Dialog Box

Rare Cancers Australia

Talking with your partner

Relationships can be challenged by a cancer diagnosis, and this may be due to a variety of reasons. Most common factors include financial strain, uncertainty around the future, social isolation and parental and familial commitments. Communication can help how relationships manage these issues, and that depends a lot on how relationships generally communicate.  

It’s important to recognise there may also be role changes for both of you. You may find yourself in a position that requires your partner to care for you when you were previously independent. You may also find it challenging to do things you once found easy, which can cause a strain on your relationship and lead to feelings of frustration and helplessness.  

Your partner may also experience similar feelings to you, which can include depression or anxiety. It can help to share your opinions and allow your partner to do the same, because they may also have the same concerns you have. Being open and honest about any feelings you may be experiencing can help your relationship to become stronger.  

At times you may not have the same feelings as your partner, and this can lead to tension. Taking time to talk to each other and give yourself and your partner space to share will help ease any stress and allow each of you to process how you may be coping with your diagnosis. 

It’s ok if your partner may not be ready or willing to share with you how they feel. They might be distancing themselves as a coping mechanism without consciously trying to cause you harm or distress. 

Asking your partner to listen to you may sometimes be all you need. Remind your partner that they aren’t there to find a solution to every problem. Being present and actively listening can make a massive difference to how you are feeling. Let them know how appreciative you are of their help and that you too understand how difficult this is for them as well.  

Sexual Intimacy 

Sexuality intimacy will probably change in your relationship. The shock of a diagnosis can have an effect on desire. Misunderstanding and different expectations can lead to problems. The key is communication, even if you communicated easily before the cancer diagnosis, things may feel different now. It is quite common to experience embarrassment, lack of time/privacy, fatigue and fear.

Some things that may help with sex and intimacy are: 

  • Asking your partner how they are feeling
  • Exploring different types of pleasure
  • Taking it slowly and be patient with each other
  • Using relaxation and meditation techniques
  • Focusing other aspects of the relationship that make you feel connected

Physical contact, such as holding hands or hugging, can help bring you closer together. Depending on the type of cancer you have, where it is, and what treatment you are having even a gentle hug can be uncomfortable. Sometimes it can help just lying or sitting next to each other. If sexual intimacy becomes problematic for either of you, there are people who specialise in helping. As with all aspects of a relationship, communicate your needs with your partner and let them do the same so you can both have an understanding of how you’re feeling.

You can read more about sexuality, intimacy and cancer here

Young adults can find more information here

Source: Cancer Vic - Talking with Family and Friends