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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.

I can’t recommend the Reationship Support Service highly enough to help navigate the tricky ways in which a brain tumour diagnosis can impact on a relationship.

Read Ed's story

Ed from Kent was diagnosed with a Grade 4 glioblastoma in June 2018 after he collapsed at work. He and his wife have recently been using the relationship service the Charity offers in partnership with Relate to help support him as a husband and father.

My wife and I had been together for 10 years when I was diagnosed. Until then, our relationship had been so carefree. From day one, we knew that we had a long-term future together and we had a good grasp of what we both wanted that to look like too. However, my diagnosis threw all that into question overnight. We did still get married just nine months later and we soon welcomed our first child after going through IVF.

The diagnosis really changed how I viewed myself and how I felt that other people saw me too. All of a sudden, I needed help and support to complete what should be really simple tasks. I thought that I had become a burden – someone who needed caring for – and it really knocked my confidence. This resulted in a total lack of interest in the physical side of a relationship.

The relationship service with Relate was so empathetic. I quickly built a rapport with a professional ear which gave me the confidence to discuss in detail the emotional and practical barriers which were creating the issues in my relationship. We talked openly and real effort was made to understand my situation, offer practical solutions and also understand that sometimes maybe I didn’t want to talk.

If someone is looking for practical or emotional relationship advice, I can’t recommend it highly enough to help navigate the tricky ways in which a brain tumour diagnosis can impact on a relationship.

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 our Relationship Support 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.