Communication involves sharing. And relationships require give and take, especially when couples are coping with prostate cancer.
But when things don’t go the way we want or expect them to, we may throw all of that out the window and look for someone to blame.
Blaming often results in one partner feeling justified and the other partner feeling attacked.
Until both partners learn to take responsibility for their roles in their relationship, the blame dance continues and everybody loses.
When one partner continually blames the other, eventually the partner being blamed will feel unsafe and will most likely withdraw from the relationship (emotionally and/or physically).
The partner who is doing the blaming may then become even angrier. Eventually, feelings of bitterness and resentment build in both partners.
It takes two to tango
In order for love relationships to recover, both partners need to be willing to:
- Look at their behaviors
- Assume responsibility for them
- Stop shaming or blaming
And each partner needs to learn how to set healthy boundaries and how to honor them.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson writes that in her practice, she has found that when the partner who has been withdrawn is able to express their sense of isolation or their fears, this awareness often helps move the blaming partner into more feelings of responsiveness and tenderness.
Pause before reacting
John Gray, PhD, suggests that when you become upset with your partner, don’t say a word. Instead, get out a pen and a piece of paper and immediately write your negative feelings down.
This exercise may help you see how unloving your thoughts are, and how damaging they could be if you communicate them.
Ask: “Why am I so angry?”
Dr. Johnson writes that it’s important to see if there are any “ghosts” clouding your current situation.
For example, are you really angry at something your partner did (or did not do), or is the situation triggering old feelings of anger against someone else (perhaps a parent) that you have not resolved?
Sometimes our old hurts can cause us to overreact in our current-day interactions.
The next step is to ask, “What do I need to do to make myself feel better?”
If you determine that you need something from your partner, ask for it lovingly, without demanding.
Here are some tips on how to communicate your request and when is the best time to ask.
Change happens slowly
These suggestions alone won’t solve your relationship problems, but they may make you more aware of them. And awareness is always the first step to change.
While many couples are able to work together to find ways to improve their communication, seeking guidance from a professional counselor may accelerate your efforts.
Seeking help from a professional counselor may also be helpful if your partner with prostate cancer is withdrawn, defensive, and/or resistant to change.
Read our other helpful articles on communication for couples with prostate cancer:
- Why men and women speak a different language
- What men hear when women talk
- What your anger is really telling you
- Getting your needs met
- When men avoid conversation altogether
Gray J. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Harper Collins:New York, NY; 1992.
Johnson S. Hold Me Tight Little, Brown & Company: New York, NY;2008.