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Love in Time of Diabetes

Posted on November 3, 2018 | No Comments on Love in Time of Diabetes

Situation #1: Luisa found out about her diabetes when she was in her 7th month of pregancy. Here husband, Benedict, accompanied her to the doctor for a checkup one afternoon, whe she realized that she was having a sudden attack of high blood pressure. During the test, her obstetrician suspected her of having diabetes, and advised her to see an endoctrinologist immediately.

“Although i consulted an endoctrinologist regarding my condition, I still experienced a miscarriage,” she shared. Lusia also suspects that part of the reason for her failed pregancy was because her husband came from a family of type 2 diabetics. However, the couple did not let this obstacle get in the way of their family life. They visited their doctor regularly, took their prescribed medications, and supported each other in observing good diet and regular exercise. The couple also adopted a child and once in a while tries to enjoy intimate moments with one another.

Situation #2: Ben and Ellen have been married for 10 years now. On their 5th year, Ben was diagnosed with diabetes. At first, his wife had been very supportive, taking care of his husband and providing him with his needs. However, as time went by, Ellen felt that her husband was growing distant from her.

What Ellen didn’t know was that Ben has been experiencing a case of erectile dysfunction. Out of embarrassment, Ben never mentioned his sexual problems to his wife, although he already talked about this with his doctor, and is now taking medications.

Diabetes is one condition that affects not only a patient’s lifestyle, behavior, and thinking, but also his or her entire family’s needs, especially those of the partner children and other live-in relatives.

According to Dr. Roberto Mirasol, an endocrinologist and chair of the Diabetes Education Council of Diabetes Philippines, “Diabetes is a family problem. The entire family must help change the whole lifestyle and practices of the patient.”

Diabetes in the family affects the partner’s mood, quality of life, and emotions. Dr. Fisher explained that diabetes has important emotional effects on the patient, and at that partners may similarly react to the ongoing stresses and strains of dealing with diabetes.

The Diabetes Friends Action Network (DFAN), an organization that supports patients with diabetes, revealed that the condition may leave couples, especially the partner, feel unloved, unappreciated, or misunderstood. Diabetes may also affect the patient’s moods. Diabetes-related mood swings are among the most common types of stress experienced by affected couples.

According to Dr. Mirasol, when patients experience either a high or low blood sugar, they become sensitive and irritable, which also cause them to misunderstand their partners. Patients with diabetes may feel that their partners are nagging them (e.g., about their diet, lifestyle) when in fact their partners were only attempting to be supportive.

Denial is another problem that couples face. This happens when a patient refuses to accept the fact that he or she has diabetes. He or she may not want to accept responsibility for the management of his or her condition, or might be afraid of what living with diabetes will bring into his or her life. Denial could further lead to lethargy, which can then lead to depression if left untreated.

The results of Dr. Fisher’s study (in which he used the Center for Epidemiological Studies–Depression Scale to assess depressive affect of type 2 diabetes patients and their partners), revealed that the mean level of partner depressive affect was quite similar to the elevated levels of patient depressive affect.

“Interestingly, for female partners, the mean level of depressive affect was as high or even higher than that of the patient’s; for male partners, however, the mean level was lower than that of the patient’s but still higher than that of control subjects. Also, the same factors that were linked to high depressive affect in patients, such as patient functional limitations, were linked to high depressive affect among partners,” Dr. Fisher stated.

Health behavioral risks
This area addresses the relationship between patients and partners on lifestyle behaviors, such as diet and physical activity. This describes how people who live together for the most part share at least some behavioral lifestyle practices, which may present increased risk to partners.

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) explained that managing diabetes requires careful attention to diet, including what foods to eat (and in what portions) and what foods to avoid. This means that the whole family must change their diet along with the patient. With regards to physical activity, patients are better able to stick to their doctor’s recommendations when they have someone to exercise with. Therefore, family members are frequently encouraged to exercise together.

However, there are times when partners may feel resentful about having to change their dietary habits, when they are not the one suffering from the disease. Others struggle with a sense of encroachment on their free time, because their partner wants them to go for walks or engage in other types of exercise.

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