You might be casually seeing each other or committed life partners. But no matter what the shape of your relationship, cancer is bound to influence the bond between you. Even if things are rock solid, cancer is likely to throw some challenges your way. They key is to keep talking.
How it affects them
The truth is that your partner won’t receive the same level of support as you, both practically and emotionally, which can make them feel alone in this. They might not know how to best support you. They may be under pressure to keep it together, while also having to deal with their own emotions. It’s a tough role which they might do brilliantly, or you might struggle to keep in harmony with each other.
The ability to talk openly with each other is crucial. Obviously, this can be difficult under the circumstances, but as a couple you can aim to face any issues with a united front and go from there.
What support is available for my partner?
With the focus on your support needs, your partner may well find it hard to express any fears and feelings of their own. The fact is they are entitled to access the same support organisations as you during this time, including those listed on our website and your care team.
If your partner becomes your carer during your illness they may also be entitled to financial support. Have a look at our guidance about money for a better idea of what they could be entitled to.
Your partner might also want to check out some of these organisations for emotional support, or talk to a member of your care team.
Coping with changes
There’s no right or wrong way to deal with the effects that cancer has on your relationship. Cancer has a huge impact on people’s lives, and although some couples might grow stronger, sometimes relationships suffer as a result. You might grow apart, they might not be able to handle it or you could just end up wanting different things. It’s never easy to deal with change, but if it gets to a point where you aren’t happy, it’s important you consider all your options. It’s certainly no good staying together just because of your diagnosis, or because you feel you ‘should’. Just make sure you find the support to help you through.
What about sex?
It’s really important that you feel able to enjoy a normal life as much as possible. This can apply to sex as much as anything else – although remember that sex is always about informed choices and not compulsory in any relationship.
In some cases having cancer can make sex more difficult, at least for a while. There may be medical reasons or you just might not feel like it with so much going on. This may well feel like an awkward issue to raise even with your partner. But being open and honest is key to helping you feel comfortable with each other. The key is to find a quiet time to talk things through while giving them every chance to respond. If anything, it could even bring you closer together.
Our website has loads of frank advice from experts and young people about the effects of cancer on sex and relationships, body-confidence, how to talk about things, breakups and where to get more support.
- Take a look at our frank advice about personal relationships and sex
- Turn to these organisations for emotional support
- Have questions? Here's how to get them answered
Updated February 2017, next review due February 2018.