If you are in a relationship

If you are in a relationship, cancer can make things complicated. There is no right way to deal with cancer. Some couples find their relationship grows stronger, while others have a tough time making it work. Every relationship is different.

Making time for each other

Cancer can take up a lot of your time. You may have a lot of appointments and hospital visits. You may have to stay in hospital or travel some distance to have treatment. This can mean spending less time with your partner than you are used to. You may not be able to do as many things together if you are in hospital or recovering from treatment.

Try to make the most of the times that you are together. It’s great to see friends and family, but sometimes you might choose to do something as a couple.

It is also important to try not to worry about spending some time apart. It can help build a healthy and strong relationship. If there is no way to see each other face to face, try to keep in touch using video or phone calls, texts or social media.

My boyfriend was at the hospital every day after he finished school. He stayed by my side through thick and thin and we are now engaged.


Changes in your relationship

It can sometimes feel like the people closest to you become distant after a cancer diagnosis, including your partner. There may be lots of reasons for this:

  • Many people don’t know much about cancer or cancer treatment. They may not understand what you are going through or how you feel.
  • Some people find it difficult to cope with feeling upset or scared. They may avoid talking about what is happening, or even avoid spending time with you.
  • If you have to stop working or studying during your cancer treatment, you may feel you have less in common with your partner. Or your relationship might change because your parents or other people are suddenly more involved in your life. Your partner may not know how they fit in and what their role is.

Feeling close and comfortable in your relationship is important. But your feelings may change over time. Whatever you are feeling, keep talking and listening to each other. You could start by telling each other about your day or how you are feeling.

What about sex?

If you are having sex, you may find you are less interested during cancer treatment. Side effects can sometimes make sex physically difficult. But you may just not feel relaxed enough for sex.

Even without cancer, people can find their interest in sex changes over time for lots of reasons. This is common and often it is not a problem. But if one person in a relationship is more interested in sex than the other, it can be difficult.

It is helpful to talk about how you both feel and what you are thinking. Try to be clear and open about what you want. Remember, there should never be any pressure to have sex if you don’t want to.

We have more information about coping with sexual problems caused by cancer. Your healthcare team can help too.

If you do have sex, make sure you use contraception that protects you and your partner, and that prevents pregnancy. You can find out more in our information about starting cancer treatment.

If a relationship ends

Sometimes relationships don’t last. Going through a break up can be difficult for anyone. But it may seem especially hard when you are coping with cancer too. Whether you ended the relationship or not, it is normal to feel some strong emotions.

Things will get better with time. Until then, these tips might help:

  • It is okay to be sad, angry or even relieved that the relationship is over. Give yourself time and be honest about what you are feeling.
  • Try to make time for things you enjoy and that make you feel good about yourself.
  • Focus on something that interests you, like a hobby. Or try something new.
  • Spend some time with friends.

I had a boyfriend, but we split up when I was having chemotherapy. He tried to support me, but he wasn’t ready for that and couldn’t understand things.