When a man with prostate cancer completely shuts down it can leave his wife or partner feeling desperate for conversation. For some wives and partners, anger and resentment builds to the point where they are ready to give up.
Understand you're different
Talking sounds simple, but in fact, there are many factors that can make having a conversation between women and men with prostate cancer quite complicated.
Understanding some of these dynamics may help ease some of your fears and frustrations.
Read our articles about why men and women have different:
Why men withdraw
When women have a problem, they tend to want to talk about it.
When men have a problem, like prostate cancer, they may prefer to isolate (or go to their cave, writes author John Gray, PhD) until they can figure out what they need to do. Men may also need time away from their partners to affirm their independence.
Men are "fixers"
If a problem can’t be fixed, such as permanent impotence that can hinder sex after prostate cancer, some men may stay stuck in their cave.
Try to be patient
When men detach, many women may become anxious and afraid, because they feel abandoned and rejected. They also are afraid that their men won’t “come back.”
When your man with prostate cancer feels the need to isolate, probably the best thing you can do is just leave him alone.
He should "come back" eventually. And if you give him the time and space he needs to work out his emotions, he may appreciate you more for it.
If you let your man go away whenever he needs to, you may also find that the length time he stays away may lessen over time.
Be good to yourself
When your man withdraws and you start to get that panicked feeling, which is quite common for many of us, do something good for yourself, such as:
This should get easier for you with some practice over time.
You may also want to connect with other women who are coping with prostate cancer. You can find them at support group meetings or online forums.
Take his cue
Try not try to engage your loved one until he gives you signals that he is ready to come back and be receptive.
Gray cautions that if you chase after your man when he feels the need to isolate, chances are you will suffer the wrath of his anger for doing so.
Experiment with this technique and see how it works for you. Change takes time, so try not to have an expectation that things will improve overnight.
You may also want to seek guidance from a professional counselor who works with couples coping with prostate cancer to help improve their conversation skills and ultimately their relationships.
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.
Tannen D. You Just Don't Understand! Harper Collins:New York,NY;1990.
Always consult a medical professional.