Suppose Your Husband Has Diabetes

When someone has diabetes, the whole family can help. If your child has diabetes, you have to take at least some responsibility for managing his or her diabetes.

But if your husband has diabetes, you can’t treat him like a child. He has to take responsibility himself before you can do anything to help.

Please notice that I write “husband,” not spouse. In the past 17 years that I have been writing about diabetes hundreds of wives have asked me how they can get their husband to manage his diabetes. I don’t remember any husband who was equally concerned with helping a wife, but I may have forgotten some of them.

My friend Bob Fenton, who writes an excellent but little-known blog, “Exploring Diabetes Type 2,” tells me that he has heard from some husbands. “The questions run 12 to 1 with the wife wanting to get through to the husband,” he says. These numbers show that women still gravitate to a helping role much easier than men do.

I used to try to help these wives to get through to their husbands. I never succeeded.

For example, after replying to a series of message from a caring wife, I finally gave up the indirect route. Her husband “is getting serious about treating his diabetes,” she wrote. But on his behalf, she was seeking some diet advice.

She wrote that she did the research for him. But after we exchanged no fewer than 10 messages, her husband told her that he wasn’t ready to make the big changes in his life that he had to make in order to control his diabetes. So she broke off our discussion. I had never succeeded in writing to him, much less talking on the phone to him.

I am available to anyone with diabetes to help them as much as I can with what I know. But I now have to insist that any adult who has diabetes needs to contact me directly.

I think that helping people take responsibility for themselves is tough love. But I can appreciate that you might think that I am just tough.

No wife is her husband’s keeper, in spite of the way we sometimes interpret the story of Cain and Abel. When God asked Cain where his brother was, he replied that he didn’t know. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Using the word brothers to mean our fellow human beings, we must accept responsibility for the welfare of our fellows. This means we have to do what we can to help them. But no wife, no diabetes writer, and no doctor can help when the husband isn’t on board.

We can’t tell our adult loved one what to do. Nagging is counterproductive. But we can still help.

If your husband has diabetes, you can set an example. Whether or not you have diabetes yourself, you can lead a healthy lifestyle of adequate activity and healthy eating.

If you shop for the family, you can start by bringing home more healthy food. If you do the cooking, you can prepare healthier meals.

My friend Bob Fenton suggests that you work to convert your spouse away from processed foods toward having healthy snacks available. At the same time Bob says not to throw out the junk food,  because that would “only cause the spouse to rebel and spend more money to replenish the supply. Encourage the spouse to not eat them, but if the need is there for a treat, work toward setting up goals to allow for treats, and eventually they may disappear on their own.”

This is what you can do to help your husband. This is being responsible.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Reply Joanne December 13, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I have been doing what you suggest for years, as my husband was diagnosed Type 2 for years before I was, and his BGLs are far higher than mine. He’s on meds, I’m not. We’ve also incorporated a lot of your other suggestions and he’s avoided the need for Byetta. His doctor is proud of his progress!

    The reason I’m commenting, however, is that we’ve recently discovered why it has been so hard for him to make the changes he’s wanted to: in October he was rushed to hospital, virtually asymptomatic yet severely anaemic. Early November he was diagnosed with bowel cancer: a tumour had been silently lurking in his caecum for 3 – 4 years, and even if he had been screened, it would have slipped by. He’s since had successful surgery, and next week will start a short series of chemo – we’ve been told the cancer was early, hadn’t spread and hadn’t yet changed but it was malignant and they just want to be sure. Point is, it so affected his metabolism that losing weight was difficult, healthy sleep patterns were becoming non-existent, he was always exhausted and found it hard to think straight, he sought the easy commercial option for meals when on his own rather than the healthy option no matter what was in the kitchen. NOW he can’t eat as much because he recognises when he’s full; he can’t eat his old favourites because they taste disgusting or make him sick or just won’t digest easily…He lost 6 kg for the surgery and about 2 kg since then, and looks wonderful. If he gets to 95 kg, the docs will be happy: he has about 8 kg to go. Most of the time, his BGLs hover around 8, instead of 12 to 15!!

    It’s said bowel cancer is a lifestyle disease. In his case there is also a vast family history. Others in the family have Crohns, IBS etc. So, no surprise that these alpha-males also have type 2 diabetes. We believe that in D’s case, he will return to a normal lifestyle, and normal BGLs, within a few months because his ability to manage those levels will be so much easier. All it takes is a healthy metabolism! 😉

  • Reply Suzie_B December 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    This is so true! My husband has diabetes and I have drilled it into him how he should eat and exercise to better control it, but he really does not try to follow the plan. I suffer from cancer and my time is short. It really ticks me off that his disease is controllable and he won’t try to preserve his health, while I try very hard and am failing.

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