Relationship Breakdown - Help Needed

My first post on here but decided I needed some help. My partner diagnosed with TN BC back in Jan 11. At the time I was unemployed as just made redundant and nursing ill parents so a lot going on. She had surgery Feb and one week later I started a new job so difficult for me to be there all the time but I got there as often as I could. I did become over protective of her and over the last couple of months she has become more and more distant to the point where she has said she needs to end the relationship as her brain cant handle the illness and a relationship. Absolutely devastated as we had such plans together. She also had an implant to try and protect her ovaries. Part of me thinks that the behaviour could be a reaction to the all treatment. Has anybody else experienced feeling like this?

Hi homerboy and welcome to the BCC forums

In addition to the support you will receive here I am posting a link to the BCC publication ‘In it together’ which has been written for partners of those affected by breast cancer, you are also welcome to call our helpline for further support and a listening ear on 0808 800 6000, weekdays 9-5 and Sat 9-2

Best wishes

Just want to send you a big hug.

My partner and I drifted apart last year after I was diagnosed with TNBC and he was made redundant… He was wallowing in self pity a lot and kept pushing me away and wouldnt talk I threatened him that he needed to sort himself out or I’d throw him out he got better for a few days but then went back into his cave. So much so that I couldn’t deal with it any more and he moved out and things didn’t really get any better he became very needy and clingy which made me push him away even more… But after a i went on hols this summer without him and had a proper break we actually were getting on well but i discovered hed That he went off with somebody else and I was gutted and he was sorry and a few weeks later I found out I had cancer again so forgave him and we are trying to make things work but it’s not easy…

He was in a dark place last year and wouldn’t talk to me, he’d pushed me away so much that I did stop caring, but by that time he decided he did want me after all, I couldn’t just turn the switch back on that he had turned off… I really wish we had decided to have a proper break instead of him sneaking off behind my back… I never didn’t want him I just didn’t want him like that.

Sorry I’m not much help but just it may take a bit of time and that having a bit of space can actually help… My OH was suffering from depression too and when he went in ADs he did get a lot better.

Hope things work themselves out for you too.

lulu xx

Hi Homerboy,

It’s such a difficult time when you are diagnosed all different emotions surface, my husband & I separated during my treatment, he too was sneaking around. I also would have preferred him to be honest with me. He wasn’t therefore I left, everything he did was for himself and I was supposed to feel sorry for him?? Staying with him made me tired. This is completely different from your problems, does she have family you can talk to, does she just feel overwhelmed with it all?
Hopefully things will work out for you take care xx

Hi Katyc
She doesnt really have family I can talk to, she seems to be isolating herself from a lot of people and almost pretending its not happening. She has said she finds everyone irritable but she can cope with seeing friends for a few hours as she can then walk away from them and go back to being on her own but she cannot handle the stress of a relationship. I think I could have been a bit more supportive in the early days if im honest but I have never been through anything like this before and its difficult to know what to do especially when you have lots of other stuff going on at the same time. She also never told me what she needed so it was difficult. I wish I had found this webiste before to be honest as that may have helped.

She has said I am free to do what I want and if I meet someone else then she wouldnt hold it against me but I just cant and dont want to do that.
I guess all I can do is give her some space and see what happens and hope things improve in the not too distant future x

Hi homerboy,

Feel so sad for you, it sounds like she feels as though she has too much to cope with at the moment. I kinda went through a similar process and decided that I would put me first, she may find it difficult to deal with others feelings and just want to concentrate on herself. It’s not selfish it’s just adjusting to the bc. It is just so devastating and difficult to get your head around. If she has a breast care nurse you might try and approach her, I was told that my bcn would see family members if they were struggling or just wanted to talk. She will have lots of experience with peoples feelings, I really hope everything works for you, she may just be really angry that she has bc and is taking it out on the one she loves. take care and lots of hugs xx

How difficult and upsetting for you.

You haven’t said what stage of treatment your partner is at?

