Communicating effectively – With a man with prostate cancer

Communicating with a loved one with prostate cancer can be challenging for a variety of reasons.

But if you think that your man should intuitively know — or even anticipate what you want or need — chances are your needs won’t get met.  Men are not mind-readers!

If you want help or support from your man, you are probably going to have to ask for it.

Author John Gray, PhD, goes so far as to suggest that if you do not ask for help clearly and directly, your man will assume that he is already giving you enough support.

Communicating more effectively

Let’s say your man makes an appointment with his doctor and he doesn’t tell you about it.  When he comes home and tells you what the doctor said, you’re upset because you’ve told him you would like to go with him to his doctor visits to support him.  But he hasn’t listened.

As a result, you feel that he doesn’t care about you or doesn’t respect you.

Yelling at him may only make him shut down or even ignore you.  You might have more success if you calmly explain that you feel hurt that he doesn’t include you, because it makes you feel that he doesn’t care about you.

Try to use “I” statements as much as possible.  If you find yourself starting to get angry or blaming, stop and apologize.

If you feel yourself getting angry, pause or walk away until you have calmed down.

Using “would” versus “could”

When a woman asks, “Could you do…” something, Gray says a man may perceive it as a critical judgment.

In fact, it may compel a man to make the decision not to do what is being asked.  And if you tell your man: “This needs to get done,” Gray warns that he probably won’t respond at all.

Changing your question to “Would you do…” something may be more warmly received and lead to better results.

Practice makes perfect

You can “practice” communicating your requests by asking your loved one with prostate cancer to do things he is already doing, but in a very loving manner, says Gray.

He also recommends heaping lots of praise and appreciation for all that your man has done.

But Gray cautions that if your man detects a demanding or insincere tone, what he really “hears” is that he is not giving enough.

This may cause him to give less until you let him know that you appreciate what he is already giving you.

Clue him in

Give your man a “heads up” that you are trying to learn to communicate better.

Tell him that you are working to control your anger, that you don’t want to yell or blame him, but it’s really hard for you. Ask if he can try to be patient with you.

Another approach that Gray suggests is to ask your man: “What is the best way for me to talk to you?”

You could say: “I need to talk to you about something that has been bothering me, but it’s really hard for me. What is the best way for me to tell you about _________ (whatever it is) so you won’t feel upset or angry?”

Timing is everything


Men who are coping with prostate cancer may sometimes need to pull away before they can be close to their partners.  Gray refers to this as a man “going to his cave”

The worst time to start a conversation — or ask your man to meet your needs — is when he pulls away and is emotionally unavailable.

You may have more success if you postpone your conversation until he appears to be more engaged and receptive.

Change takes time

Communicating to get your needs met is a process. It helps to understand that your partner with prostate cancer may need some time to adjust to the “new you.”

Read our other helpful articles about communicating with your man with prostate cancer:

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Gray J. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Harper Collins:New York, NY;1992.

Beattie M. The Language of Letting Go. Hazeldon Foundation:Center City, MN;1990.c

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