QUESTION FROM PROSTATE CANCER SURVIVOR:
I am the wife of a man who had prostate surgery 3 months ago. Ever since then we have been fighting non-stop. He is distant and irritable and we can’t get along. We’ve always had a pretty difficult relationship but things are really bad right now. Could this have something to do with the side effects of surgery?
RESPONSE FROM DR. ANNE KATZ:
I’m sorry to hear that you are not getting on with your spouse. There are many reasons why he may be more irritable or distant. Firstly, he may be disgruntled because he is not doing as well as he thought he would be at this stage after his surgery. Is he having a lot of urine leakage? Men are often embarrassed to disclose this, even to their spouse. He may be embarrassed. Or if he is having trouble sleeping through the night, he may be exhausted and, as a result, have a short fuse. What else might be going on? He may be worried if his PSA has not gone down to zero or, if it is rising, that would mean additional treatment.
I often think about a couple I saw for counseling many years ago. The man’s partner told me that they were fighting all the time and that is why they came to see me. I am not a conflict counselor so I asked her to explain further. It turns out that this couple would create arguments on a daily basis so that they would then have make-up sex! When he was not able to have erections, there was no make-up sex and so they remained mad at each other.
Communication lies at the root of healthy and happy relationships, so you have to TALK to him and ask him to tell you what is bothering him. Tell him that while you are not likely to be able to solve his problems, whatever they are, you are able to listen and to help him find resolution where possible. It is important that he knows that his mood is affecting you and that you miss the way things were. Getting some counseling for both of you, separately and together, can also be helpful. Good luck!
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This bimonthly column provides the platform for experts in the field to help men and women by providing answers to questions about sexual health and intimacy challenges that can result from prostate cancer treatment. This column was compiled with the help of Dr. Anne Katz, Certified Sexuality Counselor and Clinical Nurse Specialist at CancerCare Manitoba. She has educated thousands of healthcare providers and cancer survivors about cancer, sexuality and survivorship. She is an avid blogger for ASCO Connections and the author of 14 books on the topics of illness, sexuality, and cancer survivorship. (www.drannekatz.com)