comes to diabetes, and what responsibilities you might share together. Repeat this conversation from time to time to see if situations or expectations have changed.
  • Good communication is also about listening carefully. Here’s a pro tip: pausing after your partner speaks before you say anything can help immensely. It allows you the space to process what was said and your partner the space to feel heard.
  • If this kind of change isn’t something you can do on your own, seek out couples counseling. The main thing is to keep the lines of communication open, and to foster mutual respect for one another.

This column was adapted, with permission, from a longer column on diabetes and relationships that was originally published by


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Elisabeth Almekinder grew up in a small town in North Carolina. The daughter of a country doctor, she sometimes made house calls with her father on horseback. Elizabeth worked as an RN for 22 years in public health in South Carolina. Currently, at a small health department in the coastal region of North Carolina, she has built up the Diabetes Self-Management Education Program there, and obtained her Certified Diabetes Educator credentials.

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