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How a brain tumour diagnosis can affect communication in your relationship

Communication is at the heart of all relationships. It can help us solve problems, ease our fears and the right words can even make our day.

But the practical and emotional challenges a couple faces after a brain tumour diagnosis can make it harder to communicate. Not only can a brain tumour cause speech, language or comprehension difficulties, you may simply struggle with what to say to your partner.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed, it can be hard to break the news to your loved ones and you may not even be ready to talk about it yourself. Denial is a natural reaction to have and can affect both people in a relationship.

If you’re worrying about upcoming treatment or dreading the results of the next scan, it may feel easier to bottle up your emotions. You may see this as wanting to protect your partner’s feelings or not be a burden on them.

You might also think that talking about relationship issues isn’t as important when faced with the life-changing reality of a brain tumour diagnosis.

The new Relationship Support Service is the most flexible and personal service I've ever experienced. It's tailor made for my needs and the situation of a partner living with someone with a brain tumour.

Read Brendan's story

Brandon's partner experienced low moods following her brain surgery and the couple realised it was becoming difficult to jointly care for their daughter. Conflicts at home seemed compounded by lockdown.

Brandon found life a challenge and said he often felt tearful and was struggling to access support from his network because he felt he didn't want to burden them. That's when we introduced him to our new relationship service which Brandon says has been a great help;

"It has been really supportive. I've felt understood and backed. I've felt the therapist has been really there for me.

"It's relieved some pressure and given me a space to explore my emotions without worrying what the other person thinks or worrying that I need to protect them.

"I've had around half the allocated sessions and its been agreed I can reserve the remaining ones for as and when I need them - I feel this may be soon as my partner is due to have surgery in the next two months.

"It's the most flexible and personal service I've ever experienced, tailor made for my needs and the situation of a partner living with someone with a brain tumour."

Whether you’re currently in a relationship, or hoping to start a new one, our partnership with Relate can help you get the most out of your relationships. If you think talking to someone might help, click the link below to find out more about our new Relationship Support Service.

One way to help you communicate better is to set aside ten minutes to talk when you know you won’t be interrupted. Take turns to talk about how you feel for five minutes.

You don’t need to go through this alone though. Relate offer a wide range of content to help people experiencing relationship difficulties and we’ve teamed up with them to provide a counselling service for couples and individuals whose relationship has been affected by a brain tumour.

Find out more

We know that, sadly, some people in our community have seen changes in their loved ones that have led to them being violent or aggressive, although this is rare. 

These changes can seem even more worrying in the current situation, but it’s important to remember that if this is something you’re experiencing, your safety is paramount and the current social distancing (or isolation) rules don’t apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic violence.

If you feel you’re at risk of abuse, remember there’s help and support available, including police response, online support, helplines, refuges and other services.

You are not alone!

Find out more

This content and our relationship counselling service have been created in partnership with Relate, the leading relationships charity in England and Wales. If you found this information useful, you might also find the following resources by Relate interesting:

This content and our relationship support service has been created in partnership with Relate - the leading relationships charity in England and Wales.

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If you need someone to talk to or advice on where to get help, our Support and Information team is available by phone, email or live-chat.