Having a child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes can be hard on a marriage, especially one that was fragile before the diagnosis. The presence of a chronic condition puts additional stress on a couple that can at times seem more than they can handle.
But, these times of challenge also have the potential to bring a couple back together or strengthen their commitment to one another. Much has to do with how you decide to approach the situation.
Here are four ways you can stay connected to your spouse while you responsibly manage your child’s diabetes.
Form a partnership for diabetes management
A healthy marriage is a partnership on many fronts. Though one person may do most of the cooking while the other does most of the house repairs, it is still a partnership as long as there is a mutual agreement to the plan.
When it comes to managing your child’s diabetes, the best plan is to share in the management responsibilities. This is good for the marriage and good for your relationship with your child.
The marriage benefits because you are supporting one another and no one person has to shoulder the burden and stress that often accompanies low blood sugars, late night blood checks, emergency room visits and the constant attentiveness to food, insulin and frequent blood sugar checks.
Your child benefits by both parents being involved in his or her care. Providing that care in a loving, understanding manner helps your child feel closer and more secure in their relationship with you. So, this partnership between spouses is a win/win situation.
Take time away from diabetes care
For a healthy marriage, you need to periodically take time away from diabetes to nurture your marriage relationship. This is easier said than done when you have a child with type 1, especially if that child is too young to manage his or her own diabetes. That is why it is important within the first year or so of the diagnosis to train at least one or two adults (family member, friend, neighbor, mature baby-sitter) in the basics of your child’s diabetes management routine. This will enable you and your spouse to periodically take a date or perhaps even a weekend away for yourselves.
When you do get away, make a prior decision that you are not going to talk much about diabetes-related issues or even the children in general. Focus instead on each other and what is going well or needs more attention in your marital relationship.
Find ways to take care of yourself and your spouse
What helps restore balance to your busy life? Is it a hobby, reading, exercise, time out with friends or a leisure activity with your family? Knowing what recharges your physical and emotional reserves is critical to keeping perspective. Diabetes is a chronic condition, which means it is not going away. The goal is not to outlast diabetes but to learn to live with it; to develop a rhythm to your family life and marriage that you enables you to care for our own needs.
In addition to recharging your own life, your marriage will also benefit if you support and encourage your spouse to do the same for himself or herself. Encourage them to go out with friends, take a weekend retreat or maybe just go to bed early. That might mean changing your work schedule, watching the kids or having to do things you’d rather not do for a time. But the investment in your spouse’s mental and physical well-being is also good for your marriage.
Get help to repair poor communication or behavioral patterns
When the stress of providing for and raising a family, now including all that goes with diabetes, becomes more than a marriage can handle, it may be time to get help. Poor communication and behavioral pattern can make diabetes management a continual battleground between some couples. Over time, these battles erode the love and commitment you once had for one another. It also puts the child with diabetes in a particularly vulnerable position of feeling as though he or she is causing this marital discord by virtue of having diabetes.
Before it gets to this point, reach out to a counselor familiar with diabetes or ask for a referral from your doctor or someone on your diabetes healthcare team.