Dating can be exhilarating. You might find the love of your life or at least launch a new friendship. However, dating can also leave you feeling vulnerable, insecure and stressed. For people with diabetes, dating is all those things, but multiplied. It’s tempting to think, why bother dating at all? However, finding loving relationships not only makes life more pleasurable, but it can also be a vital tool for coping with the daily frustrations of managing life with diabetes. With a little extra planning and a bit of honesty, dating can be worth the effort.
First date fears
The big question for many is when to tell their date about their condition. Of course, you have no obligation to talk about your diabetes, especially with people you are just getting to know. However, for those you’ve made a connection with, sharing more about yourself should include sharing that you have diabetes. “Being authentic and true to yourself means you are accepting and embracing all that you are, and that includes being a diabetic,” says Laura Kronen, who has lived with type 1 diabetes for more than two decades and is the author of Too Sweet: The Not-So-Serious Side to Diabetes. “Diabetes adds to one’s personality, making a person stronger and more determined.”
Also, as Kronen notes, sharing your condition early in the relationship is simply easier. Planning dates is far less awkward when you can be honest about why a tour of the local fudge factory isn’t the best idea. Being open about your condition means you don’t have to hide in the bathroom to check your blood sugar or put off taking insulin to maintain your secret. Sharing your entire medical history isn’t necessary. Try saying, “I have diabetes and need to check my glucose occasionally. With medication, I can live a normal life.”
Kronen recommends finding humor whenever possible to both lighten the mood and take yourself (and diabetes) a bit less seriously. In her book, she includes humorous depictions of life with diabetes, including a description of a glucose level spike: “The Stripper High: Clothing is peeled off as your sugar climbs higher. How did it get so damn hot in here?”
Being upfront with your date can also be an effective way to screen potential partners. As Suzannah Brown struggled with her diagnosis two years ago, she discovered just how patient and supportive her boyfriend could be. Diabetes has been a major test of their relationship, but he’s passed with flying colors. Everyone with diabetes deserves that kind of partner, Brown says. People with diabetes “shouldn’t feel like they need to hide it or that their health can be shoved to the side.”
Prepare for the positive
Restaurants, with their hidden ingredients and delicious temptations, aren’t always the easiest dating location if you have diabetes. If meeting for a meal feels too stressful, you can find plenty of other ways to get to know each other, including taking a hike, touring a museum or strolling through a bookstore. Just don’t forget to pack essentials like snacks and insulin.
Restaurants can make a fine setting for a budding romance with a little planning. If possible, discuss restaurant options with your date or make the reservation yourself. Look at the menu ahead of time, and remember to include a salad or vegetable appetizer. If you can’t make reservations, or if the service is notoriously slow, bring a snack to tide you over.
Alcohol is often part of dating, especially to soothe nerves. Depending on your doctor’s advice, feel free to partake, but choose water or soda water as mixers.
When it’s time for a more intimate connection, you could worry that your condition and its inevitable distractions will ruin the mood. Once again, a little preparation goes a long way.
Glucose tablets, juice and emergency insulin boosters should always be close by, perhaps on the bedside table. Like many people with diabetes, Brown uses a pump that she can disconnect for one hour. She leaves it close by so a strong signal can be maintained. She suggests showing your partner where the sensor is located, since pressure on it can cause the connection to be lost.
Even with all this preparation, your glucose levels may still drop at the most inconvenient time. Going low may temporarily hinder the mood, but if you and your partner take it slow and remain physically close, things will surely heat up again.
It’s worth it!
Dating, like diabetes, can be hard work. However, the payoff can be well worth it. “Sometimes you can’t handle all the stress that comes with diabetes, and having that special someone during those moments is crucial,” Brown says.
Finding love online
If you are looking for some romance or a kindred spirit, check out these dating websites designed specifically for people with diabetes.
Diabetic Date: Although it could use a serious design update, Diabetic Date is a popular dating site. Basic membership is free and includes an “advanced wink system,” which enables you to flirt. Premium membership costs $6.95 per month and includes text messaging, reply and chat options. Refunds are limited to the first five days after signing up for premium membership. Email verification is the only screening process.
Diabetes Dating Site (diabetesdatingsite.com): With a more modern design, Diabetes Dating Site offers options for people of all sexualities. Like Diabetic Date, the free basic membership only allows for flirting, while full membership enables messaging and group conversations via a chat room. Different pricing options and packages are available, and you can cancel at any time. Email verification is the only screening process.
DiaSingles: This is a Facebook group page with more than 1,300 subscribers. Members chat with each other in a casual, community-based setting. Once you are given permission to join, the group is similar to other Facebook groups and has no background checks. According to Kronen, “A lot of love connections are made there.”
Want to learn more about dating and relationships with diabetes? Read “Better Intimacy With Diabetes” and “Sex and Diabetes.”