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what to do when you still love someone who has become aggressive and distant

erica may
Posts: 2
Joined: Jan 2018

in May of 2017 my partner John  found out he had a brain tumour. Type 2 . 

before this last year he had been a totally different person, he has changed from the tumor and the operation. 

on the midst of his diagnosis I was pregnant with our son. 

His symptoms of irritability increased right at the same time I had told him I was pregnant. He was angry one day distant the next and would cut himself off from me. Eventually after having a scan 6 months into my pregnancy we discovered a tennis ball sized tumour pressing on the right side of his brain. He had surgery immeditely. Now he is struggling. His anger is returning and his irritability. He is also pushing his family away. Saying he wants to be on his own. I love him to bits, but feel like I’m often convincing him to be with me. there has been so much hurt this past year with what’s happened to him, but also with the birth of our son there has been extreme joy that he seems to not grasp. As a new Mom I want to love and be there for my child and give him my best self, but I also want to be there for John. 

wondering  anyone has any advice or input? or resources?

love and thanks 

Catholic's picture
Posts: 86
Joined: May 2016

My wife came home after the birth of our 3rd child and literally went to live in
the basement full-time.  She was angry every day and extremely difficult to live
with. Finally, 2 years later her sister came and she was diagnosed with cancer and then
came chemotherapy for 11 months.

There are no resources that I know of.  I did lean on my mom a lot so dont hesistate
to come and vent on this forum. 

My best advice is to take care of yourself.  Its hard when you have an infant to take
care of.  You have find family or friends that you trust and drop the child off and go
exercise or something to clear your head out. This is a must.  Dont try to be wonder
woman and do everything; take breaks when you can. Talking to friends and
family is helpful too.

My youngest child is now 4 years old and in a 4K program 4 days a week for the
mornings.  I have more time to get things done.  My wife still spends way too much
time in the basement; she is depressed and angry and its been 2 years since chemotherapy.
You say "the birth of our son there has been extreme joy that he seems to not grasp".
I get that.  Trust me I get it.  My wife has missed a lot with the kids and at this stage
she is afraid of the kids, especially our oldest is who is a spirited 11 year old girl.
Take pictures of your spouse and try to have your child around him even if it seems
he is not participating.



erica may
Posts: 2
Joined: Jan 2018

Thank you for your words and advice. I know our battle and journey is just beginning and I am still optimistic  the old him will return. But I think I need to prepare a reality that it just might not happen. 

Girlwednesday's picture
Posts: 2
Joined: Jan 2018

Dear Erica, 

what a difficult situation you are in. All I can say as someone who works in nursing homes and my husband going through cancer and being mean and distant himself is this...

ultimately, he has to want to help himself. 

You dont have to reject him, but you have a baby. This is both your responsibility but probably falls all on you. 

it Is up to your husband to find some sort of peace. 

You can still love your husband to Bits. But we are responsible for ourselves 


Mrs. O
Posts: 1
Joined: Jan 2018

Dear erica may,

I too struggle with my husband emotionally and physically pushing me away from me. It is how he copes with the cancer. I have asked him over and over. Why he feels the need to shut me out , I just want to be there for him and love him through this however long or short our time together is. 

I have come to the conclution that showing me affection allows him to feel, when he allows himself to feel he cannot push the fear away. I also think he is trying to prepare me for life without him.

All I want is to have wonderful memories to sustain me. 

Now this is my husband. Your partner may be completely different. 

I have found that you have to keep the lines of communication open. Your case gets a bit more complicated with children involved. I am sure your exhaustion level is very much elevated. 

I have had to tell my husband that I love him and when he gets angry. I am sorry you are going through this I will do everything i can to make it easier , but I am not your punching bag. Lets work through this together and find a way to take your anger out in a way that doesn't hurt anyone.

I don't know if this helps you. I hope so. It is just my experience shared. 

