Dating someone with type 1 diabetes can bring up issues you’ve never had to consider. How will diabetes affect your relationship? What can you do to support them? Do they need support?
Whether your relationship is fairly new or you’ve been together for what feels like forever, finding the answers to such questions can help you better understand your partner and nourish your partnership. These five tips are a great place to start.
Top 5 Tips for Dating Someone With Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes, like all chronic health conditions, can introduce unique challenges to relationships. After all, diabetes can impact physical and emotional well-being and have practical implications for daily life. So what can you do if you’re dating someone with type 1 diabetes?
1. Learn About Diabetes
Making the effort to understand your partner’s condition better can help them feel seen, appreciated, and accepted. It also helps you understand their experiences and needs and dispels any misconceptions you may have.
Use trusted sources to learn about topics like the following:
- How fluctuating glucose levels can affect a person physically and emotionally
- How insulin treatment and other medication work
- How blood sugar, or glucose, is measured
It’s also helpful to learn the signs of blood sugar events and what you should do if your partner experiences one. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), for example, can result in symptoms like shakiness, irritability, confusion, and lightheadedness. Recognizing these symptoms and knowing how to help is one of the most important things you can do when dating someone with type 1 diabetes. If your partner is open to discussing it with you, you may want to familiarize yourself with their specific treatment plan.
At the same time, remember that your partner’s diagnosis does not define them, and each person’s relationship with diabetes is unique. If you want to know more about their experience, ask them, but also recognize that some people do not want to talk about having diabetes, especially early in a relationship.
2. Be Considerate
Health conditions are intensely personal, and everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to discussing their diagnosis. It’s important to respect your partner’s boundaries and not push them to talk about their diabetes before they are ready. If and when they do discuss it, make the conversation feel relaxed and truly listen to what they’re saying.
It’s best to avoid giving unsolicited advice or making comments about how they are managing their diabetes. Such advice can make your partner feel like you’re minimizing their issues or overstepping your bounds.
3. Communicate Effectively
While listening to your partner is crucial, your relationship is a two-way street that relies on open and effective communication. Creating space for both of you to share your experiences, hopes, fears, and struggles is vital to understanding and supporting each other.
One thing you may want to communicate about is the role your partner expects you to play in managing their diabetes, if any. Do they want to handle it all themselves? Do they want you to attend any appointments with their healthcare provider? Do they want you to be an accountability partner who regularly checks whether they’re following their treatment plan and glucose monitoring routines? Or do they want you to solely provide emotional support when they need a shoulder to lean on?
Knowing what your partner prefers can keep you from seeming overbearing in your efforts or uninterested in their experiences. However, preferences aren’t mandates. You have to consider what role you are able and willing to play and communicate your boundaries. Taking on responsibilities you are not equipped to handle could seriously damage your relationship.
Even if you and your partner decide that your involvement in their treatment should be minimal, you may want to be informed of a high or low blood glucose event. Some glucose monitors with Bluetooth® include apps that allow your partner to add emergency contacts. For example, the Patterns® for POGO Automatic® app that comes with the POGO Automatic Monitor can automatically send you text notifications if your partner has a high or low blood glucose event and may need help.
4. Plan Active Dates
When you’re dating someone with type 1 diabetes, certain common dating activities may not be the best way to spend time together. The wrong foods or not timing a meal according to insulin dosing can increase blood sugar levels, which means you may have to be more selective about your restaurant reservations. Excessive alcohol on an empty stomach can lower blood sugar to dangerous levels, so long nights at the club may be out.
Not all dates need to revolve around eating and drinking alcohol. Hiking, attending cultural events, and wandering through botanical gardens are just a few ideas you can incorporate into your dating life.
Avoid surprise dates, especially before you’re familiar with your partner’s routines. Giving your partner a heads-up about your plans allows them to take steps to avoid unwanted blood sugar changes.
5. Be Patient With Your Partner
For some people, type 1 diabetes causes symptoms that affect sexual relationships, including limited energy, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, and mood swings. While type 1 diabetes affects everyone differently and your partner may not experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to be supportive if they do. Be patient with your partner during the times they don’t feel like having sex. Consider discussing strategies like lubricants or medication if they feel up to it.
The sexual effects of diabetes can be difficult to talk about. Be compassionate, and give your partner space to discuss any problems they have due to diabetes when they’re ready. Forcing your partner to give more details than they’re comfortable with at the time can cause them to isolate themselves to avoid further conversation. At the same time, don’t lose sight of your own needs. Be honest with yourself and your partner about what you want.
Have a Full Dating Life
Dating someone with type 1 diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time in your relationship. Your partner can live a full life—and so can you. By maintaining open communication, establishing healthy boundaries, and truly seeing each other, you can set yourselves up for success.
Robert Miller is a customer experience specialist committed to helping people navigate the world of diabetes. He focuses on finding innovative tools and strategies that make diabetes management easier to support long-term wellness.