I do understand your partner to some extent - it’s my normal reaction to want to push people away when something serious happens which is weird because it really is the time you need them most. The fact she is distancing herself from other people not just you is perhaps the most telling thing.

I’m happily married but I found it so difficult if my husband wanted to talk about anything in the future or make any plans. As far as I was concerned when I was undergoing treatment I didn’t know if I would survive and more than that I couldn’t face thinking about anything other than getting through each day. Any suggestion of doing anything just felt like pressure.

I hate to say it because I love my husband very much but sometimes I felt angry with him because it was me that was having to go through it all. Of course, that changed and I began to see how difficult it was for him too and I really, really appreciated his support. I think he suffered as much as I did.

I think talking about the relationship may seem like a huge pressure to your partner right now. There could be so many things going through her head such as loss of identity, altered body image and sexuality, fear etc. There could possibly be a bit of depression too.

You could perhaps say that you are there to support her as a friend if not as a partner and give her time and perhaps more space. What giving more space means in reality is difficult to say becuase this is something you’d need to work out with her.

All of this will be extremely hard for you I realise that as it leaves you with a lot of uncertainty. However, I think she is probably feeling a huge amount of uncertainty too right now after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Elinda x

Dear Homerboy,

I was already divorced pre bc and in a new relationship when diagnosed. I just wanted to say that I think it is so hard for partners as much as for those with bc. I knew how I felt, whether scared, sad, worried I was no longer attractive and as you indicate (I’m older so doesn’t apply to me) maybe worried about fertility issues. It is easy to feel that no one understands what you are going through - other than the wonderful people on here who are going through the same and sadly worse.

Dare I say it but this sounds like a plea for reassurance from your partner rather than a real wish to split up and move on. I think at times I said things along those lines “why would you want a partner who is scarred, feels ugly, may not be around for the long-term?” I didn’t want to hear that that was what my partner thought, just wanted hugs and to be told that we were in this together.

That you are on here talking about it would suggest to me that you know you could perhaps make a go of it. I may be speaking out of turn but I would deduce that it isn’t too late to make a go of it if you tell your partner what you are telling us, apologise for maybe not being as supportive as you could have been and be honest with each other and be kind to yourself. It is tough enough as the person feeling these emotions, let alone the partner who cares about that person.I freely admit that I have been a nightmare to understand and put up with at times during this year. Very unlike the confident person I was pre-bc.

Maybe also, you might direct your partner towards us. BC is a Sh*t disease and it robs you of all the things that make you feel feminine and attractive as a double whammy (maybe your hair through chemo, boobs through surgery, fertility through medication).She sounds quite isolated and in need of some support and love through all of this

Good luck x

Hi Mary
Many thanks for your kind words. I have tried to speak to my partner and apologised for not being as supportive as I could be but everytime I do she just clams up and says she wont talk about it as it stresses her out. She has said sometimes she feels like being with me and sometimes she doesnt and that is not fair on me.

It is a horrible illness and it effects so many people. My father was also diagnosed in November so have that goign on as well at the moment which is also why I have not been as supportive as I could have been.

I have asked her to come on here or even go to Macmillan but she point blankly refuses. Macmillan offered her conselling but she wont take it, just says she will take it if she gets clsoe to cracking up. She wont talk to anyone about it, its as if she is denying it is happening.

I know she is going through hell but I want to be there. I also know she is not the person she was and I guess I am hoping that at some point in the future she will come back and we will be able to salvage the relationship. She has said she wants to reamin friends at the moment and she wants to see me from time to time so that makes me feel like all is not completely lost.

I hope you ladies dont mind me coming on here and talking about it but its the closest I can get to understand what is going on.


Hi Elinda
She has 4 more rads to go but then she starts a clinical trial at some point. She has said that if I talk about us or things in the future she feels under pressure and gets stressed, which she said she cant cope with.

We did go through IVF before her treatment to preserve the chance of potentially having a family in the future. I know that also was not very nice and what it did to her body with all the drugs etc isnt worth thinking about.

She has also said that she doesnt feel sexual anymore and therefore not close to me and she is strugglign to cope with that.

