Your Manual For Your Partner With Cancer

If your partner has cancer, you may have found yourself thinking some of these types of thoughts:

Why can’t they take better care of themself?

They should really be more positive!

They should not get so stressed out, it’s not good for them!

More than likely, you have strong opinions about how they should be taking care of themself. And more then likely, your partner doesn’t always comply, which leaves you frustrated, angry or upset. We care about our partner and of course want them to be healthy and well, and we often feel our expectations are completely reasonable and certainly in their best interest.

The Manual

In coaching this is called the manual.  It is our set of rules or operating instructions for how our partner should behave. Often times, we have never actually shared our manual with our partner or sought their agreement.  Instead, we think to ourselves, if they just lived and behaved according to our manual for them, we’d both be happier. When our partner doesn’t listen, or doesn’t do what we want or think they should, then we often end up frustrated, angry, sad… you name it. We make their non compliance mean all sorts of things like they aren’t taking their health seriously or they don’t love me enough…

Why We Have One

Why do we have a manual for our partner?  We love them of course and we think that we know what is best for them. We tell ourselves that if they only behaved in a certain way, they would be better off. We may be muttering to ourselves, if my partner only took better care of themself, they would heal quicker! Or, my partner shouldn’t be so negative, it’s not healthy. And while you may think your have your partner’s best interest at heart, the truth is, your trying to control them so that you can feel better. You want your partner to do or be a certain way because it will make it easier for you to feel better about them.

The Problem With Manuals

The problem is, you are relying on your partner’s actions to make you feel better. All adults have the right to choose for themselves how they think, feel, and act. So that means your partner gets to choose for themself how they want to behave, no matter what you or their doctor say. The good news is, you also get to choose how you want to think, feel and act.

This can be especially hard when your partner has cancer.  Maybe you feel like they are not doing what is best for them. Or maybe they are going against the doctor’s recommendations. But here is the thing, when your tie your emotions to whether or not your partner is complying with your manual for them, you often end up trying to control, manipulate, or even threaten them into doing what you want. Trying to control your partner will rarely work out, even if you think it’s for their own good. Instead of trying to help and support him from a place of love, you end up in a place of judgement, manipulation and control.

How To Let Go Of A Manual

First – Recognize Your Manual

The first step is to recognize that you have one, especially surrounding their disease.  For me, I want my husband to always think positive and never get angry. I want him to always keep me updated on how his treatments are going and to ask me when he needs help. This may sound completely reasonable, but when my husband didn’t do those things I would get very frustrated and it would cause tension between us. The tension made it more difficult for me to be open to how he was really doing. Instead of accepting him, I was judging him. Once I recognized that these were part of my unspoken manual for him, I realized that I wanted those things because I wanted to feel reassured that he has a handle on his cancer treatments.

Second – Identify How You Want to Feel

Think of the top two things you wish your partner would do for their health and ask yourself, if they did those totally willingly, how would I feel?  Maybe it’s reassured, confident or at ease. Maybe you just don’t want to worry. The good news is, whatever emotion it is, it is always available to you. All emotions are a choice you have regardless of how your partner behaves.

Third – Let Go of Your Manual, and Come From Love and Acceptance

Let go of your manual and strive to come from a place of love and acceptance instead. When you come from acceptance, you can then make requests of your partner out of love, and not from the need to control them. You have to be willing to accept that they may not agree. However, when your able to drop your judgement and need to control, it will allow you to truly hear their point of view.

Fourth – Focus on Your Own Emotions Instead

Redirect all that energy that was focused on controlling your partner toward taking control and ownership of your own thoughts and emotions. When you focus only on controlling how you behave, and letting your partner be their own person, you may be surprised at how your relationship will change.

I would love your comments!  Let me know if you have discovered a manual in your own relationship.

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