By Cindie Hubiak
When men undergo treatment for prostate cancer it is quite common for them to withdraw emotionally. In fact, Steve and I began to live more like roommates than lovers. We didn’t connect outside of household responsibilities and conversations about what each other did during the day. This can be true of any relationship regardless of the presence of prostate cancer, though it is more common following the diagnosis and treatment.
Of course this can wreak havoc on one’s self-confidence. I began to feel unattractive and found myself grappling with bouts of anger over our lack of deep, meaningful conversations and the disappearance of our sex life. Over time however, I found ways to communicate my needs and as a result our relationship strengthened and we no longer live like roommates.
Dialoguing About Sex
First and foremost, take care to avoid attacking your man about his lack of interest – keeping in mind this is a natural reaction for men in this situation. I suggest venting to a medical provider, counselor or good friend. Getting your frustrations out of the way will enable you to be more supportive of your man’s recovery.
When you do decide to have the dialogue with your man about sex, but find yourself not knowing what to say to get your needs met, consider using the request format:
- Set a goal for the conversation.
- Start with a statement such as, “I want to schedule some time to talk to you about something important to me.”
- Explain your feelings without placing blame: “I’m feeling unattractive and hurt because I feel undesired sexually. I’m not blaming you, but I want you to ______.”
- Determine what you require as a woman and ask if he’s willing and able to provide it for you.
- Negotiate a plan of action that suits both of you.
Ask For, Accept and Give Compliments
Receiving compliments from your man may make a significant difference in your self-confidence and how you feel as a woman. If he agrees to give you sincere compliments, accept them graciously. Let him know how good his compliment makes you feel. Oftentimes we retort with counterproductive responses such as, “You really like this dress? I feel fat in it.” Just respond with a “Thank you!” By reinforcing his positive behavior, you will keep the compliments coming (I realize that sounds a bit like Pavlov’s “conditioned reflex” concept, but it works).
Remember the compliments should go both ways. Try giving him more than you normally do with the understanding he is going through a tough time as well.
Understanding your man’s loss of desire and clearly communicating your needs can save you a lot of pain and frustration. Work together to discover ways he can help you feel desired and provide him guidance. If you’ve experienced this, what approaches have you found to be effective for you and your man?