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READ THIS Before Your Cancer Crisis Becomes A Marriage Crisis

By HERWriter
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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.

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EmpowHER Guest

This is great article when it's the wife with cancer. The perspective is TOTALLY different when it's the husband with cancer. As the wife, it's hard to take over all the things that he did and lead the household. I think it might be easier if I was the one who had cancer.

July 14, 2015 - 6:34am
EmpowHER Guest

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July 7, 2015 - 6:38pm
HERWriter Guide

Annette - As always, you've given us very good advice and it's appreciated. I'd just add that, as a single woman, my experience with cancer has been different from yours, and you're fortunate to have a partner at your side through all of this. Most people have no training or experience in how to help another person with a cancer diagnosis, and most people need some guidance and support. I really like what you said about being in a new reality where you don't know the rules. It helps to be kind, gentle and patient with everyone in your life and remember just as you have to learn the new rules, they do too. Keeping expectations realistic and learning to flow with the new reality makes life a lot easier on everyone, especially the person living with cancer.
Take care, Pat

January 12, 2010 - 6:44pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.