Advice from a young couple who are managing a relationship — and type 1 diabetes — together
Mia Fasanella is a college student with type 1 diabetes. Her boyfriend Luke also has type 1 diabetes. The two started dating after he sought some advice (and her number) while “researching” a new insulin pump. Find out how they manage their relationship, and their type 1 diabetes, together.
“We both have type 1 diabetes… it’s pretty cute.”
My boyfriend Luke has had diabetes for 12 years, I’ve had it for three. When people meet us, they are often curious about how we met and how diabetes impacts our relationship.
I was diagnosed during my sophomore year of college. Luke has this image of me lugging a huge plastic box with a years’ worth of diabetes supplies to and from our 8 a.m. class every day. The plastic box that holds every diabetes item you own is the symbol of every newly diagnosed diabetic.
“Don’t worry,” he told me.
He had one too.
“I saw her plastic bin and how skinny she was and I knew she was a diabetic,” says Luke today. “I introduced myself and she had been diagnosed two weeks earlier.”
Just to set the record straight: I did not carry a years’ worth of test strips, needles and lancets around with me everyday. However, I did have a Lantus pen in my backpack and left our class every morning to take a shot in the bathroom. After introducing himself to me, I had hoped Luke and I would become type 1 diabetes friends. Instead we went on with our separate college lives.
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Two years after Luke first introduced himself to me, he asked me on a date. I was surprised to hear from him. He was deciding on a new insulin pump and wanted to know more about the one I had… but that was just a segue into getting my number. I remembered him as the first person I met with diabetes after being diagnosed.
“I felt safe dating Luke because I knew he would know how to handle scary diabetes situations.”
On our first date we talked mostly about type 1 diabetes. I tried to convince a skeptical diabetic, diagnosed before continuous glucose monitors were introduced, that they really were life-changing devices. Luke tried to convince me that his diabetes was more hardcore because he had used an actual syringe to bolus before getting his pump. I remember thinking it was nice to talk to someone who understood completely what I was going through. Immediately I felt safe dating Luke because I knew he would know how to handle scary diabetes situations.
When two people with diabetes meet there is an instant feeling of camaraderie. They understand completely a disease that is often misunderstood. They know what it feels like to be high or low and how out of range blood sugars affect mood. Dating Luke has made me feel normal. Every day he also has to care for his diabetes. Sometimes I forget that not everyone has to take insulin. He is there to remind me to check my sugar, bolus before my meal and to correct my sugar in the middle of the night when I would rather sleep through Dexcom alarms. We celebrate our successes and support each other when it gets overwhelming. We help hold each other accountable for our actions and challenge each other to strive for a lower A1C. The major benefit is that we always have two of everything if someone forgets their diabetes supplies.
Some advice on dating another person with type 1 diabetes
That being said, dating another person with diabetes is not too different from dating someone without it. If your partner does not have diabetes there is just going to be more of a learning curve. If they are a compassionate person they will want to learn how to be supportive. You can just let diabetes become apparent.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need and to take care of yourself in front of them. Test your blood sugar and take your insulin on your first date. If your date asks you about it then share as much as you feel comfortable with. As situations like low and high blood sugars come up be open to explaining what is going on. They are going to be curious about it because they like you and it is part of who you are.
When you don’t have type 1 diabetes, but your date does
If you don’t have diabetes, but you are dating someone with diabetes, it is important to remember that having blood sugar out of range is uncomfortable. It’s easy to get irritable when not feeling well. Leave behind any assumptions, and be open to learning from the diabetic person. If they have to end a date early to go get insulin or tell you they need to eat something because their blood sugar is dropping, take that seriously. If you want to do a little something to help them out, make sure you keep some juice or candy on hand in case of low blood sugars. Go with the flow because diabetes has a knack for interrupting plans. Be thoughtful and understanding — it’s not their fault if they have a low blood sugar at the most inconvenient time. Diabetes is a constant reminder that life happens in the present, and it’s unpredictable.