Couples Facing a Chronic Illness...
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
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
Oh yes: THE COUPLES INTERACTIONS
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.