Dealing With An Unsupportive Partner During Breast Cancer

Stef Woods, breast cancer survivor and blogger at, talks about what to do if your partner is supportive while you’re going through breast cancer.  She recommends reshaping your expectations of your partner and having open communicating.

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Lisa Schneider-Cipriano: How do you deal with your partner being unsupportive as you go through breast cancer?

Stef Woods: I think some of this also involves reframing what our expectations are of our partners, and when it comes to our friends and family members, everyone plays a different and distinct role in our lives, what they bring to our lives and what we give to their lives. And when it comes to a partner, they can be our love, our husband, our wife, our life partner, without playing every role in our life. For better or for worse and in sickness and in health doesn’t mean that this one person has to do everything. So I think some of it is reframing our expectations, and then some of it is communicating needs and expectations with a person’s skill set. Not every man is going to be great in the chemo room, that’s just the reality. Not every man is going to be great at childcare, that’s okay.

However, what can be done? Can there be rides to treatment? Can there be tasks around the house? Can there be other assistance that they can provide? Maybe it’s as simple as a hug, or listening to us, or holding a patient when she’s crying, but maybe it’s more things out of necessity. And it’s figuring out what the man is comfortable doing. Not every guy is going to be comfortable cleaning drains out, or changing dressing, or holding your head as you’re throwing up after chemo, but some guys are. And what’s their work schedule? What are needs when it comes to insurance? What are needs when it comes to children and pets and other family responsibility? So to really communicate and before treatment starts, try to be as open as you can with your nurses and case managers to know what to expect and then be open with your partner. And also check in with each other. Try to have one time a week where you can say, “How am I feeling about this?” “How are you feeling?” and “What can we do to both feel better?”


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