10 Common Relationship Issues During a Cancer Diagnosis

by GregP_WN

We have a saying in the cancer community, it says "when someone gets cancer, the whole family gets cancer". While relationships can be extremely gratifying, they can also be hard work. A cancer diagnosis can take a toll on your relationship that normal life does not present. If you feel like your relationship is suffering because of your diagnosis, you are not alone. Here are 10 common relationship issues during a cancer diagnosis. 

10 Relationship Issues With Cancer

Please keep in mind that there are solutions to relationship issues. We have a great example from WhatNexter Lynne-I-Am. She says (about her husband), 

"My husband has been my rock through my entire journey, cooked meals, cleaned house, been at my bedside through surgery and chemo and now during my remission kidnaps me away to the beautiful mountains, leaving the stress of doctors and tests behind. A spouse who cannot support is an emotional cancer and a stressor any of us who are sick are better off without."

Lynne And Husband

[WhatNexter Lynne-I-Am and her husband during the holidays.]

No one knows the true status of your relationship but you. We hope we will not discourage you by bringing these issues up, but they are real, and sometimes when you have cancer emotional issues like these must be faced head-on. For more information on coping with relationship issues during cancer, visit the American Cancer Society's guide to Coping With Cancer in Everyday Life for spouses, families, and friends. You can also visit their page called "Listen With Your Heart" for information on how to communicate with your loved one with cancer.

Couples Confronting Cancer: Keeping Your Relationship Strong

10 most common relationship issues 

1. My partner looks at me differently since I've been diagnosed with cancer. But won't there always be circumstances in life where our views of people change? Yes. What is important is that being with someone means being with them "for better or for worse," including the evolution of sickness and health. 

"Come to find out after being diagnosed with cancer and having my husband be my primary care giver he now looks at me differently." - Callejal

2. Initially, my partner became too overwhelmed to take care of me. In relationships, especially early ones, when physical illness comes up many people tend to run. If you have a runner, you may be better off without them. Or, it might just take them some time to process your diagnosis and rally to stick by your side. 

Ann And Mitch 4 Yrs. Prior                                                                                                          Related Article - My Wife Has Cancer - A Husband and Caregiver's Story

"Unfortunately, any stress in our lives can cause a relationship to become stronger or break apart. It's not easy taking care of a cancer patient, and we surely don't look great going through the treatment. It's kind of funny for me because I'm divorced, but my ex rallied when I got sick. I think he would have dumped me if we had still been together because it would have been overwhelming for him to take care of me." - cam32505

3. My partner left because they couldn't accept the lifestyle change. Maybe the partner without cancer feels like this "is not what they signed up for." If that's the case, take comfort in knowing that you will ultimately be glad to have those people in your life that do want to stick around and not the ones that bail because things change.

"My husband never really "helped" or was "involved" during my diagnosis or treatment. He was too busy working and doing his thing. We had been married 15 years. He left me one yr after my diagnosis and 9 months after my stem cell transplant. He left, I believe, because I no longer could work and he "loves" money and his lifestyle was going to change." - Llbhurst

4. They started seeing me as a "burden." To put it simply, when you're in love, no matter how hard it is, you want to take care of each other in sickness and health. If you feel you are being treated like a burden, then consider that while you might be, your loved one wants to be taking care of you. If they are doing it with bitterness or grudgingly, that is when you might have a real issue. 

"I've always said that cancer does not define me and when my boyfriend started seeing me as a burden and someone with a "disability", I could no longer stay in the relationship. The funny thing is that he wasn't even my main caregiver." - Lirasgirl33

5. My partner runs to other sources of comfort because they feel like they can't talk to me. Communication is tricky. The only thing you can do is to try to communicate with each other just by talking to one another or by pulling in a third party that can help.

10 Things Only A Caregiver Can Relate To                                                                                                           Related Article - 10 Things Only a Caregiver May Relate To

"When I talked to him about it, he said it was his way of working through his anger and grief over almost losing me and it was someone to talk to about it who only saw it from his point of view. My thought to that was 'what a freaking crock of doo-doo'. Since he doesn't feel like he can talk to me about my cancer and how it affected him and his fears of re-occurrence, I 'suggested' he see a professional and lose the 'work wife' because it wasn't acceptable and it was hurting me deeply. I believe we are both committed to our marriage and the life we have built, and we are trying to work our way through this. It's not easy. In the end, I think we will be OK." - alimccalli

6. I feel like it is too early in the relationship to include my partner in on my cancer. Sadly, life happens when it happens. As a general rule to relationships, honesty might be the best policy. Telling your partner about your cancer might be a good (albeit dramatic) test to see if they are a keeper. They could surprise you and stick around.

7. My partner doesn't understand what I'm going through and we are drifting apart. Emotional distance is one of the most common relationship issues with cancer. The empathy just does not exist between the two people unless both are suffering from cancer. Try to bridge this gap with quality time and love.

8. My partner says they miss the "old me." In life, people and relationships are always changing. The "old me" might be an unfair term. If your partner is using this with you, try to help them understand that you are still you, just with cancer. If they do not listen, it may be that they don't know the true you or are not ready for the changes cancer will bring. Cancer will change you (in good and bad ways) and you might need to find someone who will embrace that change with you.

"I can't just give them my old self. Cancer changes you in many different ways physically, mentally and you cannot alway explain that however hard you try. I do only what I can and remember your recovery/treatment is very important." - Roberson76

9. We take our anger and negative emotions out on each other instead of going to each other for support and safety. Sometimes it is the ones we love the most that suffer the repercussions of our emotional ammo. Recognizing that you are doing it to each other is the first step to working through it.

Full Size Render                                                                                                           Related Article - For Husbands Only: What They Don't Tell You the Day Your Wife is Diagnosed

10. I feel us going down the path of divorce. Marriage and divorce is different for everyone. If you feel like you are heading down this path, here are some other WhatNexters that have gone through the same thing.

"Has anyone divorced after diagnosis?" - Llbhurst

It seems, that ultimately we must weigh the good and the bad of relationships and come up with what is and what is not worth it. In a perfect world, our partners would support us through anything but unfortunately the stressors of life and health make that hard. Good luck to all of you in your relationships, seek professional help when needed, communicate, and remember that the people that truly love you will stay by your side and there are people out there that will do just that.

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