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The Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program of BC

Coping & Support
Your Relationships

With Your Spouse (& Vice Versa)

Being part of a couple when one member is sick can tremendously alter your relationship, but this does not have to be permanent. There is both physical and emotional trauma that goes hand in hand with treatment for a life-threatening illness.

Couples often feel anger and irritation towards each other as they negotiate both the cancer treatment as well as changing roles in the family. This is normal. Give yourself time, and remember that just being open with each other does a lot to ensure that each person’s needs are met.

Here are some tips on how to deal with the changes.


We cannot stress communication enough. Working through changes in roles as a couple can be a difficult process, but it is important to share your thoughts and feelings with your partner, even when one member of a couple is sick. If you choose not to share your thoughts and feelings with your partner, you are essentially cutting yourself off from your greatest source of support at a time when you need it the most.

Connecting With Your Partner

When one member of a couple is sick, it can be very challenging to start to relate on the level of patient-to-caregiver, rather than partner-to-partner. The reason for this is that often the illness of a family member takes centre-stage in relationships, especially during treatment. Even during active treatment (when possible), it is important that couples dedicate time to activities that will allow them to connect on a partner-to-partner level. Couples need to make a conscious decision that their lives as a couple will not solely revolve around the disease and treatment plan, but also be about the things that connected them with each other in the first place.


Let your partner know what to expect of you as you heal, and what not to expect. Do not feel as if you have to keep the house in a certain way because you always have in the past. Set realistic limitations on what you can do. Try to ask for help when you need it, even though this can be difficult to do. This holds true for the partner of the patient as well. Don’t think that you can do everything!


Keep up contacts outside the family as much as you are able. This will help you stay connected with your life outside your medical treatment.

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