When your partner has cancer, it can feel like your world has been turned upside down.
You may be concerned about how cancer has affected your partner emotionally as well as physically. They might seem different. This could be because they are under a lot of stress or in pain, or simply tired. This can put strain on you and your relationship.
It’s common to have many different feelings when a partner has cancer. You will both probably find your own ways of coping with your feelings. Even if you and your partner have very different ways of dealing with the illness, try to be understanding of each other’s reactions. Try to work together to understand and support each other.
Often partners try to protect each other by not being completely honest about their fears and concerns. But being honest about your feelings may make it easier for your partner to be honest about theirs. Talking about these things may help you understand each other and feel closer.
We have more information about relationship changes, changes in roles and your sex life if your partner has cancer.
If you or your partner are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender
If you are in a same-sex relationship, or if you or your partner are a minority sexuality or gender, you may have extra emotional and practical concerns when your partner is diagnosed with cancer.
It might be that your relationship becomes public for the first time when you’re in hospital or dealing with healthcare professionals. Or if there are already difficult family relationships, there may be conflict with your partner’s relatives over who is the main support or carer for the person with cancer. If your partner is transgender, their cancer might bring up issues about a gender they do not identify as.
You may feel the people you meet during treatment don’t recognise you as a couple. Or you or your partner may find it harder to feel comfortable seeking and getting the help you need. It’s important to remember that the law protects you and you shouldn’t be treated any differently because of how you identify.
Sometimes talking about these issues can help you cope or resolve them. You can call us on 0808 808 00 00. Our cancer support specialists are experts in supporting anyone who is affected by cancer. Or you could talk to people in the group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on our online community.
Keep talking to your partner and showing affection. Some couples find that if they face cancer together and support each other emotionally, it makes their relationship stronger.
This won’t be the case for every relationship. The situation you are in might give you an opportunity to look again at your relationship. It may force you to change the situation, even if it means ending the relationship.
Some people will have to deal with the stress of conflicting feelings. For example, if your relationship was close to ending before your partner was diagnosed, you may feel too guilty to end it now. Or you may worry about how that would look to other people.
If the cancer can’t be cured
If your partner’s cancer is not curable, you may be emotionally preparing yourself for their death. This is incredibly difficult, but try not to withdraw from your partner or stop communicating with them. You will need each other now more than ever.
Sometimes, when a person with cancer isn’t going to get better, it can bring up strong feelings about the relationship and make you both re-examine it.