Facing Cancer as a Couple
Even the most secure and loving relationships can be shaken by this life–threatening illness. Whether a couple is years into a committed relationship or just dating, this disease can suddenly strike and devastate their world. Knowing how to handle the impact of cancer can help a couple cope as they look towards the future.
Many factors influence a patient’s ability to create or maintain fulfilling relationships in the wake of a cancer diagnosis. They include the patient’s sense of self–worth and others’ reaction to the situation. Though the cancer journey can be challenging and painful, striving for meaningful, honest communication can help ensure the illness does not shut the door on love and intimacy.
Each relationship is different; however, all have some common problems that couples face when a partner or spouse is diagnosed with cancer. They include:
• Role changes
• Loss of independence
• Decreased intimacy
• Change in future plans
Cancer may seem like an intense subject for couples in a new relationship. However, with so many people surviving and even thriving after a cancer diagnosis, cancer and dating should not be mutually exclusive. Anyone dating a person with cancer can feel overwhelmed and anxious about what it could mean about the future. The person with cancer, on the other hand, may not know what to expect either. The key to dealing with these issues is to communicate as honestly and openly as possible. The conversation may be hard, but it will help them move forward in the healthiest possible way.
When it is Just the Two of You
It is a bit easier to talk about cancer in a more proven relationship; however, it is just as challenging and painful to deal with the effects. One partner may be going through not just the mental stress, but also the physical pain that comes with being diagnosed with a life–threatening disease. The other partner or spouse, on the other hand, may suddenly need to offer support in ways in which he/she has never had to before. Therefore, communication is necessary as they work together to tackle both the challenges of daily life and the disease. They should also watch out for each other’s emotional wellbeing since anxiety and depression are common for both caregivers and patients.
When Children are Involved
Cancer can have a devastating effect on relationships where the couple has children. When kids are a part of the relationship, juggling caring for them and helping them understand what cancer means can be overwhelming. Kids often worry about who will care for them if something happens to their parents. Some may even blame themselves for a parent’s illness. It is important to explain to them that cancer is not their fault and how their needs will be met.
The impact of a cancer diagnosis can be felt in every area of a couple’s life, from the psychological to the physical, the emotional to the spiritual. It can affect not only how the people suffering feel, but also how they feel about themselves and their partners. This can have a profound impact on current and future relationships with spouses or partners.