You and your partner

If you are in a relationship, you may find strength and comfort in knowing that you and your partner are facing the cancer together. But cancer can both strengthen and strain a relationship – and it challenges even the best relationships.

While you may be the one diagnosed with cancer, your partner is living with cancer as well. Your partner may be as afraid, angry and shocked about what you are facing as you are. But each of you may cope with the situation very differently. One of you may be more hopeful than the other. One may want lots of information about cancer while the other doesn’t want to know much. And one of you may be more comfortable asking for help or talking about how you feel.

These strategies can help keep your relationship strong.

Talk to each other about what you are thinking and feeling. Be as open and honest as you can be about all your feelings, good and bad. Don’t feel guilty about feeling angry, scared, frustrated and resentful. They are normal reactions to cancer.

Be sensitive. It’s OK to keep difficult or emotional discussions for another day if one of you is having a bad day or is in a bad mood.

Remember how you’ve coped together in the past. Think about what strategies worked and what didn’t. Write a list of things you both can do to keep your relationship strong.

Make a plan for how to handle the household tasks such as taking care of children, cleaning, cooking and laundry. Keeping a daily routine can help you, your partner and your children cope.

Take a break from focusing on cancer. Talk about and do other things together. Plan a date night and do something that lets you think about something besides cancer.

Take short breaks from each other. You may need time alone to not feel like “the cancer patient.” Your partner may need a rest and time away from worrying about you.

Get help if you need it. You and your partner may need to see a family therapist, either together or separately. Support groups for partners can also be helpful.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Coping with Cancer in Everyday Life. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society; 2012.
  • Lewis FM . The family's "stuck points" in adjusting to cancer. Holland JC, et al (eds.). Psycho-Oncology. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press; 2010: 71: pp. 511-515.
  • Your relationships after cancer treatment. Macmillan Cancer Support. Macmillan Cancer Support. London, UK: Macmillan Cancer Support; 2012.
  • National Cancer Institute . Communication in cancer care (PDQ®) Health Professional Version . Bethesda, MD : 2018 :
  • National Cancer Institute . Communication in cancer care (PDQ®) Patient Version . Bethesda, MD : 2015 :
  • Song L, Northouse L. Family and caregiver issues. Yarbro CH, Wujcki D, Holmes Gobel B (eds.). Cancer Nursing: Principles and Practice . 8th ed. Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning; 2016: 73:2045–2062.

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

We do our best to make sure that the information we provide is accurate and reliable but cannot guarantee that it is error-free or complete.

The Canadian Cancer Society is not responsible for the quality of the information or services provided by other organizations and mentioned on, nor do we endorse any service, product, treatment or therapy.

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