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Nag Your Man to Diabetes Health?

You might try to convince your husband into doing what you think would help if you think that he should take better care of his diabetes. This convincing can quickly turn into what your husband might perceive as “nagging.”

Nagging might get him to shape up. But it’s likely that he will resent your interference and the quality of your marriage will suffer.

The “most surprising finding” of a study published in mid-2016 was that an increasingly rocky marriage can improve your man’s diabetes management, according to a Michigan State University press release.

“The study challenges the traditional assumption that negative marital quality is always detrimental to health,” Hui Liu, Ph.D., and associate professor of sociology at MSU, said in the release. She was the study’s lead investigator.

Dr. Liu and her coauthors based the study on data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, the first population-based study of health and social factors of the entire country. They analyzed the results from 1,228 married people, of whom 389 had diabetes at the end of the five-year study.

Subtle influence

Married people do influence each other’s health behavior. This is a part of bonding. But the influence can be a lot more subtle than nagging. I know that when I married a woman with diabetes, I stopped watching my diet as closely as I had before. And I exercised a lot less. And I gained a lot of weight. In those respects, I became a lot more like my wife.

Certified Diabetes Educators like my friend Karen LaVine in Albuquerque, New Mexico, avoid nagging.

“The harder people push, the tighter he’ll hang onto what he’s currently doing,” Karen told me. She also told me what Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the English poet and philosopher, wrote:

“Advice is like snow — the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.”

Where Karen works, employees back off when even the individual with diabetes himself gives them verbal resistance.

“It is immediately time to stop all forms of moving towards goals and back up to explore further the patient’s emotions and perspectives,” she says.

Drop the rope

They call this strategy “dropping the rope,” she says. This idea comes from training horses.

When a horse in a corral is pulling back and resisting being led somewhere, you drop the rope and wait. Eventually, the horse will start following you around.

Of course, husbands aren’t horses, but when we push them to shape up, they will often be as stubborn as mules. In fact, another study offers guidance that is quite different from Dr. Liu’s research.

Different results

This 2014 study of 192 men and women with type 2 diabetes found that when they experienced more harmful actions, like nagging or arguing, they were less adherent to self-care. As a result, their blood glucose control became worse.

This study applied to both men and women. But in this article, I am otherwise writing about men because almost always it’s the women who ask me to help them manage their husbands rather than the other way around.

Men are notorious for not asking for directions when they are lost. Of course, that’s not always the case, and in fact, I once asked for directions myself.

Handle with care

These studies agree on one point: If women want their marriage to last, they need to remember that their men need to be handled gently and not bruise fragile egos. Show, don’t tell.

You can lead him to the parting of the Red Sea but you can’t take him across to the promised land. What can work is to be a role model for your partner: shop right, cook right, eat right, exercise, and lose weight. You can be a positive example for him to follow when he is ready.

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

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  • Lee Hunnicutt, Jr. at

    David, I know this is anecdotal, I have had type twp diabetes for over 20 years and have never taken a drug to control it. I put myself on an Atkins type diet and with that have maintained an A1C of 5.5 to 5.7.
    Recently my A1C jumped to 6.3. Because I am a fanatic, I panicked and tried to figure out what I was doing wrong, I drink two to three cups of coffee a day so I looked up diabetes coffee and came across this article:
    I switched to decaf and my blood sugar is not only perfect but I no longer have the dawn effect where your blood sugar is high when you wake up in the morning. Now my morning reading is between 118 and 107 and now my last A1C was 5.7.
    I have no idea if laying off caffeine did the trick or not but something turned my blood sugar around so I now drink decaf.
    I would like you comments.



    • David Mendosa at

      Interesting, Lee. I hope that continues to work for you.

  • Derek Paice at

    I don’t find it so surprising. May years ago, but not so long that I forget, my desire to look presentable to a special young woman stimulated me to approve my appearance. Old clothes that I threw on just to keep warm suddenly had to be cleaned and ironed. Hair was trimmed and styled, shoes were polished. Whatever might improve my chances as a suitor I did it. If I had been a diabetic then I’m sure my A1c would have soon been in the very healthy range. I’ve been married for more than 64 years to that special young woman and the desire to be my best never left me. My wife always maintained her own appealing qualities, why wouldn’t I try and do the same . . . including watching my A1c.