Diabetes doesn’t just affect you, it has the potential to affect your whole family. Ironically, it can be harder for those around you to manage this impact than you! Why? As humans we need to feel in control of the various aspects of our lives and while you are busy getting on with all the many and varied tasks to diabetes self-care, those alongside you are left with nothing they can actually ‘do’ — and nothing to act on —therefore, they don’t feel in control of this anxiety.

This anxiety can express itself in a variety of quite contrasting ways. The two most common are, feeling blamed or hassled by your family; or the opposite feeling, isolated and/or unsupported by those close to you.

You may feel they are observing you at every turn — checking what you are eating and how much attention you’re paying to your medication and exercise regimes. Perhaps they criticize you for being overweight, or disapprove of you for not keeping better blood glucose control, which can feel very blaming. Or maybe they seem to feel the need to ‘advise’ you at all times, which can feel more like lecturing than helpful suggestions. Or perhaps they seem to tell everyone you meet that “He/She’s diabetic, they can’t eat that,” drawing everyone’s attention to the ways in which you are ‘different’, when all you want to do is blend in like everyone else! Or maybe the opposite is true and your loved ones completely ignore your diabetes, leaving you feeling alone and isolated without their help and support.

Whatever way diabetes is affecting your close relationships, here are my top four tips from a previous blog posting, Diabetes and Relationships, to help you better manage.

Diabetes and Relationships

  1. Start TalkingFor most people for whom diabetes is causing a strain on a relationship the problem doesn’t get talked about in an open and straightforward way, rather it becomes a source of arguments or resentments. The first step in making a positive change is therefore to have a frank and honest conversation and get things out in the open. If you and your loved one regularly argue about your diabetes, this may mean you need to think about what to say beforehand so it comes across as calmly as possible. Try stating what you are unhappy with in a matter of fact way (e.g., “When you…..describe what they say or do, “it makes me feel…..insert emotion — upset, guilty, embarrassed etc”) Make clear that you don’t want to blame them, rather that you realise they love you and are trying to help, but there might be more useful ways they can do so if you think about it together.
  2. Tell Them How to Help YouBe clear about what you really want and need from your partner. For example, perhaps they are nagging at you to test your blood glucose more, when what would really be helpful would be if they praised and encouraged you with a smile and a hug when they did notice you test. Or perhaps they are berating you for your need to lose weight, when what would be really helpful would be if you could learn together how to prepare healthy meals, perhaps by researching some cookery books or going to a class together.
  3. Examine the Part You Are PlayingAre you taking responsibility for your diabetes self-care? Often those around you may see that you are ‘sticking your head in the sand’ about your diabetes care and may feel at a loss to know what to do to help. Nagging or hassling you may be the only way they know how to wake you up to the problem. Perhaps you always say, “I’m fine” when asked about your diabetes, even if it’s evident that all isn’t fine. Out of love and worry the person close to you wants to help you to change. By being honest with yourself and those around you about what you are struggling with, you can begin to take steps together to improve your diabetes health, avoiding the need for your loved one to resort to unhelpful nagging behaviour.
  4. Seek Professional HelpIf you have implemented the steps above and are still struggling, perhaps because it is difficult for one or both or you to keep calm or to see one another’s point of view when talking about diabetes, seeing a family therapist or counsellor can really help you have useful conversations. Often having a third, emotionally uninvolved person to listen and help you problem solve can really help you move forward together productively.

By following these steps above, both your relationships with those close to you and your relationship with diabetes will improve for the better.

You may use this article on your website, or for your own e-zine; however, there’s one thing you MUST include: Dr. Jen Nash is a Clinical Psychologist chartered with the British Psychological Society. Dr. Jen helps her clients find solutions with simple and highly-effective psychological strategies to gain freedom from the frustration and stress of living with diabetes. To sign up for her free Diabetes Diary, visit www.PositiveDiabetes.com.