I had a mastectomy six months ago. I am doing well physically…but my husband seems to avoid me in the bedroom. Can you help?
It’s very hard for me to write this, but I don’t where else to turn.
I had a modified radical mastectomy six months ago. I am doing well physically and am optimistic about the future. But my husband seems to avoid me in the bedroom. Even though he says the mastectomy scar and removal of my breast “doesn’t bother him,” obviously it does. He is still just as attentive and loving in other ways, but I feel like an important part of our life has changed forever.
Please don’t tell me to talk to him about it, because I’ve tried. He just keeps saying he will be OK– he just needs a little more time. Meanwhile, I feel ugly and rejected. How can I get us back on track again?
Many couples have a period of awkwardness with sexual contact after surgery, but it usually improves with time. The discomfort can come from either the woman with cancer or the spouse or both.
A woman often may feel ill, perhaps from other treatment as well as her recovery from surgery. She may be trying to adapt to the fact that she has been diagnosed with cancer, and must get rid of this threat to her health as soon, and as thoroughly, as possible. She begins to deal with the consequences of treatment, such as hair loss, fatigue, or loss of her breast.
Even without meaning to, the negative feelings that a woman might have about her new body may be communicated to her partner. If she doesn’t feel good about her body, she may not want to be touched. If she is not feeling happy, it may be hard to joyfully express affection.
However, your husband’s hesitancy to be sexually intimate probably has more to do with his own adjustment than anything about you directly. He may be feeling so sad and fearful that you will not be healthy in the future that he needs to withdraw to protect himself. It is natural at times to try to protect ourselves from pain before it happens. So, we pull away from people thinking that it might hurt less if we are less close. That hurts you and will ultimately hurt him too, as the distance between you grows.
How Does husband Really Feel after his wife had a mastectomy?
It is hard to know exactly what is going on with your husband. He may indeed need more time to think about things and put them in perspective. But there are obviously some troubling aspects of your relationship right now.
Have you tried telling your husband that he’s hurting your feelings by his rebuffs? He may be afraid to appear overeager or insensitive to your situation. You could be specific in expressing that you feel unfeminine and unattractive right now. You could say something like, “I really miss our touching. What’s getting in the way of that?”
Start by setting small goals for rekindling physical contact, like holding hands, hugging and kissing. If your husband still can’t talk or show you even minimal affection, get some support for yourself, through a support group, a counselor, or a church group. If you are able to experience others’ caring, it will help with the pain of your husband’s behavior. Also, you may get ideas from others about how to break the stalemate between you two. Remember, the worst is over, and you have the rest of your lives to live life and enjoy. It would be a shame if your husband can’t eventually see and feel that joy too.