Supporting an angry patient

Hi, my partner was diagnosed with thrombocytaemia eight months ago and is taking chemo, probably for life. His mood has changed, he is constantly angry and blames me for things that happened in the past, sometimes adding imaginary plots to the facts. He regrets and apologises later, often in tears. It is a kind of bipolar behaviour as if suddenly something swifts in his mind and turns him from his usual pleasant, kind and humorous self to a shouting and angry other. He admits feeling exhausted, tired and disappointed. But I don't know how to cope with this behaviour. Please help me.

  • Hello Rudel and thank you for contacting the online community.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your partner’s diagnosis and that he’s angry towards you. It might be that he’s angry about his diagnosis, but this can be hard to put into words so he may take out his feelings on you. This can be hard, especially when you are doing your best and are also coping with your own feelings.  Of course, this doesn’t mean you should put up with an abusive relationship. If your partner is being consistently verbally or physically abusive, ask your GP or someone else you trust for help Rudel.

    If he’s irritable or critical, try not to take it personally. Remember anger and irritability are common reactions to being diagnosed with cancer. If you feel upset or angry, give yourself time to calm down before you respond. After a disagreement, find a time when you are both calm to talk about what happened and how you both feel. Instead of saying, ‘You always criticise me’ or, ‘You make me feel sad’, try to say something like, ‘I felt upset when we disagreed today. Can we work this out together?’

    Try to resolve the disagreement and forgive each other at the end of your talk. A hug or a kind word can help resolve the disagreement and make you feel closer.

    Here are some tips on coping with anger:

    • Try not to take it personally. Remind yourself that your partner may be upset because of the cancer, rather than with you.
    • Find a time when you are both calm to talk about it.
    • Look for solutions you can both agree on.
    • Get support for yourself from someone outside of the relationship.

    Do you have anyone close to you that you can talk to about what’s happening just now Rudel? Perhaps a family member or a friend? Talking can help process what’s happening and make you feel less alone. We’re here for you of course and we have a family and friends forum where you can interact with others who are perhaps going through something similar. You might also find our booklet Cancer and Relationships helpful.

    Does your partner talk to anyone about how he’s feeling? Perhaps talking to someone he doesn’t know might be helpful. Please let him know we’re here for him too of course.

    Either of you would be welcome to call in on 0808 808 00 00 (7 days a week, 8am – 8pm), web chat or continue to email if you’d prefer.

    Take care.

    Alex, Information and Support Adviser

    Remember you can also speak with the Macmillan Support Line team of experts. Phone free on 0808 808 0000 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm) or by email.