Like with any relationship, it comes with its own (ahem) highs and lows, according to one woman with type 1 diabetes.
When Josh and I first started dating the diabetes aspect of our lives was so normal. We didn’t have to educate or teach each other about blood sugar and glucose monitoring the way we would if we were dating someone new to this disease. Being around someone with diabetes wasn’t a big change in our lives. Josh, his mother, and sister all have type 1 and we are both Barton Center summer camp veterans. Being in a relationship with another diabetic definitely has its highs but it also has its lows.
I noticed the perks of having a diabetic boyfriend when, one day, he changed my pump reservoir. I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was 7 years old and since then the only other people I’ve trusted to administer insulin shots and understand my blood sugar nuances have been my parents, my siblings, and doctors. Josh showed kindness, as he always does, by offering to help, which is something we all look for in a partner. What made this an especially big deal for me was that I completely trusted that he did it the right way. I didn’t need to check or ask if he made sure there were no bubbles in the tube because he has been managing his own diabetes since he was 2.
It really hit home for me that this was going to be a wonderful, but challenging, relationship after about 3 months. I called Josh one morning but he wasn’t answering the phone. I rushed home terrified about what might greet me when I arrived. He was having a diabetic low seizure and, luckily, I knew what to do. That was when I realized fortunate we were to have each other to understand on a deep level the experiences, the highs and lows, of living with diabetes.
On the other hand, it’s not all sunshine and sugar-free lollipops! It can be very frustrating, when I’m in burn out mode, to hear that I need to check my blood sugar. Josh knows what he is talking about and I can’t hide behind the fact that he doesn’t have diabetes and doesn’t understand. All of us, whether managing diabetes or not, struggle within relationships. It’s hard to hear your partner tell you that you loaded the dishwasher the wrong way or folded the socks backwards. Even if you know there is a kernel of truth in what they’re saying, you resist it. When the stakes are higher, when you know you should check your blood sugar but just can’t stand to hear your partner remind you, no matter how helpful and supportive he or she is being it’s a struggle to let rationality win.
Some of the best advice I have ever received was from another diabetic couple. They told me that Josh and I are in a loving relationship but that doesn’t mean that we have to be each other’s parents. They said we should let one another know we love each other and really want the other to be around for our future life together. Yes, it’s great we both have diabetes, but in order to take care of each other, we have to take care of ourselves first. The very normal ups and downs of relationships that can lead to petty bickering for a couple without diabetes could ultimately lead to something much more serious for us. We’ve learned that we need to be our best for ourselves in order to be our best for each other. That is a lesson which is true for all couples.
On October 6th, 2012, Josh and I got married at Camp Joslin where we first met. We considered having our vows read, “I take you and your diabetes . . .” but decided against it. Our relationship is much more than diabetes. Diabetes is something we both share but yet there are many experiences unique to each of us. We have much to learn about each other and much more to understand. There is an entire future together that we will experience for the first time—together. It is no more right for us to define our relationship by our diabetes than it is to define it by our mutual enjoyment of Adam Sandler movies. There are some realities about both of us having diabetes that are challenges and some that are comforts. Our love for each other, however, is the most comforting of all, and it is that love that really binds us.
Diabetes might be what brought us together but it will not tear us apart. There is very special bond we share with each other because we do understand what its like to be low or high and that is just something you don’t learn with time.
By Kylee Walsh