Role of Your Partner in Sexual Health
The role of the partner is extremely important when one is dealing with prostate cancer. In many cases, the partner is there going through various stages with his/her partner’s new diagnosis, pre-treatment, surgery and post-treatment life. What can the partner do to help? What emotions are the partners going through? What will their sex life look like? In this article, let’s look at a few of these issues. So…
Let’s take a step back. The initial diagnosis of prostate cancer is tough enough. Many men begin thinking about their own mortality and death – what is going to happen to me? What’s going to happen my family? These are all relevant questions and here, I'd like to switch it up a bit. What about the partner? What about the person who’s been there through the thick and thin? Since I prefer to write about sex, I’d like to ask the question…what about the sex life of the partner? I think it may change from what it was in the past and with help, I believe you can have a healthy sex life.
What about their partners?
What about the partner? One study looked at the partners’ perception of their role in relation to the couples’ sexual recovery. The men in recovery and their partners agreed the partners provided emotional and daily/ physical support. Men did report feeling pressured by their partner’s sexual desires, expressing doubt regarding their sexual performance.
Interestingly enough from the same research, some men in recovery said they were unaware of their partner’s sexual needs or other needs. The partners said they expressed those ‘needs’ but were unaware of what type of support they needed. In other words, some men felt pressured to perform sexually for their partners while others were completely unaware of their partner's needs.
As I was discussing this issue with a colleague, she felt the men in recovery should take some responsibility in addressing the partner’s needs. She felt the men should make a good-faith effort to be aware of the partner’s emotional well being because this is a journey to good health and this is an intimate partnership. She concluded by saying it is a good idea for both people in the relationship to ‘check-in’ with each other on a regular basis. Everything she mentioned makes sense to me. With that said…
The researchers concluded the partner’s sexual needs and “support” should be discussed and worked out as a part of the recovery objective. Here, I used the word “objective” with the idea that there are many aspects to his treatment and recovery, where the partner could and should be a major element of the recovery process. As I mentioned in an earlier article, if the partner remained in the relationship through the initial diagnosis, stayed through surgery and is still there during recovery, the emotional investment in the relationship is solid. I’d also like to add the partner also needs “treatment & support” services as well. She or he also needs someone to talk to about the changes occurring in their relationship. They also need someone to talk to about the potential changes to her/ his sexual relationship as well.
I believe it is helpful for the couple to start sexual therapy with a therapist who specializes in cancer recovery, specifically relating to prostate cancer. Dr. Rhonda Fine, a sex therapist, believes reaffirming intimacy and communication are key elements in having a healthy relationship. She goes on to say, “This is the time for [the] couple to reaffirm the importance of their relationship and their commitment…to assess their definition of sex and intimacy…to become educated and allow their professionals to help them.”
She continues by saying “It has been [her] experience that sexual education and counseling is essential to the healing process, as it allows patients and their partners the ability to identify, plan for, address possible potential problems and have realistic expectations.”
For those partners who are unsure about therapy, I would suggest going to a support group for partners. Many hospitals offer groups for partners to educate them on the changes regarding what to expect during treatment and life post-prostate cancer.
What I don't know is how many hospitals or treatment centers offer sexual health education for the partners of cancer survivors. That’s an interesting idea, right? I truly believe the couple should remain sexually active post-prostate cancer diagnosis, surgery and treatments. The question is what will the couple’s sex life look like? The partner and the couple have to decide for themselves what that will look like and go on from there. Educating the couple about options, including the partner, is key for the couple to recreate a sexually healthy relationship.
Have you made personal connections through your journey with prostate cancer?