Single adults may experience physical and emotional changes during and after treatment. These may affect dating and sexual relationships.
Tips for pursuing new relationships
Concerns about dating and sexual intimacy after cancer treatment are common. However, don’t let fear keep you from pursuing relationships.
Consider these options when developing new relationships:
Practice positive self-talk. For example, make a list of your positive qualities.
Tell friends and family you’re ready to meet potential dating partners.
Try a new activity, join a club, or take a class.
Talk with other cancer survivors who have started dating.
Practice a response to rejection, if that possibility concerns you.
When to share your experience with cancer
People’s preferences differ about when to share their cancer experiences.
You may think it’s too personal to share immediately. Or you may fear it could deter a potential partner. If so, wait for mutual trust to develop before sharing.
Alternatively, you may feel dishonest or insincere withholding this information. If so, consider sharing before a relationship becomes serious.
How to share your experience with cancer
Before sharing, consider how you’d feel most comfortable doing it. Some people simply talk about the cancer experience. Others show scars or other body changes associated with cancer. Some express their fears and concerns through humor.
Potential issues to address
Consider discussing these topics:
The possibility of recurrence
Physical limitations because of cancer or its treatment
Your feelings about dating or starting a relationship
Other types of preparation before sharing
These steps may help you feel more confident entering the conversation:
- Write down what you plan to say.
- Practice with a friend.
- Prepare responses to possible questions.
Learn more about talking with a partner.
Concerns about sexuality and intimacy in a new relationship
As a relationship deepens, you may wonder how cancer affects sexuality and intimacy.
Cancer and cancer treatment may cause sexual side effects. These may be physical or emotional. Talk with your health care team about the potential sexual side effects. Tell them about any specific ones you experience. They can give you options for managing or lessening these side effects.
Communication about sexuality and intimacy in a new relationship
Communication is important for healthy sexuality in any relationship. In particular, sharing cancer-related concerns can help relieve worries. It can also help boost emotional intimacy and trust.
There is no perfect time to talk about sex. However, it’s best to discuss it before becoming sexually intimate.
If you’re hesitant talking about sexuality, consider these approaches:
Decide what you want to say in advance. Write down your thoughts, or share them with a friend.
Pick a low-stress, unrushed time to talk. Pick a place that is private and neutral.
Have multiple shorter conversations, if that feels more comfortable.
Practice saying sexual terms aloud, in advance. Most sex therapists recommend using medical terms. It’s best to avoid slang or euphemisms.
Be honest about potential problems. And discuss things you both can do to lessen these problems.
Explain or show any physical changes to your body.
Help your partner understand what provides pleasure and reduces discomfort.
Let your partner know if anything becomes painful.
Keep in mind that sexual intimacy involves more than intercourse. Experiment with other ways of giving and receiving sexual pleasure.
Resources for support
For ongoing problems with emotional and sexual intimacy, consider:
Talking with a counselor or sex therapist. These professionals help address problems with communication and intimacy.
Joining a support group. These forums provide a safe place to share and learn from others with similar situations.