By: Janis Roszler
You’re out on a date. Things are going smoothly, and you are surprisingly at ease. Is it time to introduce your diabetes, or should you keep it hidden?
When is the right time to bring up the subject? How should you approach it?
For some, the decision to tell a companion is easy-diabetes is just a part of who they are. They don’t hide it, nor do they flaunt it. For others, it is a conversation that takes a great deal of planning.
When to Tell?
On Kyle’s first date with Jill, the discussion of diabetes just happened.
“We sat down at the restaurant, and Kyle placed a white plastic toothbrush holder on the table. My first thought was that this guy cared a lot about oral hygiene! When I asked about the holder, he nonchalantly answered that it contained his insulin and then went back to reading the menu.”
Jill asked about Kyle’s life with diabetes. She was impressed with his confident attitude, which quickly put her at ease.
“Before meeting Kyle, if someone had asked me to date a person with diabetes, I probably would have said no-it is a serious medical condition that I knew nothing about. But seeing how comfortable he was with his diabetes assured me that it was no problem.”
Their dates continued, and 10 months later they were married.
How to Tell?
Maureen introduces the topic on the first or second date. Her pump is usually visible, and her date becomes curious and opens the topic.
John tests his blood glucose in front of his dates, which always spurs a lively discussion.
Cyndee is even less subtle. She beams a generous smile and says, “I believe in honesty, so I want to share something about myself with you Ã‰ I have type 1 diabetes. Do you know anyone else with type 1 diabetes?”
This comment has led to meaningful exchanges, memorable relationships and, yes, even a few rejections. Not everyone is comfortable with the topic of diabetes.
Tina spent months trying to get Greg’s attention. When he finally ask-ed her out, she was sure that he was “the one.” On their date, he learned of her diabetes and displayed a negative attitude that she couldn’t bear.
“It was an eye opener. I saw a side of him that I never knew he had. If he couldn’t support me in this, how could he support me in future problems? I am so thankful to my diabetes for alerting me to it.”
Making Plans for Special Kinds of Dates
Some types of outings require special planning.
If you are headed to the theater, carry soft, quiet emergency snacks such as raisins or glucose tablets that come in a hard plastic tube (no need to make noise tearing into a paper wrapper). If you wear an insulin pump, set it to vibrate.
For an active date that includes dancing, tennis, jogging or other sports activities, stay hydrated. Test often and adjust for low blood glucose. Keep snacks handy; juice boxes and sports bars are portable and can easily fit into a backpack. If you use insulin, consider reducing your dose prior to the activity, as exercise can have a strong glucose-lowering effect. If you use a pump, you could switch to the reduced temporary basal rate that you use before doing your regular exercises.
When you go out on a date, your diabetes always comes along for the ride. It is part of who you are and can be a comfortable companion Ã‰ with the right person. n
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Dating Jitters: Making Closeness Comfortable
To ready your hands for holding, apply creams generously, but avoid brands containing alcohol, which can dry out your skin and promote cracking.
Worried about sweating? Spicy foods, chocolate, cheese, red wine, red sausages and even some soft drinks may cause you to sweat more than usual, so you might want to limit the quantities you eat or drink.
How’s your breath? Blood-glucose levels of 250 mg/dl or higher can be accompanied by a fruity breath odor and possibly dry mouth. Floss daily, and have your teeth cleaned at least twice a year. Mouthwashes with large amounts of alcohol can be hard on your gums. In his book “Taking Con-trol of Your Diabetes” (2d ed., Profes-sional Communications, 2001), Steven V. Edelman, MD, suggests using a mixture of half hydrogen peroxide and half water to make an inexpensive mouthwash that effectively knocks out odor-causing bacteria.
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Going out on a date, but worried about your diabetes? These tips should help things go smoothly:
- Pack your glucose meter and insulin, or put your pump in your favorite holder. If you use oral medications, remember to pack any you might need during the date. Pharmacies and travel stores carry small pill containers that might suit your needs.
- Carry snacks in case your meal is delayed.
- Eat as usual and check your blood glucose before you depart. Treat abnormal levels.
- Limit your alcohol intake to one drink if you are a woman and two drinks if you are a man. One drink is equal to 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine or 1.5 oz. of hard liquor.
- Eat a meal or snack with your drink. Alcoholic beverages can lead to low blood glucose, even as long as eight hours after the last drink.
- Wear medical I.D. You and your wallet or purse can easily become separated.
- Test your blood glucose before driving, and treat lows as needed. Remember that drinking and driving are unsafe for anyone.
- If romance is on the agenda, use birth control. Unplanned pregnancies and diabetes don’t mix! A pregnancy should be planned well in advance so that A1C levels can be normalized to provide the best chance for a healthy birth.
Janis Roszler, RD, CDE, LD/N, is a diabetes educator for the Diabetic.com Web site and the author of Diabetes Positive! magazine’s “Dear Janis” advice column. She has a private practice in South Florida.