How To Support A Partner With Cancer

When your partner is suffering from cancer, it can be very difficult to cope. The first step is discussing with them what kind of support they need. Opening up a dialogue early will make it easier to understand each other.

Everything may feel different and it can be hard to process. You and your partner will likely have different means of coping and that is okay. Your priority should be on supporting each other as much as possible. Even though you may feel you are protecting them by not being honest about your fears or concerns, that is not always the best method.

In this article, we are providing you with tips on how to support your partner and yourself during this difficult time. Remember, you are not alone in the process. You cannot control your partner’s health, but the support you provide and the means of coping are in your control.

Coping With Your Feelings

When things get difficult, try these tips to help you cope with your feelings:

● Talk to each other honestly. Discuss your feelings and what is important directly. This will bring you two closer together and open up better means of communication.

● Know you both may feel differently, and that is okay. It is difficult for couples to always be on the same page. Let alone when one partner is sick. You may feel difficult things, and that is normal.

● Ask for support. Seek help from family, friends, and mental health specialists. This way you have a strong support system outside of your partner.

● Make time for each other. Do what you enjoy and focus on things beyond the cancer diagnosis. Try to keep up your old routines as much as possible.

● Let your partner assume as much responsibility as they can. This goes for their care, financial, and family decisions. This helps keep them going and adds a sense of normalcy to the situation.

Changes In The Relationship

Your relationship will inevitably change after a cancer diagnosis. It may happen immediately or over time. Illnesses add a lot of pressure to your relationship, especially if children are involved.

Many couples become more stressed as a result of illnesses. You may find you are more worried about money/work, making decisions, changes in your sex life, and difficult feelings.

Your partner may begin to seem different. You may argue more because of the stress and heightened emotions surrounding the situation. Or, you may feel closer and more intimate with your partner than before. However, this is a rare case.

Changes In Your Role In The Relationship

When your partner receives a cancer diagnosis, your role in the partnership may change drastically. Cancer treatment may leave your partner without enough energy to do the things they did before. For example,

  • Working,
  • Household chores,
  • Managing finances,
  • Dropping off/picking up kids from school or activities.

This may mean having less time for other activities and spending time with family. This can lead to feelings of resentment or guilt. This is incredibly unpleasant for you and your partner. These changes will be difficult for you, which is why speaking with your partner about your feelings is so important.

These changes are normal. It may feel like you are doing something wrong because you are angry or upset with your partner, but it really is a normal part of the process. You are coming to terms with the experience of cancer. It is okay to ask your partner for help in the process.

Changes To Your Sex Life

It may come as no surprise that cancer and its treatment process may negatively impact your sex life with your partner. It does not mean you have to stop having sex or being intimate. Most people with cancer still can enjoy their sex life. Your sex life just may look different. These changes include:

Your partner is tired or stressed following treatment.

Sex may become less important than the focus on getting through the treatment process. However, sometimes it becomes more important.

You or your partner may have a lack of desire for sex.

For some, it is difficult to be the primary caretaker for your partner and think about them sexually.

Your partner may have physical changes as a result of cancer treatment.

If your partner is in pain or post-surgery, having sex may be difficult. Not to mention the emotional changes (depression and anxiety) that come with the treatment process.

It is important to know that these changes may occur so that is not a surprise later. Remember, this is a normal part of the process, no matter how abnormal it may feel at first.

How To Be The Best Support System

Try to be yourself and go about your life as normally as possible. If you start to act differently, it may really affect your partner. Talk to your partner about what they need and make sure the help you are providing is needed and wanted. This helps avoid misunderstandings before they start.

You will have a lot to cope with during this difficult time, so prioritize working as a team as much as possible. Find ways to help each other and make each other feel supported. It might be helpful to write down your priorities together to identify what is most important, what support you need from outside, and what help you may need throughout the process. Make time for each other as a couple. By doing this, you are staying connected as a couple and making your bond stronger. You may want to try:

  • Going out to eat,
  • Going for walks,
  • Taking a vacation,
  • Watching a movie

This will remind you both there is life beyond a cancer diagnosis and remind you of what brought you two together.

Treatment Decisions

Your partner may want to discuss their treatment options with you. Talking through these decisions will help you understand where their thoughts are, but remember, these decisions are theirs to make.

The best way to feel control in this situation is to educate yourself as much as possible. Learn about the cancer treatment process and the options available. This will help you feel empowered and help your partner make decisions (if they choose).

If you disagree with a treatment decision

Sometimes, this could happen. It can be difficult for you and your partner. The best thing to do is to consult a doctor or specialist. It will help you both understand all of the options available to you.

Remember, your partner has the right to make his or her own decisions. As difficult as it may be, try to accept this and support them. It will be hard to process, but it is their choice. Therapists or counselors can be very helpful in coping with this situation.

A Word From Mental Treat

Having a partner who is diagnosed with cancer can be incredibly difficult. The emotions, the process, and the day-to-day changes are hard to manage and could strain the strongest relationships. Do not be hard on yourself or your partner throughout this process.

If you need help from a mental health professional, try Mental Treat. Our platform has dozens of licensed professionals who specialize in therapy for couples, cancer treatment, and more. Simply click here to access the platform and filter to find the right fit for you.

We wish you the best during this difficult time and encourage you to take all the time you need to cope. It is challenging, but you are not alone. Take care, and be well.


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