Breast Cancer and Couples

The Impact of Breast Cancer on Intimate Relationships:

The deeply felt psychological, emotional, sexual and relational impacts of breast cancer for the person with breast cancer and their partner are real, difficult and everyday challenges for a couple. Getting help from a couples therapist, who is also well-versed in the complexities of how breast cancer impacts a relationship, is an effective and empowering way to address the challenges of the disease while also strengthening the couple’s bond and connection to each other.

My Story

I am a breast cancer survivor. Even before my own diagnosis in June of 2015, my life had been intimately connected with breast cancer as a caretaker and loved one of other women who had experienced it. My mother and maternal aunt had it; my sister had it; two of my sisters-in-law had it. At the time when I became the patient, I had been married for 12 years, and was a couple therapist specializing in helping couples cultivate positive, vibrant, and authentically intimate relationships. During my breast cancer journey, in addition to facing numerous physical and emotional challenges, I was also acutely aware of the relational and sexual challenges for me and my husband brought on by the disease. I was also acutely aware that while my husband and I shared some similar perspectives in the experience, due to our different roles (me as “patient” and my husband, as “caretaker/observer/supporter”), there were major differences as well that required our attention and our respect if we were to come through this experience stronger together. My personal experiences have affirmed for me, the importance of seeking out help for yourself and your significant relationship so that the journey of breast cancer can be a transformative one for you and your partner. It is my hope that you and your partner seek out help and support from one who truly understands both the complexity of couple relationships and the emotional, relational and sexual complexities of breast cancer.

Imagine If You Could:

  • Having a relationship that lovingly and compassionately supports the individual experiences of both the one with cancer and the caretaker.
  • Being able to talk to each other about your worst fears, and feeling understood, and compassionately supported.
  • Seeing the differences in your experiences as strengths rather than points of contention and misunderstanding.
  • Embracing the differences in ways that creates greater trust and intimacy between you.
  • Feeling that facing this experience together makes the two of you stronger than if you were to face things alone.
  • Creating a meaningful sexual relationship that feels satisfying, deeply pleasurable and fulfilling to both partners.

If you or your partner have been affected by breast cancer, do you find yourselves struggling with:

  • How cancer has changed and impacted your sense of self, your relationship and your sexuality.
  • Understanding, and feeling secure enough to express your emotions and your experience either as the one with breast cancer or as a partner of someone with breast cancer.
  • Accepting the differences between you and your partner’s perspectives, feelings and experiences.
  • Feelings of fear, along with a deep sense of loss of trust in your body, your health, your safety and your future.
  • Avoiding the necessary, yet highly stressful and difficult conversations, about relevant issues and impending decisions.
  • Talking with your partner as well as directly experiencing the changes and losses in your sexual relationship.

I help couples during treatment, in recovery and beyond so that…

  • They can embrace and effectively address the huge life changes brought about by breast cancer and strengthen their bond together in a process of transformation.
  • They can develop a deeper understanding of themselves and of each other and how their emotions and experiences in the breast cancer journey are both similar and different.
  • They can talk about their fears and difficult issues in ways that feel rewarding, clarifying and effective. They learn how to use those effective conversations as roadmaps to move into a more satisfying and loving relationship.
  • They can create an improved, more intimate and more meaningful sexual relationship which supports a healing, life-affirming environment and offers mutual satisfaction and pleasure.

The Path of Recovery.

Recovery is a time when couples are truly challenged. Both are tired from the toll of the illness and treatment. Both can feel worried about the future and a recurrence of the cancer. Both can be stressed about financial pressures due to lost time at work and medical bills. It is common for couples to struggle in communicating these concerns and fears directly, effectively and openly with each other. Often couples also struggle in resuming a satisfying sex life, or creating one for the first time, and usually do not give themselves permission to address the topic of sex. However in not addressing sexual changes and challenges as a result of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, couples not only lose opportunities to learn new ways to create satisfying, pleasurable sex, they also lose valuable opportunities and experiences of connection that can offer healing, deep connection, reassurance, security and a sense of “normalcy” .

Often clients also believe that once the treatment ends, life resumes just as it was prior to the illness. Going through the door of treatment and recovery is a one way path; life is forever changed and the work of creating a new normal becomes the challenge at hand. There is no going back; cancer forever changes the one who has/had it and their partner.

It is possible to re-establish a life that has meaning, feels satisfying and thrives physically, emotionally, relationally and sexually after cancer. Seeking counseling with a therapist who understands how breast cancer impacts both the patient and their partner can be one of the most effective ways to restore overall well being after the challenges of cancer and treatment has been completed.
If you would like help in facing your unique, relational and sexual challenges of breast cancer, please call or email to set up your initial appointment.