Facing cancer as a couple

February 14, 2022 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

A cancer diagnosis can test any relationship whether you’ve been dating for five years or married for 10.

Unexpected news can turn a couple's world upside down. Though every person and relationship handles conflict and stress differently, couples may charter to new territory when facing cancer together. 

Here are some tips for how to face the challenges of cancer as a couple:

  • Changing of roles and responsibilities. If you were once the dependent in the relationship, you may soon assume the role of caregiver and head of household. This may include making dinners, shuttling the neighborhood carpool to and from activities, and helping around the house. Be flexible and expect that you may need to step up to the plate and take on additional responsibilities. Allow your inner circle to help you with some of these tasks.

  • Communication styles. Openly discuss your feelings with your partner by confronting difficult emotions. You may feel a sense of distance with your loved one if you hold your feelings inside. Be open and honest when you talk about an issue, rather than ignoring it. Experts say couples who work together to keep lines of communication open and clearly express their needs and fears strengthen their relationship. Listen to one another without judging and talk about what each of you can to do better support each another.

  • Lack of intimacy. Intimacy comes in all forms. While your partner is dealing with the side effects of chemo, his or her self-esteem and confidence may decrease. The American Cancer Society recommends partners help their loved ones work through these feelings and changes by offering each other love, support and understanding. In addition to communicating your feelings, there are ways to be close and show your love for one another besides sexual intimacy, such as holding hands, writing love notes, cuddling and kissing.

  • Fear of the unknown. Often, loved ones can feel overwhelmed, anxious and nervous for what the future holds. Do not blame each other for the events that are unfolding. Instead, talk through the sense of worry together, privately or in a support group, so you are aware of each other’s feelings. Support and love your partner and let your partner support you.

Learn more about cancer support services Edward-Elmhurst Health.


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