How a Hysterectomy Can Affect a Relationship
Any major life change can affect your relationship, as the stress can generate a great deal of tension. Having a hysterectomy is a major surgery with a difficult recovery which can also affect one's hormones even if their ovaries are not removed.
I recently went through this experience, and I wanted to prepare as best as possible. I sought out a therapist who had a lot of experience with hysterectomies because I knew I’d need extra support. One concern I had was how the surgery would affect my relationship.
Here are some things I've learned should be considered when having a hysterectomy:
Mood swings can cause lashing out at your partner.
You may experience anxiety or symptoms of depression.
You may have to cope with the inability to have kids (or more kids).
Your partner will have to take on a lot of household responsibility and child care after the surgery.
You will both miss time at work.
There could be financial strain from medical costs or missed work.
There will be a lack of sexual intimacy during recovery.
After recovery, there may be changes in intimacy.
It can be stressful the first few weeks for your partner to have to do all the cooking, cleaning, and kid care, along with being your full-time caregiver. It was helpful to have my husband talk to his employer about time off and working from home beforehand. He was lucky to be offered flexibility; his coworkers' awareness of the situation helped with that. I helped plan some easy meals and snacks before my surgery, since he is not typically the cook in our family. We prepped by doing some deep cleaning beforehand as well.
It's also helpful to give your partner some resources so they can understand the surgery and its recovery. Reading about what one goes through, especially related to hormones and feelings, can help prepare your partner for how to support you. I also had my husband at my pre-op and post-op appointments so he could ask questions as well. We talked about how I would like to be supported, both helpful things he could say and do and some things I knew would not be helpful.
We also discussed in detail our financial plan and intimacy. We prepared well ahead of time for major medical events and saved my maximum allowed budget for out-of-pocket expenses in our health savings account. We discussed an expectation of how much work I would miss and budgeted for that. For most hysterectomies, there is no intercourse allowed for six weeks, but sometimes up to 12. Discussing this beforehand with your partner can help cope with that expectation. Things to talk about would be how that may make you feel, other ways to connect intimately, and the importance of talking about feelings as they come up. The open communication should continue once intercourse is back on the table, as there can be discomfort, dryness, and pain (which should all also be discussed with your doctor as well).
If you have conflict or tension during recovery make sure you take time to talk about it instead of avoiding things. If the conflict gets heated, make sure you both take a break to calm down and relax before discussing those issues again. Seeing an individual or couples therapist would be helpful as well. Remind yourselves that this is a stressful event but also that what you are going through is normal. Things will get better over time and your health will be better in the long run.
A positive change that can emerge in your relationship is growing closer. Increased communication, and having your partner take care of you and show they really are there for you, can definitely strengthen a relationship. Difficult times may feel less difficult when you feel supported and loved by a partner. Getting through a tough time together can generate a lot of good feelings: You’ll spend more time together, you will make more time for talking to each other, and you will deepen trust. This can be a great time to express more appreciation for a partner as well.