Caring for a Spouse or Partner

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As a caregiver, your personal relationships can become strained, especially and including your relationship with the patient. If your spouse/partner is diagnosed with a brain tumor, you may find yourself taking over some of their responsibilities. In this section, we will look at the challenges that come with caring for your loved one.


In committed relationships, there may be little question that one will care for the other in times of illness. However, caregiving for a brain tumor patient is far different from nursing someone through a cold.  To help you understand new emotions you may be facing, consider these common reactions:


You may feel angry at your spouse/partner for getting ill. It is OK to feel angry, but it is important to consider dealing with negative emotions promptly, preferably with the help of a mental health professional.


Your spouse/partner’s personality may change during the illness and treatment. The sweet person who loved funny movies may no longer enjoy those same types of activities.  A previously caring person may not react to your smiles or tears.  It may be difficult to accept that the person you have loved for years is now different, perhaps forever. They may not realize they have changed, which makes it complicated.

  • Find a face-to-face support group, online community, or counselor.  This is a difficult situation and you may find it helpful to have a safe place to work through your feelings. It may be difficult to discuss these issues with other family members, but supportive people outside your family can help.
  • Try not to focus on the changes too much, especially in your communication with your spouse/partner. Saying how much you miss the way things used to be will not be helpful.  Instead, focus your energy on making it work, rather than missing the good old days.
  • Behavioral changes may seem particularly cruel. Do your best to adjust to your life together. Again, support groups and counseling can help. 

Your sex life may change. Your spouse/partner’s desire for intimacy may be affected by the disease and the treatment. The desire may also be affected by the day-to-day responsibilities of caregiving.

  • Your spouse/partner’s doctor or palliative care team may be able to talk with you about intimacy issues. Changes to your spouse/partner’s sex drive are symptoms that can be discussed with your medical team. They can give you an idea if the change in libido is temporary or something you’ll have to adjust to long-term.
  • Being a caregiver you can still be a romantic partner although your sexual relationship may change due to the illness.
  • Intimacy has many forms.  Holding hands may be a meaningful way to connect. Look for small ways to connect physically, separate from the touching that comes with caregiving.

To learn more, visit our Physical Intimacy page.

Related Resources

Orientation to Caregiving

Orientation to Caregiving

A Caregivers Handbook from UCSF