Supporting a loved one: part 3 – supporting a partner

For someone with diabetes who is either married or in a committed relationship, their spouse or partner is often one of the main sources of support. Having diabetes can be stressful, but working together as a team can support good diabetes control.

Following on from part two in our ‘supporting a loved one’ series last week, where we looked at how you can support a child with managing their diabetes, this week we’ll look at how you can support a partner or spouse.

Here are some of our suggestions:

  • Learn about diabetes

This might seem obvious but learning about diabetes can help in several ways. Even though your partner may know what to do if their blood sugar becomes too high or low, it can always help to spot the signs yourself in case of an emergency. Learning about diabetes can also help to bring you closer together as it creates a greater understanding about what your partner is experiencing.

  • Be understanding of mood swings

Diabetes can have an impact on mood. For example, they might worry that their blood sugars are too high or too low. Fluctuating blood sugars can also change a person’s mood and may make them feel sad or irritable. Their mood can often stabilise once their blood sugars are within the normal range again. Although you may feel yourself becoming irritated, it’s important to try and stay patient and maybe allow some extra leeway with your partner’s moods.

  • Make healthy habits together

If your partner is looking to make lifestyle changes to manage their diabetes, your support will likely make the change much easier. You could even use it as an opportunity to create healthier habits yourself. For example, depending on what your partner’s goals are, you could suggest that you take a 30-minute walk together after dinner, or perhaps lower your alcohol intake as a team.

  • Speak openly

Sometimes people with diabetes might not realise the impact that their diabetes can have on others. Communication is key in a relationship and it’s good to be open and honest with your partner if you have any concerns and encourage your partner to do same. This can help to reduce any stress or worry which can raise blood sugar levels. It might help to create a plan together, to discuss what support your partner needs and how involved you should be in their diabetes management.

  • Plan meal times

If your partner is managing their diabetes through their diet, then it might help to have a set plan around meal times. Creating a set weekly meal plan can help to remove the stress of cooking two separate meals. You could make use of low carb substitutes, both sharing a main meal but swapping rice or pasta for cauliflower rice for example. The same can be said for planning meals out. Eating at restaurants can sometimes be difficult as some of the meals might contain hidden sugars and carbs. Some restaurants provide a copy of their menu on their website, so you can see if they have low carb options, so this is something which could be helpful when planning a date night!

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Even though you might be one of the main sources of support for your partner, allowing yourself to ask for help if you need to can take some of the pressure off. For example, talking to close friends or family may provide help and reassurance if you’re having concerns about how your partner is managing their diabetes. Talking to other people with spouses or partners with diabetes can also be beneficial, this might be through online forums or support groups.

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About the author

Meg Knight

Meg is a Behaviour Change Mentor for diabetes.co.uk. She is passionate about supporting individuals to improve their mental health and wellbeing through making lifestyle changes. Meg graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and is currently studying for an MSc in Clinical & Health Psychology. In her spare time she enjoys live music events and experimenting with low carb cooking.

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