I am trying to be there as a friend but the diffiulty I am having is how much of a friend do I need to be. I dont know when to call etc and I am terrified of making the situation worse. I have got upset on a few occasions whilst talking and then she says she cant handle the pressure.

It must be so difficult and my heart goes out to all you ladies.

I guess I am also hoping that once the rads are over she will steadily get better??


You can’t help how you feel and its understandable if you get upset.

She has obviously been through a lot. What sort of clinical trial is she going on, do you know? The reason I ask is that for most people having rads is usually the last part of treatment apart from medication.

Everyone is different and recovery is different for us all. I suffered a terrible loss of identity when I had cancer. I have adjusted but it’s taken me a while. For the first year 9 months post treatment I felt completely lost with no sense of purpose in life. It’s hard to explain but everything that I had planned for my life and the feeling of being carefree in anyway seem to completely disappear and I felt the only people that could truly understand was other women who’d been through the same.
But patience, kindness and understanding can go a very long way. I don’t feel like that now and I’m so grateful that my husband has never put pressure of any sort on me.

It does sound like she may find it easier to talk to someone with who she doesn’t have an emotional investment. Do you think she’d ring the helpline or come on to the forums?

Many of us have suffered from a complete loss of sexual feelings which isn’t surprising and is completely normal. She may be feeling that the sheer fact of being in a relationship puts pressure on her in that way too regardless of how you are with her.

Being a friend isn’t going to be easy. Forgive me if I’m wrong but it sounds like you’re focusing on the relationship - what’s gone wrong, and how to make it better while she’s just trying to get through all of this. So perhaps being a friend is not discussing the relationship at all, not making plans, but offering to be there when she needs you for practical support or if she wants to talk or taking her out sometimes with no strings attached.

It is a very odd feeling when treatment finishes. On the one hand there is relief but on the other hand there is a feeling of emptiness. I felt quite disconnected from the world but I found that starting to do normal things again really helped me.

I do hope things work out for you and you may find it really helpful to call the helpline and talk it through with them.
I hope you have friends and family that are able to support you through all of this too.

take care, elinda x

Hi Homerboy,

I think as Elinda says you just have to play it by ear. It is a very up and down sort of condition. I know I took things out on my partner which weren’t his fault at all, just because I was angry and scared about the bc and felt bad about myself. If it is any consolation, I finished active treatment in June and look back on it now as though it was all some kind of bad dream. I got over the body image stuff although it was very real and very frightening and depressing to me at the time. It is hard to make any decisions while treatment is going on. Maybe you just have to accept that and be there, make it clear you aren’t going anywhere as a friend or support or whatever else it may return to being in the future and wait to see where you both are when “normality” or “new normal” returns post treatment. Fingers crossed for you both and don’t worry about unloading on here, any time, that is why the forum is here x

Oh I really feel for you as it sounds so similar to my relationship… After my bf moved out I just wanted him out of my hair and to deal with things on my own… I wanted to be friends and I didn’t want to end the relationship as I still cared about my oh and didn’t want to hurt him but felt stifled… He got upset and felt I was gradually pushing him further away… I wish I has been stronger and said lets just split up for a while instead he got more clingy and I got more distant until I pretty much pushed him away altogether… Which looking back was what he had been doing to me before I asked him to leave… I didn’t intentionally push him away it just kinda happened. If we had separated properly and had actually cut off contact for a couple of months I think things would have worked out better as now there are trust issues between us.

Don’t give up hope but maybe just ask her if she thinks separating would help to give her a bit of space to get her head together if you think that wouldn’t be too detrimental to your relationship.


