Frustrated Relationships with Diabetes!

Couple-lowWhy is the divorce rate 2 to 3 times higher than the rest of the population when diabetes is involved? Is it the impact on the loved one without diabetes and their bias? Perhaps. Is it our feelings of loneliness or could it merely be miscommunication? Maybe, but the causes are more complicated than one might think, unique to each couple.

Having lived with diabetes for the past 40 years, I had many relationships, each unique and beautiful in their own ways. My relationships ended for a variety of reasons, not all due to my diabetes. However, my diabetes did negatively impact my relationships, even if it didn’t directly cause the relationship to end.

Some of the women I dated over the years minimized what I was going through, while others acknowledge diabetes but didn’t fully understand what it takes to live with this complex illness.  After working with clients living with diabetes who were having relationship issues over the last decade, I can safely say, is that there can be many reasons couples struggle, but somewhere diabetes is part of that equation. What they are going through is as unique as they are.

It will be alright!
The other day, I reflected on a comment one of my clients from a few years back made during a couples session: “When I get down about having diabetes, Martha tries to help me.”  And his wife Martha stated: “I do! I tell him that it’s going to be alright.” Alright, What did that mean and what did it mean for my client? Was it supportive or dismissive? I eventually found out, but that is a long story for another time. For now, just know that it was received differently than intended and was a constant source of frustration.

When living with diabetes, it could be hard to imagine that things could ever be alright. Whatever that means? See being alright doesn’t mean happy, content or feeling good about one’s life with diabetes. It’s alright to take a break from writing, but it can seem unfair, if I have to do it because my blood sugar is low. Feelings of unfairness tend to arise when we choose to compare our situation to other people who don’t have to manage this difficult illness.

Miscommunications happen for many reasons, which make communicating with those we love so tricky and usually, the primary underlying reason relationships fail. With diabetes clear communication is critical to a happy relationship. Along with acceptance that our significant other will never know what it is like to live with diabetes and we will never know what it is like for them watch us go through the paces of diabetes. This is true of many other things as well.

Think of it this way, as a man I will never really know what it is like to give birth. I can be supportive while I watch from the sidelines, but I will never honestly know. Some things you just have to go through to fully understand. This doesn’t mean I can’t empathize, be there to help in the childbirth process. Just as someone without diabetes can’t really know what it is like living with this frustrating and time-consuming illness. If you tell them how to support you and they’re willing, they can be there for you.

This is very complicated illness, making relationships even more complicated. Sometimes it is not enough to inform your partner or your relatives. When that happens, a third party can help with communication and advanced diabetes education. Healthy discussion, including listening (not just hearing) and empathizing are learned skills and will be critical, not only with your partner but in everything you do.

If you need help getting your partner to understand what you are going through. Please reach out and give my practice a call at (917) 272-4829. I help couples deal with all kinds of issues, including diabetes-related ones.

If you want more information on how Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy can help you or your family with the complex issues you face; check out my website:


Medical Disclaimer: All the advice included in this blog is therapeutic in nature and should not be considered medical advice. Before making any changes to your diabetes maintenance program, please consult with your primary physician or endocrinologist.

Published by Eliot LeBow LCSW, CDE

Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDE, is a diabetes-focused psychotherapist, diabetes-coach, presenter, and writer. His private practice, located in New York City and is also available via Skype. LeBow, who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1977, treats the many diverse cognitive, behavioral, and emotional needs of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy takes a holistic approach combining traditional talk therapy with diabetes education and management help. It addresses both the physical and emotional aspects of living life with diabetes while still addressing other non-diabetes related life problems to create a unique holistic approach to helping people with diabetes thrive.

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