A diabetes diagnosis changes a lot about a person’s everyday life. They now have to think about eating healthy, getting enough exercise, managing medications, and monitoring their blood glucose levels. Managing diabetes becomes a huge part of their life, and when you’re married to someone living with diabetes, it becomes a part of your life as well.
Being married to someone with diabetes can bring up new challenges that you never had to consider before. You may be wondering: Does diabetes affect marriage? How do we navigate these challenges together? How can I support my spouse in their diabetes management?
Whether your spouse has been living with diabetes their whole life or was recently diagnosed, finding answers to these questions can help you better understand your spouse while nourishing and deepening your relationship.
How Does Diabetes Affect Marriage?
Every couple is different, and everyone’s diabetes journey is unique. Some couples may feel diabetes does not affect their relationship at all, while others find it adds additional stressors to their marriage.
As the spouse of someone living with diabetes, it’s common and understandable to worry about the following:
- Diabetes-related health complications: If diabetes is not effectively managed, it can lead to long-term health complications, such as heart disease, chronic kidney disease, nerve damage, vision loss, and hearing loss.
- Finances and insurance coverage: A diagnosis of diabetes may lead to additional financial obligations, which can increase stress on your marriage.
- Blood glucose emergencies: High or low blood sugar levels can cause immediate medical concerns.
- Changes in sexual intimacy: Changes in estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone levels, whether due to menopause, diabetes, or co-occurring conditions, can affect libido, lubrication, and the ability to become sexually aroused. Changes in blood flow, nerve damage, and certain medications can also contribute to changes in sexual intimacy.
- Fertility issues: Women living with diabetes may experience lower fertility rates than those without diabetes. However, research suggests that better glycemic control and prevention of diabetes-related complications may improve their fertility rates. Diabetes is associated with semen abnormalities, which can impact male fertility.
Like all chronic health conditions, diabetes can introduce challenges into your marriage—but that’s nothing a little education, communication, and teamwork can’t solve!
Working As a Team to Support Your Spouse’s Health (and Yours!)
Research shows that for people living with diabetes, the support of family and a spouse improves treatment adherence, which in turn supports better glycemic control and helps prevent diabetes-related complications.
Of course, every person living with diabetes has their own preferences about how they manage their diabetes and whom they want involved. Before jumping in to help, talk to your spouse about how involved they’d like you to be in their diabetes management.
Educate Yourself About Diabetes
Knowledge can be incredibly powerful, especially if you’re worried about helping your spouse through blood glucose emergencies. Educating yourself about the disease and diabetes management can also help you understand what your spouse needs on a daily basis to keep blood glucose levels in their target range and avoid diabetes-related complications. Knowing what to do in an emergency and understanding diabetes management may help you reduce stress stemming from these unknowns.
To educate yourself on diabetes, consider
- Meeting with a certified diabetes care education specialist (CDCES; formerly known as a Diabetes Educator);
- Joining a diabetes family support group; and
- Taking advantage of trusted online resources, such as those from the American Diabetes Association.
Through these resources, you can learn how fluctuating glucose levels can affect your spouse physically and mentally, how insulin and other medications work, how to recognize the signs of hypoglycemia, and how to help your spouse during a blood glucose event.
Talk Through Your Stressors
When you experience marital stress—whether due to financial obligations, changes in sexual intimacy, fertility concerns, or anything else—it’s important to work through it as a team. Creating space for both of you to discuss your hopes, fears, worries, and struggles is essential to understanding and supporting one another.
If you’re having difficulty with these types of conversations, there’s nothing wrong with seeking professional support. You may consider working with a CDCES, a marriage counselor, or both, depending on what you and your spouse prefer.
Make Healthy Changes Together
A huge part of effective diabetes management is lifestyle. Making thoughtful changes, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and reducing stress levels, can be challenging when done alone. Teamwork can go a long way. If your spouse is open to the idea of working together to achieve these goals, you can help them improve their diabetes management while improving your own health and wellness along the way.
Consider finding new healthy recipes to cook together, joining a gym together, or taking up activities you can do together. What matters is that you make a commitment to your and your spouse’s mental and physical health.
Find New Tools That Ease Your Stress
If you’re worried about your spouse experiencing hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, you may consider talking to your spouse about finding a monitoring solution that alerts you to blood glucose events. Some glucose monitors with Bluetooth include apps that allow your spouse to add emergency contacts. For example, the free Patterns® for POGO Automatic® app that comes with the POGO Automatic Monitor can automatically send you text notifications in response to a high or low blood glucose result if your spouse has a blood glucose event and may need your help. To check blood glucose levels with the POGO Automatic Monitor, simply press the button once, and you’re good to POGO. The device will automatically lance and collect blood in a single step.
Work Together and Grow Together
While diabetes can affect marriage, its impact doesn’t have to be negative. Being married to someone living with diabetes is an opportunity for growth—both by you as an individual and you and your spouse as a team. By navigating challenges together, educating yourself on diabetes, learning to effectively work through stressors, and creating healthy habits together, you can enjoy a full, happy, and healthy marriage.
Jaclyn Owens is a product director specializing in diabetes management tools. She is committed to using technology to empower people with diabetes and help them take control of their health.
All content on this website is for educational purposes only and does not replace the guidance of your healthcare practitioner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.