My partner won’t wear sunscreen despite my pleas: I’m afraid he’ll get cancer | Ask Annalisa Barbieri

I am in a long term relationship with a wonderful man But It annoys me that when he is in the sun he never uses sun cream except in his face

I’m afraid she’ll get skin cancer, especially since that’s something her parents have experienced, and also because I was widowed at 34 when my first husband died of cancer. We they both have children from our previous relationships.

The prospect of loving and then losing someone else to cancer is very scary and occupies my thoughts a lot. Watching my late husband get cancer and die inside Two months was the most horrible experience of my life, and having another shot at long-term happiness makes me want to hold on to it even more.

I have discussed my fears with my partner many times, but I don’t think he takes it seriously or knows how much it bothers me. Ironically, she always makes sure the kids are protected and reminds me to wear sunscreen. Since he tans easily I think he thinks he is invincible.

Am I selfish, maybe I should just let him make his own decisions, no matter how much it might hurt the bottom line? I’m at a loss as to what else to do.

I’m so sorry to hear about your husband’s passing, that must have been incredibly traumatic. It all happened so fast, I wonder if you had a chance to process your grief, then or since. Grief is a massive emotion that we can’t avoid and, left untreated, can manifest as other emotions, such as extreme anxiety. If your children were very young, you probably just “went along” to be there for them.

I went to Louise Tyler, a BACP accredited counsellor, who says:

“At first glance, this might seem like a sunscreen issue, but it’s not. That’s how couples get stuck arguing about the same thing, because it looks like it’s about sunscreen or doing the dishes, but what really it’s about ‘Do you know me? Am I important and does it matter what I want?’ But in this case it’s also about trauma and loss and the risks of ‘living’ again.”

Tyler says that couples tend to have two types of problems: “solvable” problems, such as who does the housework, where the conflict is simply about that issue; and “perpetual” problems, which focus on fundamental differences. “If this was a solvable problem, it would be ‘You have to wear sunscreen, can we find a compromise?’ But this seems to be more of a difference in needs.”

With perpetual problems, Tyler says, “Couples come back to the problem again and again, but in a different way, if they don’t address the issues below. Here, the problem could be: You can risk going back to trust in life? Can your partner take responsibility for making you feel safe?”

We don’t know what your partner’s needs are; it could be that “he doesn’t want to be told what to do. He may also not fully understand your needs and see it as ‘just’ annoying with the sunscreen.’ So the first thing to do is sit down with him and really explain what it means to you (“I’m so afraid of losing -te” instead of “put on sunscreen”) and then listen to him. This gives him a chance to fix it.

However, we still believe it is important to address your past trauma. Therapy/CBT would be ideal for you, or perhaps grief counseling (cruse.org.uk).

While the use of sunscreen is important, it can act as a useful foil for some more vulnerable emotions.

Each week Annalisa Barbieri tackles a personal issue submitted by a reader. If you want Annalisa’s advice on a personal matter, send your issue to ask.annalisa@theguardian.com. Annalisa regrets not being able to enter into personal correspondence. Shipments are subject to our terms and conditions.

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