Anger and prostate cancer

What's it really telling you?

Anger may not be the real reason that couples fight over  prostate cancer-related issues.  In her book, Hold me Tight, clinical psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson writes that beneath the anger, partners are actually crying out to each other, “Are you there for me?”

Johnson suggests that partners want to know that they:

  • Can count on one another
  • Matter to each other
  • Are valued, accepted, and cherished

When one partner shuts the other out, the rejected partner may become demanding or clinging.  Johnson writes that:

  • Demanding is a way of soothing and protecting oneself
  • Clinging is a way to try to draw the other partner back into the relationship

As this destructive dance continues, both partners may become increasingly defensive.  "You will listen to me” collides with “you can’t make me” — and nobody wins.

Assumptions become fact

Johnson states that when partners demand — instead of request — it often leads to intense power struggles, not the closeness they both truly desire.  

Eventually, both partners begin to assume the worst about each other. Love is replaced by resentment, fear, and doubt.

The negativity each partner feels about each other quickly spirals out of control. Each partner assumes that the other is “out to get them.” These threats can be real or imaginary.

Eventually the “why” of the fight no longer matters. Each partner feels abandoned or rejected by the other — and the defensiveness grows.

Consequences of anger

When a couple stops feeling safe with each other, it spills over into all aspects of their relationship.

It can deaden desire for sex, which may already be an issue after treatment for prostate cancer. This leads to even more feelings of rejection.

Attachment is a road to healing

When anger leads to neglect, it can kill feelings of love. The way back to love, says Johnson, is through attachment and helping your partner feel safe.

The road to healing starts with both partners realizing how they pull each other into negative spirals and recognizing how they actively create their anger and distress.

Forgiveness is key

Couples not only need to forgive the injuries they’ve caused one another, but also accept and make sense of the hurt, writes Johnson. 

But before healing can begin, lovers need to connect with each other and feel that hurt together.

Read and learn

While some couples may need the help of a professional counselor to rebuild their connection, reading Johnson’s book is a great way to start your journey to love recovery.

Here are some more of her suggestions for moving forward:

  • Stay open and connected to your partner, despite your doubts and fears
  • Be willing to address your emotions instead of minimizing them or avoiding them
  • Be present to your partner’s emotions and let him know that they have an impact on you
  • Help each other to feel safe by sending comforting and caring signals when you sense your man is feeling insecure and afraid
  • Help your man know that you value him and will stay close to him, no matter what happens. You can also show this physically by touching your partner more often
  • When you slip back into old, negative behavior (which you will), acknowledge it, and move on. Try not to stay in the old behavior for too long

Other articles of interest

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Johnson S. Hold Me Tight. Little, Brown & Company: New York, NY;2008.

Always consult a medical professional.

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