Diabetes can make or break relationships. Don’t wait for it to be broke to fix it! Even the strongest partnerships need regular maintenance, explain relationship experts.
Of course you love each other and life together is good. Yes, there may be some dissatisfaction, disappointment, even doubt from time to time, but every couple experiences that, so surely you shouldn’t take it too seriously?
We disagree. Relationship coaches see many couples who hesitated to take a long, hard look at their partnership and in the end, slid from mild dissatisfaction to serious disillusionment. On average, couples wait six whole years from the first hint of problems to attempting resolution. By that time, it’s often too late. Which is why we’re a fan of regular relationship tests and MOT’s. That means regularly reviewing how you are thriving together, acknowledging your concerns and finding ways to make sure your love is on track.
You may feel wary about suggesting a relationship test and what if your partner feels attacked or panics that you’re heading for divorce? If so, make sure you’re considering the following:
- FRAMEWORK Don’t present the test as onerous but as enjoyable. Perhaps include it in the context of an evening out or a weekend away.
- POSITIVITY Using criticism to get a partner involved rarely works. “You never do this” is likely to raise hackles. “I’d love you to do this” creates co-operation.
- BENEFITS During and after the test, show how pleased you are. When changes happen, make your response affirmative and rewarding.
Diabetes emotionally impacts relationships. Don’t ignore the warning signs — that can lead to big trouble. Instead, take a long hard look at your partnership and focus on your particular concerns.
The Big 5
While your relationship scrutiny will focus on your particular concerns, here are five areas where we’ve found couples need to pay particular attention.
When you and your partner first met, you probably both focused intensely on making the other feel cared for. You took note of the other’s needs, made generous effort to deliver what made them happy. However, generosity can fade over time and ironically, a strong commitment may have made things worse; perhaps you’ve both relaxed, taken each other for granted, forgotten to show you care.
Relationship coaches usually give clients a checklist based on research, outlining the main ways couples show affection: spending quality time together, listening with focus, revealing thoughts and feelings, offering gifts, giving compliments, contributing practical help and sharing a loving touch.
Carefully think through this list. Which points are crucial for you, which matter less? Which are crucial to your partner? Is your partner delivering to you what you really need, what they imagine you need, or what you used to need but no longer do? Or are you making the same mistakes in return?
Take this section of the audit particularly gently. The aim is not to complain – try to avoid being critical – but to realign your knowledge and motivation, so you start to once again effectively care for each other.
“We don’t talk any more” is a common cry for couples. In fact, you do still talk — just not in a way that bonds you. Research suggests that, on average, couples communicate one-on-one for a total of only 20 minutes a week and worryingly, they rarely communicate about things that matter. That’s not enough to keep you truly connected. For your audit, first take three or four days to notice not only how often you talk, but also about what and how deeply. If you find your communication is short, sharp and surface-level rather than about feelings, hopes and dreams; you need to take action.
Relationship coaches ask clients to commit to just 10 minutes of focused conversation every day — no checking your phone, no seeing to the kids, not during mealtimes. Each partner takes five minutes to talk about what most matters to them and the other partner listens wholeheartedly, without interrupting, without letting their mind wander.
This exercise is one of the most important ones we recommend. Even if your test shows that communication is seriously lacking, a regular experience of being listened to by your partner and genuinely listening to them, can reboot your relationship.
Diabetes creates physical problems that may affect your relationship. What if your sex life has faded, is fraught or is non-existent? Sexual problems are the most difficult even to mention in a relationship test because you’re likely to feel embarrassed and vulnerable.
It’ll help to realise that bedroom difficulties often have a physical cause. No one’s at fault, there’s likely nothing wrong with your relationship. Perhaps the diabetes has lowered your libido. Perhaps ageing has affected your partners sex-drive. One hugely useful action is a medical check-up, which could provide a swift solution.
If not, you may simply need to reintroduce the habit. Raising a family in particular can disrupt your love life to the point where you not only forget to have sex, but forget why you ever wanted to! A long, leisurely weekend away can help you remember the pleasure and put it back centre stage to your relationship. For inspiration, perhaps take along a guide aimed at long-term lovers, on Sex and Intimacy.
Deeper problems probably need professional help. Psychosexual therapy is confidential and has a high success rate. You’ll explore your beliefs around sex, talk through bedroom needs, do gentle exercises at home. The College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists definitely lists local therapists.
The financial burden of a diabetic is very real. Over time, like every couple, you’ve developed strategies to manage your differences, disagreements, conflict. Though many experts frown on overt argument, we believe that whatever your strategies — humorous banter, loud quarrels, endless patience — so long as you’re both truly comfortable with what you’re doing, you’ll be fine. Some conflict styles feel increasingly uncomfortable and if so, your audit needs to face that fact. If the quarrels are escalating, if conflict makes you tiptoe round each other, if you’re feeling wounded, that’s toxic and your strategy needs changing.
The key here is for you both to acknowledge that toxic conflict happens when each of you is trying to win over the other, but that in trying to win, long-term, you’re likely to lose your relationship. Once that blunt lesson is on board, you’ll be more motivated to develop new strategies. That means learning to be super aware of when rows are brewing, then stepping back, reminding yourself of your love for each other and communicating effectively. Using your talking skills to negotiate your way through key partnership issues, requires practice and learning.
The most challenging relationship problems often involve a changed future. Your last child moving out. An ailing parent moving in. A career plateau. You’re both dreading it, or worse, one of you is dreading it but the other’s excited.
Whatever you feel, you’re actually driven not by the future itself, but by your projections. If a vision is negative, it can be turned positive — kids leaving home can mean less company, but also more time. If visions mismatch, you can align them — a career plateau is likely best managed by balancing optimism and risk management.
So first, do a reality check. Does a parent moving in or a significant birthday really mean life is over? Then, swap notes, doing your absolute best to appreciate, if not agree, with each other’s point of view. Even without full agreement, craft a future that contains more excitement than dread. Offset downsides by taking action like socialising more, sharing the burdens better, finding new sources of income and help each other to appreciate the upsides. A major one of which, of course, is your love. The future’s more likely to be good if you value your relationship. It will be even better if, with regular tests, that relationship stays strong.
These issues mean your partnership is under threat and a simple test will not fix that.
1. No Shared Goals
Originally, you had common aims. You were both totally career-focused, but now one of you wants to drop everything and travel. Or the opposite — you planned to wind down with age, but now one of you has discovered an all-consuming passion. Do you need a new partner who shares your new goals?
2. No Compatible Sexuality
Very often, medical advances and therapeutic support can help with sexual problems between couples — psychosexual counselling, for example, has a very high success rate — but many people, instead walk away without even trying to get help. Some issues are insurmountable for example, if the gender one of you was attracted to when you met is now not the gender they desire. Such sexual identity issues, unlike medical or emotional ones, aren’t problems that can be “solved” by professional help. So does one of you need to follow their newly discovered path, even if that impacts your relationship?
Within a year the sex had died. We’re both divorced and meeting felt like a wonderful second chance, but within a year we’d become polite strangers. We started taking stock and then saw a coach. She explained that my husband’s erectile problems were down to fear of disappointing me in bed and that we both needed to show each other we still care. We’re back to having sex again and are closer than we’ve ever been.
3. No New Motivation
There’s no longer any drive to improve the relationship. Self-help books remain unread. Counselling appointments mysteriously get forgotten. Is the reality that moving on is genuinely better than staying together?
Take a reality check — do your best to appreciate each other’s point of view. Even without full agreement, you can craft an exciting future together.
E344 – Would Your Relationship Pass an Audit? – www.diabetic.today