Good luch hon.

k2oly's picture
Posts: 13
Joined: Dec 2017

erica may - read what Catholic has said here and in other threads. i've found it extremely useful. (THANKS A MILLION, Catholic!!)

i'm dealing with similar cognitive changes in my person. (not a spouse, but my best friend who co-owns our property with me. we live in different homes on the same property, so we do have some interactions related to sharing the same space although it's not the same house.) i can only begin to imagine how hellish this must be for you, especially with the baby coming. my heart aches for you.

i like what Girlwednesday has written. i think it's cool to let him know how much you love him and want to have a life together as a family - however long that life together might be. it's also cool to back off a bit FOR YOUR OWN SANITY. if the negativity stresses you out or depresses you, it's making chemical changes in your body that might effect the baby. (not just during development in utero or during breast feeding, but also just the general stressful vibe you have.) i'm not saying you have to cut him off and leave the relationship. but i do wonder if giving yourself time and space *alone* to nurture positive feelings would be a good idea for you and the baby? if he's pushing you away, can you honor that he wants to push you away *for now*? i wonder if looking at it from a different perspective would help? if your sweetie is pushing you away, can you give him the gift of distance? it sounds like it might benefit you and the baby as well. is there a way that you can offer help/encouragement less often and wait for him to reach out to you for support? is there a way that you can offer support in a big-picture way without getting sucked into nitty gritty details that can develop into arguments/attacks? ex: asking a general question like "how are you feeling today" or "is there anything i can do to help you out today" rather than asking specifics like "does the neuropathy feel any better today" or "can i run to the pharmacy to pick up XYZ for you on my way home from work".

it might be that he softens later and wants to re-connect/rekindle things. but right now, perhaps spending a little more time away from him would benefit both you AND your son? maybe if you're feeling less chaotic and crazy and frustrated after some time and distance, it'll be more helpful to your sweetie later? maybe then you'd feel a bit more recharged in case he returns to his old self or in case he gets worse and you want to be there for the end?

when i first stepped back from my person, i didn't tell her i was doing that but she noticed after a few days that i wasn't reaching out as much or being as involved. she confronted me about it and i simply said "from what you've said, it sounds like everything i say and do is upsetting you. so it seems best for me to give you space so you don't have to feel that way." she disagreed and wanted to fight about it, of course. so i sat quietly and let her vent, but still kept my distance. we still interact and it's still very challenging and frustrating and crazy-making. but it's less awful when i give myself time and space away from her.

you know how on airplanes, you're told that in case of emergency you should put your own oxygen mask on first before trying to help others? if you stop breathing, you can't really be helpful to anybody who depends on you. well, same here. take care of yourself and do whatever you need to do to ensure that you have enough energy to care of yourself because if you're feeling strong, you'll be a better mom and better life partner.

just my $0.02.

Posts: 9
Joined: May 2018

My husband was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma a year ago.  During his surgeries and recovery we were closer than ever.  He elected to do the watch and wait option for follow up.  So far, he is still NED (no evidence of disease).  Since October is has been displaying extreme discontent with everything in his life.  He is always angry and so cruel toward me.  He doesn't seem to realize how bad he is or how vicious and hurtful.  I keep hearing stuff from him like things should go his way and be what he wants now.  We haven't exactly had the best marriage over the years but he's never been this mean.  At first I thought he was experiencing phen rage from a diet pills he was taking, but he has gone off that and he's still bad.  I feel like he's destroying me.  I contemplate leaving but how do you walk away from 32 years of marriage?  I don't even know where to start with something like that.  I'm at my wit's end.  Does anyone have advice on how to cope??


k2oly's picture
Posts: 13
Joined: Dec 2017

you're not alone. that sounds typical of *many* cancer patients. (some people attribute it to the disease some attribute it to treatment. either way, it's common. with my loved one, this hostility/aggression/vile anger varies in intensity depending on which chemo drug she's on. it's always there now, but sometimes it's better than other times. it's dead wrong of people to say it's because someone is facing death or this scary diagnosis. this symptom is not common to all terminal illnesses; it IS common to many cancers & cancer treatments.) one of the oncology therapists i work with calls this "cancer's dirty little secret'. my first realization about how "normal" this is was when i found this site and read postings by CATHOLIC. his postings have been really helpful for me.

you might try several coping strategies until you find the ideal one for *you*. i found that working with therapists who specialize in oncology has been the most help for me.

support groups (face-to-face and also online) are a close second.

i've found very few generic tips for caregivers/loved ones of cancer patients, but have had GREAT luck finding excellent tips by searching for tips for caregivers/loved ones dementia patients. (Eg: https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-suspicion-delusions.asp ) still, putting those tips into practice can be challenging and it helps a great deal having a therapist or support network help you apply them in the moment to a specific situation.

at your wits end? i hear ya! contemplate leaving? i hear ya! if my situation were any different, i would've walked away from my loved one. but she has no family or other close friends, so i'm all she has. her cancer is terminal & aggressive and i know i'd regret it & i'd hate myself if i walked away from her. but still, some days it's almost unbearable!

not sure whether this helps.

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