Like Birdie, I love my husband very much. I can honestly parrot her sentiments exactly, that mine is also “not only a terrific person whose company I never cease to enjoy, he’s also been an amazing partner to me when it comes to my life with diabetes.” Except for one tiny little thing: Isn’t it strange to recognize that the person closest to you in the entire world doesn’t really have a clue about what diabetes means to your day-to-day existence? I mean, how could he?
When we say that diabetes is invisible, we don’t just mean that no one saw my glucose meter today. We mean that the irritability, the moodiness, the throbbing headache and frustration when we’re high, and even the shakes and sweating when we’re low are not always obvious “diabetes markers” to others. How can my partner know the difference between all that and I’m just irked at you right now? I suppose I can’t expect him to. There are no lights that start blinking to alert him that “I am now having a diabetic issue.”
Which maybe explains why it kind of upsets me sometimes when he praises me for my writing, or furthermore for staying strong and working to “turn the diabetes into a positive force in our lives.” Because that’s only half of the picture. The other half are the times when I’m in a tailspin, and maybe not treating him so nice, which I always regret. But in that moment my jaw is either clenched in rage or my eyes are brimming with tears, and I can’t help myself.
Intimacy is a delicate enough proposition anyway, without mixing in a “condition” that can make it so easy to misread each other.
As Birdie notes, marriage inevitably calls for trade-offs and bargains and compromises. Inevitably there will be times of friction and misunderstanding. For us, I realize that many of those times are when I feel most alone with the dark side of diabetes, railing against it without success.
Funny that another kindred spirit, Scott J, says his wife is a “fixer” — the type who always wants to DO something to FIX a diabetes problem he might be dealing with. I always thought that being a “fixer” was an inherently male trait, a la “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.” My husband’s a classic male fixer (head for the cave and come out with a solution). And he’s exceptionally good at it. He’s quite a brilliant strategist and team leader in the business world. But as Scott notes: “diabetes just doesn’t work like that.” It can’t be hammered into a corner or charted out analytically on a white board. I’m so very well aware of that.
And the truth is, being the Venus counterpart to his Mars caveman, most of the time I’m not really looking for him to provide a “fix,” which I know will just lead to frustration for both of us. All I really want is for someone to say, “it sucks, doesn’t it?” and give me a hug. And maybe be able to forgive how snippy I was acting just before dinner there. I’m pretty sure that was the diabetes talking. Even though no warning lights were blinking.