Hi Lulu
That is exactly what happened to us. She wanted to deal with things on here own as and said she felt pressure by being in a relationship. I was pushed futher away but the more that happened the more clingy I got. Eventually she said she needed a break so I agreed to that although had no idea how long the break was supposed to last. 72 hours later I get a phone call to say can I come and see you and we spent a fantastic day together, had a right laugh and never discussed the relationship or illness. In my head I thought oh well the break must be over so I left it another week and then rang and said how do you fancy a meal and I was greeted with but we are having a break and cant I cant handle anymore we need to end the relationship. From then on things got gradually worse but we kept in touch. Everytime I didnt keep touch she would get in touch with me. Right now I dont know where we are to be honest and im too scared to approach the subject anymore as I get greeted with “i cant handle the pressure”. I know she and all of you ladies go through living hell and I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like. it has helped with people talking to me on here as I have more of an understanding of what my oh is going through and how she is feeling as she wont tell me herself.

I know she is also terified that it may have already spread somewhere else or it might come back.

I will always be there for her even if it is just as a friend


Hi Elinda/Mary Grace
Thanks for your comments.

I do not know what the clincal trial is other than it is linked to TNBC and she will be monitored for a number of years.

I have tried saying that I will there as a friend to support etc and that I wont be going anywhere and will be there for the duration of the journey. However she says that in itself puts pressure on here as she has no idea how she will feel at the end of it all and it would be fairer for me to get on with my life.

I have asked her to join a forum or even speak to McMillan or somebody but she point balnkly refuses as she sees it as a sign of weakness and at the end of the day its her problem to deal with. My concern is with everythign going on she will end up with some sort of mental overload and have a breakdown.


Arggggh, sorry need to vent my frustration!

Have tried to contact the OH and tell her I am here in the background just as a friend if and when she needs me but she will not even speak to me now.

Our paths crossed over the weekend and we ended up face to face but she just looked straight through me as though I didnt exist. I know I have been no angel and could have dealt with this whole episode differently but I found it so hard to take. I smiled politely as if it hadnt effected me and then broke down when I was on my own.

Now I am beggining to think that she might now think that I am not bothered and dont care and nothing could be further from the truth.

I am now torn between not contacting her at all and leaving her to her own devices or trying again at some point to make contact. I just dont want to put any pressure on her.

arrrghhhhhhh cancer is such a S**t illness it really is and my heart goes out to everyone that has been touched by it x

It’s a difficult disease because its the phsyco effect it has on sufferers and close ones alike.It’s not the pain of the cancer but the head games it plays on us all.Please don’t give up trying.It does make you feel very isolated regardless of who you have around you.A little note might be better explaining how you feel and how you want to support her when she feels the need for it.That way you won’t witness her initial response ,which you might see as hurtful and she can read it several times ,when she feels the need for it.
We all need the companionship available ,hence the support we get on these forums is ‘priceless’

Hi Homerboy

I’m so sorry you are having these problems. It’s awful that your OH blanked you at the weekend. Devastating for you.

I wondered if writing to her would help. That way you can write it all down and read it back to make sure that it’s exactly what you want to say. Sometimes when we speak, our words don’t come out quite right.

I realise that she might not read it but on the other hand she might just want to know what it says. It’s very difficult to leave a letter unopened.

I admire you so much for trying so hard to give support and I send you my love and best wishes.

J xxx

I agree with what the others are saying - a letter might be better. You express yourself very well on the forum and you do show a lot of understanding.

You are getting very mixed signals which must be so difficult to cope with. It’s very hard to know what is going through her mind and I’m guessing she wasn’t very willing to express her feelings prior to the cancer.

I do hope things wokr out for you. Elinda x

Hi Elinda, Jan, Carole
Thank you for your kind words again.

I think initially when my OH was diagnosed I didnt understand it all and was was unemployed and one parent battling cancer as well so it was all a bit overwhelming and I did the “head in the sand” thing and just thought everything will be ok. My OH also didnt feel like talking about it and as Elinda has said she has never been completely open about all her feelings.

Since we have been drifting apart I have read every book imaginable and watched every programme to try and understand what she is going through. I think I do have a fairly good understanding now but I feel racked with guilt that I have not done this sooner and then maybe things would be different now.

I did think about e mailing her as I know she is at work at the moment but having thought about it again maybe a hand written letter would be more personal.

I have also decided that I am going to remain on this forum whatever the future holds. If I can help someone in my position then it will be a good thing.

Thank you for listening x