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Couples Facing a Chronic Illness... Diabetes

Couples comfortably find their compatibility. Next they struggle to accept their differences. While happy marriages have conflict, Psychologist Dr. John Gottman says they also have “emotionally intelligent” attitudes of friendship, nurturance, interest in the “other”, curtailed escalation of anger, and shared meaning. The diagnosis of diabetes or the maintenance of good care, when done utilizing a family perspective, is an opportunity to initiate a united effort on the shared goals of health and values. . It is yet another area which requires mutual respect and appreciation. The issues in marriage- coping with stress, eating and exercise habits, work ethics, gender issues, money, sex, childrearing and in-laws-are the same, perhaps more intensified when one partner has diabetes.

First stop: Accepting the Challenges of the IN-LAWS
For the person with diabetes, their families are concerned that the new spouse will nurture and prioritize the health care needs as much as they did. For the spouse’s family, without the illness, there are fears and concerns about their child marrying someone who could have problems. “Bring on the concerns.” Welcome them, rather than be defensive, and then encourage the extended family to become educated and included in the partnering to health.

Next stop: LIFESTYLE
The person without diabetes will be “lucky” to be exposed to a healthy lifestyle from the start and take on the advantages of necessary healthful eating, exercise and stress reduction techniques. (Hey they could be the only newlyweds on the block who don’t gain 20 pounds their first year.) In this lifestyle regimen is the supreme need to learn hearty communication skills in answering the questions of well-meaning (please assume that) friends and relatives about diabetes.

Together, partners must prioritize health and the relationship. Both spouses have needs. The person with diabetes must keep up his/her end of the relationship bargain.(Okay, you can occasionally say "Not tonight, I have low blood sugar" but if you have low blood sugar after dinner, you can still clean up the dishes after the blood sugar goes back up and you take a rest.) The person without diabetes hopefully will stay informed, supportive, and encouraging rather than nagging, controlling, or withdrawing. The couple can resent together the extra time and financial obligations of a chronic illness.

Keep going: The FUTURE
When a woman with diabetes is ready to have a baby, it takes a village...though a supportive and interested one to help her maintain the tight diabetes control of blood sugars. It is an intensive and demanding time but also an occasion to increase the intimacy of the couple and the extended family.

With conscientious and healthy behaviors, one can expect to live a long and healthy life. One day at a time… One happy day at a time.

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