Couples and Cancer: Tips to keep your relationship strong while battling cancer

Diagnosis & Treatment

February 15, 2017

A cancer diagnosis can impact every aspect of life — home, career, financial status, relationships … especially with your spouse. Some relationships get stronger and others get weaker. It just depends on the couple. Nearly all couples experience a shift or a new normal after hearing the cancer diagnosis or while going through treatment. Now more than ever, you might worry about:

  • How to best support one another
  • How to communicate
  • How is the diagnosis/treatment going to change daily routines
  • How to deal with feelings of fear and anxiety
  • What the future holds

Here are a few tips to help you and your partner maintain a strong and healthy relationship while coping with a cancer diagnosis.

Keep the lines of communication open — talk and listen.
Communicating openly and honestly is so important. Share your thoughts, feelings and even your fears with each other. Keep in mind communicating openly doesn’t mean always agreeing, but rather a better understanding of each other. If it’s too hard to say out loud, then write it down to share.

Stay connected.
In other words, maintain a sense of normalcy and do what you did before cancer. Take time to have fun together — go to the movies, take a walk, play a board game or take a drive. Adapt your plans if necessary, but don’t let living with cancer define you or your relationship with your spouse.

Get the facts.
Knowledge is power. Learn everything you can about your diagnosis. Use your healthcare team as a starting point — they know you, your diagnosis and your treatment plan. They are one of your best resources for information.

Get to know your healthcare team.
Building a good relationship and communicating openly with your healthcare team is key to receiving the care you need, want and deserve. Be your own best advocate and take an active role in your treatment plan.

Connect with couples living with cancer.
Talking with someone who’s been there or who going through a similar cancer experience can be helpful and even reassuring. Although everyone’s experience is different, seek advice and strategies that might be adapted to fit your relationship and experience.

Create a support system and accept help.
Don’t isolate yourself. Accept and even seek the help you need. More than likely, your friends and family want to help, but don’t know how. Create a detailed list of tasks that they can do and let them choose.

One size doesn’t fit all, especially when coping with cancer. But, incorporating some of these strategies may help you and your spouse cope, remain strong and regain hope in the face of cancer.