Working with a partner on sexual recovery after prostate cancer

Looking for sex and intimacy tips beyond the basics? Explore our new guide on all things


*Currently best for people who’ve had prostate cancer surgery and their partners.

When a person is undergoing prostate cancer and treatment, their partner is sometimes overlooked. This is because all the focus is on the patient.

While it’s understandable, when doctors spend the most time caring for their patient, the partner’s role is important and their feelings need to be recognised.

Sometimes, the partner may feel guilty for having their own needs and feelings during this time. And the truth is, you’re going through this together; having cancer and treatment affects both of you.

a partner's role

A partner's role is complex and there are can be many roles to balance. Some examples of these roles include being:

  • a caregiver for a cancer patient

  • a sexual partner for a person who is going through sexual changes

  • an individual with their own emotional and sexual needs.

Sex can be more enjoyable when both partners have pleasure. Research says that many partners of cancer patients ignore their own sexual needs. Encourage your partner to also focus on their own needs during sexual activity. This will help to ensure both of you are enjoying sex and having your needs met.

your sex life

Rediscovering your sex life is a process, and it might feel awkward or uncomfortable at first. Keep in mind that this is all very normal following cancer treatment.

If you have a partner, this can be a challenging process for both of you. It’s important to talk openly about what you’re going through including if you’re feeling sadness or grief. Sometimes not talking about it can make you feel worse.

This can lead to:

  • avoiding sex

  • starting to feel distant from each other

  • losing emotional closeness

  • decrease in confidence

  • depression

Have a discussion with your partner to 'put it all on the table'.

Usually, couples who talk openly about sexual challenges, changes, and worries, find they have increased connection and a better sex life. Being open about what you're both going through helps you to approach it as a team. Talking about how your bodies have changed with age and with prostate cancer treatment can help you recover your sexual intimacy together.

Sharing your fears and worries builds closeness and take away the feeling of being in this situation alone. For example, your partner may worry that you won’t be attracted to them if you don’t get an erection before or during sex. This is often untrue. The more you talk, the easier it will become to have those conversations. You can also get more support if others know how you feel.

Communication tips

Openness and communication continue to be important as you’re working on staying sexually active.

Here are some tips for conversations with a partner:

  • choose a good time and a quiet place
    Set a time and place when you have time to talk uninterrupted. Turn off the TV, the phone and computer. It’s worth your attention.

  • be relaxed
    Take a deep breath. You and your partner know each other and have shared a lot. You can even take some deep breaths together.

  • listen well
    When sensitive subjects are discussed, listening and repeating back what you heard is often very helpful.

  • compliment each other
    Don’t hold back here. Let each other know what you’ve enjoyed about them (emotionally and sexually). For example, you might share how you like the way your partner smiles, held, or stroked you, reacted to you, and so on.

The process of grief and loss can happen for a long time before you adjust to your new sexual 'normal'. Don’t be discouraged if you still sometimes have these feelings. As you become more confident in having regular sex and you experience pleasure in connecting with your partner, these feelings will get better.

Most importantly, remember that you’re a team and you’re in this together. With time and patience, the journey to sexual recovery can be rewarding.

What's next?

Now that you've read up on Working with a partner on sexual recovery after prostate cancer, here are some related articles to explore as you continue to build your knowledge and understanding of this topic.
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