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  • Clare Reed CBT Therapist

Relationship Break Down During & After Cancer

Cancer is a gruelling process for most and even the strongest of relationships can be tested during a cancer treatment. It is unfortunately a common enough cause of relationship breakdown for those in precarious relationships and ones that aren ‘t strong enough to get through Cancer as a team. Just when you need support around you most you can find yourself losing your partner. The reasons can be many. But ultimately it comes down to your partner not wanting to accompany you through your treatment and instead looking to move on with their lives in another direction.

Relationship Breakdown During & After Cancer
Relationship Breakdown During & After Cancer

I have helped many clients who came to me for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy over the last decade, who were in this position. A lot of them wanted to know how to get their partners back! They feared no one else would be interested in them after Cancer - so better the devil they know then!?! Some people are just not cut out for tough times and if they were contemplating dissolving the relationship, before Cancer, this may be just the get out they need, instead of looking at other get out options which could prove harder. Others leave their partner just at the end of Cancer, when the Cancer patient is finally able to look forwards in life they suddenly find themselves looking at a road for one not two. More often than not this is because their Partner was planning on leaving them before Cancer arrived but they felt too guilty to leave during Cancer so waited until the end instead. A bit like how parents stick together in a bad marriage until the kids go to college and then get to the divorce courts asap!

I am sure you are reading this and thinking many splendid thoughts, such as, ‘What horrid people these are’. And yes, to some degree of course, their timing couldn’t be worse. But Cancer doesn’t care what time it is when it arrives.

What to do after a relationship break up during Cancer
What to do after a relationship break up during Cancer

What can you do if you have been left during Cancer

Firstly, don’t try and grab on to them begging them to stay. They will probably not and even if they do they will resent you for it and your self-esteem will plummet. Once someone has announced their intentions to leave this will change everything, you will never get the relationship back to what you thought it was before those intentions were made known, so don’t bother. Instead park it. You have more important things to concentrate on than someone who clearly doesn’t love you enough to be with you, they are not worth a smidgen of consideration once they have walked out at this time.

Secondly, gather your troops! Good news here, most people will be so aghast that this has happened to you, at such a time, they will rally round more than if you were in a relationship. Lean on your friends and family when you need to, they are the ones who love you. You may get a time to repay them in the future.

What to do if you want to end your relationship
What to do if you want to end your relationship

What can you do if you wanted to leave the relationship – after finding you have Cancer

Cancer treatment is gruelling, taxing and mood swing inducing hard work. If you are in a relationship that isn’t working for you Cancer will not help improve it. It will make it worse. Only the most committed relationships will get to the other end unscathed and even then, there will be bad days and arguments. When you have Cancer it is imperative to keep your stress levels as low as possible, which is why CBT is so beneficial, as it provides techniques and tools to lower anxiety and stress. If you have great support around you, are financially secure and have no dependants, it will be easier to cut your losses and go it alone through treatment with family and friends to help you.

If you have dependants doing an informal risk assessment is useful to estimate what the emotional fall out would be at home to your children and how that would affect you, it may be that it will cause too much additional stress for you to leave at this time.

Give yourself permission to be selfish, the most important thing is to do whatever keeps your stress levels low.

Finding Yourself Single After Cancer
Finding Yourself Single After Cancer

What to do when your partner leaves you after Your Cancer Treatment Ends

This can be particularly galling as I have helped many clients in deep shock with what they saw as a big betrayal. Some partners are such great actors in supporting their loved ones that it may have seemed like the relationship had grown stronger through the challenge, only to feel like they were kicked in the stomach at the end of all they endured during treatment, once their apparently loving partner calls it a day.

I can only suggest a lot of help here, therapy is a must and talking it through with trusted loved ones. Don’t bottle things up and put on a brave face because again this just builds internal stress which is not conducive to your body healing.

It really is a bad time for anyone to leave as you were maybe planning an end of treatment celebration or holiday and it’s a bit like crossing the finishing line in first place being handed the trophy and then having it taken off you a second later. The resentment, anger and bitterness can stay with you a long time ruining your quality of life after Cancer, I can’t stress how important it is to get professional help. I have worked with many clients in this position and have helped them through this very difficult time.

As with the tip I gave earlier in this post, don’t go begging them to stay, after all why would you be with someone who doesn’t love you? What is the point of that? The big fear that my clients in these situations have is that Cancer tarnishes them as ‘good relationship material’ but this has been proven wrong endlessly. Ask around, you will find people who have had another chance in love after Cancer, it isn’t rare at all.

For further help if you are struggling in your relationship or if your relationship has broken down during or after Cancer please don’t’ hesitate to get in touch and book a free pre-therapy call to see how I can help you at this time.

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