There is a billboard I drive by every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on my way to teach English Comp. that says, “What Have Your Done For Your Marriage Today?” As I drive by I think, oh, yeah, I’ve got to remember to take time to talk to Dale (my husband) when he gets home from work. Or when the kids are finally in bed, instead of zonking out on the couch to watch TV, or to read a book, or to grade my student’s essays, I’ve got to just hang out with my husband… maybe tonight we can even manage a little romance.
My husband is great and after 11 years of marriage I still really like to spend time with him… but… There is always a but, isn’t there? I am so overwhelmed with work and the kids and the house and diabetes and everything else in between that I don’t feel like I have much to give to my marriage, emotionally or physically.
I recently interviewed Janis Roszler, RD, CDE, LD/N and author of several books about diabetes and relationships, to ask her about women with diabetes and relationships. (I am including our conversation in my book, Smart Women’s Guide to Diabetes, which will be published in the fall of 2011.) I wanted to hear from an expert whether it was true that women with diabetes had decreased sex drives, and what that means to marriage. Janis is a working mother of four kids and I knew she would give me an honest answer. She is widely known in the diabetes community, and travels to speaking events and writes a Dear Janis column, so she is in touch with the reality of living with diabetes.
When we spoke, Janis related an anecdote about someone who complained to her about the challenges of diabetes and sex, and a lack of spontaneity due to having to think about blood sugar levels, etc. She laughed and told this person (something along the lines of) spontaneous sex goes out the window when you have kids, or when you both work, it’s not limited to people with diabetes! Her words reassured me and reminded me that my marriage is affected by more than just diabetes.
Janis gave me some tips for women with diabetes on how to increase pleasure in our relationships:
- Rest/limit schedule (Learn how to say no to that extra load of laundry or the next freelance gig or cooking dinner every single night.)
- Consistent physical activity (Even on rainy days I should not skip my runs!)
- Reliable contraceptives (Maybe it’s time for that vasectomy?)
- Redefine pleasure: Janice says some people will have to change their expectations about pleasure, especially if they are unable to perform the way they did in the past. For example, they may have to expand their definition of pleasure to include more actions than only intercourse. Or they may have to learn to appreciate smaller moments of pleasure, such as long walks, holding hands, etc.
- Mood setting techniques (Candles? A little Dave Brubeck?)
- Cuddling (under the blankets on the couch)
- Schedule intimacy (otherwise known as “date night”… maybe it’s time to put a lock on the bedroom door)
- Open communication (I like to remind myself that we are on the same team. Another metaphor I use when things are rough is the ebb and flow of the tide.)
It turns out the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is responsible for the billboard, and has an entire media campaign dedicated to promoting marriage (their definition of marriage that is). When I discovered the origins of the ad, I have to say that I felt manipulated instead of inspired, and a little resentful that the Catholic Church was preaching from the highway. So when I set out for my morning commute and approached the billboard, I looked at it with different eyes and realized that the billboard has it all wrong. Instead of inspiring guilt about what I haven’t done for my marriage, the billboard should remind me what my marriage has done for me.
Today my marriage (my husband) gave me 30 minutes for a stress reducing, heart rate increasing run so I could survive the remainder of the day at home with my children. Last night my marriage gave me the freedom to go to an art opening and have a glass of wine (two really) with my good friend. Yesterday my marriage gave me support when I complained about being low all day long and how crappy I felt and how frustrating it is to have diabetes. For 11 years my marriage has given me room to breathe and remember who I am and who I am trying to become, and because of this, I want to give something back to my marriage.
So on this Valentine’s Day, my husband and I won’t go out to dinner, we won’t buy each other expensive gifts, and we won’t go to a movie, but that doesn’t mean we are lacking in love. This holiday that is all dressed up in pink bows and tastes like dark chocolate isn’t about the institution of marriage and it isn’t about diabetes, it’s about the person who knows me best. And if we’re luck