With Valentine’s Day approaching, our thoughts turn to love and romance. Yet when you first learned that you had melanoma, it’s likely that your first thoughts focused on survival.
With the passage of time, other concerns may arise. “Will my life return to normal? When will I get over my fatigue? How will my treatment impact my intimate relationship including my desire, and my partner’s desire for me? What will the new normal be?
A mortality threat brings our love of life and our love life into sharp relief. It also brings to the forefront the question of “Who is there for me?” “Who can I lean on?” A couple’s trust bond is often tested by a medical crisis in unanticipated ways that may leave their relationship sturdier or further stress its vulnerability. What can you do to renew the closeness you once felt?
A Rose A Day
Instead of marking your love and appreciation with a bouquet once a year, give a rose (or other flower) a day. That rose can be a show of thanks, true appreciation, a gesture of consideration, an apology for a past hurt or misunderstanding. Remember that it takes five times the number of roses (positives)to counteract one thorn (negatives) in relationships.
Set Aside Time
Set aside time to talk about your concerns and feelings. Too often, in the busyness of life, couples reach a tipping point and meltdown, because they haven’t established a regular time for checking-in. Listening, truly listening is hard–like doing pushups. You are consciously and thoughtfully trying to imagine the other’s experience. Remember to take turns sharing your feelings.
The mistake I’ve seen the “well” partner make is remaining “strong and silent.” This form of protection, while sometimes needed, eventually boomerangs in the form of depletion and emotional distance. So let’s redefine strong. Strong also means allowing each partner to feel known and understood.
Sex and Sexuality
The couple’s bond that sex has provided often needs to be openly discussed. Talking about sex and sexuality can initially be anxiety producing, particularly when cancer impacts fertility, desire or function.
Allowing ourselves to again experience the joy of simple touch and affection can ease the pressure each partner may feel.
There are many good sources of information, including your medical team, support groups, and couples’ therapy.
A friend that recovered from melanoma once said to me, “Everyone’s going to die. The difference is that I know it.” Cancer is a rogue’s reminder to hallow the everyday; reevaluate your priorities; and remember to show your love in many different ways.
The Melanoma International Foundation reminds everyone each Valentine’s Day to check the skin of everyone you love. If you find something suspicious get it checked out by a dermatologist.
Finding melanoma early is the best cure of all!
B. JANET HIBBS, Ph.D., P.C. is an expert on couples therapy and practices in Philadelphia. See more about her work and other blogs at: www.drbhibbs.com