Q: Last year while confronting cancer, I underwent a hysterectomy and had a breast removed. Since then, my husband has distanced himself emotionally and doesn’t seem to care at all about sex. I’m devastated. Can you help me?
A: We’re sorry to hear of the heartache you’ve had to endure. Unfortunately, many couples in your situation experience similar struggles, and most don’t understand the underlying dynamics.
For a woman in your position, it’s easy to feel like she’s been “diminished” as a person – that she’s lost part of her identity or femininity. As a result, her body image is skewed and her self-image plummets, which often is further compounded by the emotional ups and downs associated with menopause and mid-life.
The man, on the other hand, is frequently wrestling with issues of his own. Despite his best efforts to put up a brave front, he often finds it difficult to watch his wife undergo a major surgery like a mastectomy or hysterectomy. Fear, uncertainty, or feelings of inadequacy may cause him to shut down emotionally in the form of silence and withdrawal.
In both cases, perception is the problem. Both husband and wife are labouring under false ideas about themselves. The solution is to get the streams of honest communication and candid self-disclosure flowing. If you and your husband can acknowledge your feelings to yourselves and then discuss them in open conversation, the cloud hanging over your marriage may begin to disperse. We’d also encourage you both to find the support of a trusted same-sex friend who can help you work through the specifically male and female aspects of your respective situations.
If you find it hard to talk with your spouse about this subject, consider seeking the help of a counsellor. Please give our Family Support Services a call at 03-7954 7920 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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