For the record, most husbands are fantastic support when their wives are diagnosed with cancer.
They help with chores, bring home gifts, take their wives to treatment . . . all the things you expect from a loving husband.
Cancer is terrifying to a husband - not for selfish reasons (like where to find the toilet paper) - but because he loves his wife and doesn’t want to lose her.
However, after chemo is over and things settle into a routine, many husbands need a roadmap because they are now in totally uncharted territory. If she looks well, should I assume she’s back to her old self? Should I acknowledge the fear that lingers after the treatments or will I just reignite them? How long will this go on? Will she - we - ever be “normal” again? What does this mean and how do I ask?
If healthy men are from Mars and healthy women from Venus, then women with cancer are from a distant galaxy far, far away while their husbands . . . well, they may as well be in a black hole. And, if the foundation of the relationship is fractured, a cancer diagnosis will register 8.5 on the Richter scale.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. My marriage has gotten stronger through all the cancer drama. In spite of the stress and incredible challenges, my husband and I are deeply committed to each other and to our life together. Here are a few ideas that have helped us:
Get professional help. Family counselors / therapists can guide couples through the mountain of problems brought on by cancer, helping them work through the issues in a way that builds a stronger relationship. They can coach you to rebalance priorities based on your new circumstances and learn productive communication tools that employ supportive words, helpful timing, and real listening.
Be willing to learn. Assume that you are in a new reality in which you don’t know the rules, because you are. My husband was willing to ask my oncologist and other health providers for input rather than making judgments about my fatigue or chemo brain or germ phobia. He listened to my issues without trying to solve them, which resulted in us working on solutions together.
Rekindle your love often.