I am a Cancer woman. I know that we Cancers live in an emotional world and sometimes we just have to take a step back and sort out all our feelings. We can be easily overwhelmed and confused with our emotional overload and when a Cancer is dealing with a lot of emotional situations at the same time, we tend to withdraw- not always physically but emotionally. Sometimes we try to distance ourselves by distracting ourselves with what may seem to others to be callous frivolity.
We can be very sensitive and insecure and if you verbally blast, denegrate or demean a Cancer, we will withdraw and become even more distant and it will take a long time to earn back the trust and be forgiven for the hurt you caused. We may say you are forgiven, but we will test you to the limit after that kind of emotional betrayal. And yes, we do see name calling and the denegration of our integrity as emotional betrayal.
Cancers need someone who is patient and will wait until we can sort out our feelings and then express them. If you push too hard, we simply withdraw, and if you hurt us, we simply turn away and leave for a while - we need time to decide if we want to stay or not because we need to figure out if it is just a fluke or if this is what it is always going to be like and if we can deal with that on a long term basis.
Words hurt us but it is actions that will bring us back and it will take a lot of convincing because once we give our hearts - it stays given and if you hurt us - we tend to remain hurt. We are so loyal we need to know that our loyalty and love won't be taken for granted and we tend to stay in relationships far longer than what is healthy. We need constant reassurance especially if we have been burned before. Once bitten, twice shy for most - for Cancers- multiply that by 10.
It sounds to me that your Cancer man was going through some hard emotional times and as Cancers don't like to hurt people, being very sensitive themselves, it is difficult for him to deal with not hurting his ex-wife and children while still having to deal with your relationship and needs. We like to make clean breaks but his situation does not allow that. He has 5 children and he has to deal with all their emotions too.
Cancers are also very idealistic and we believe in an unrealistic fantastical perfection of love and tend to have to lower our expectations to meet reality. That is when Cancers tend to withdraw for no apparent reason, we are trying to decide what we can and can't live with/without when it comes to love. We do evaluate the quality of our relationships on a pro and con basis. As long as the Pros outweigh the cons, we will stay. Once they get out of whack with our expectations, we will stay longer hoping things will change - then if they don't - our departure is abrupt and we do not tend to look back but wash our hands clean because it is difficult for a Cancer to have to deal with negative fall out esp. if they feel they did all they could to make it work. Cancers feel the failure of a relationship very hard because they put so much emotional energy into them.
We also need the security that our SO will allow us the time to sort out our feelings and then listen and take us seriously and maybe even try to help with whatever is wrong but don't presume to know what a Cancer needs - when we figure it out - we will tell you. When we tell you and you don't act accordingly, don't expect a Cancer to want to stick around. It is like a slap in the face to Cancers when you ask us what we want, make us wade through our emotional oceans, narrow down the findings, then verbalize what we need and then have you just ignore it. Most things Cancers ask for are symbolic - it may seem small and insignificant but it usually represents a bigger issue. If your Cancer says that buying a flower or picking up a cup of his favorite ice cream each week is important - it is not the flower or ice cream that is important - it is the fact you listened, remembered, cared enough to act on it, showed you value his/her feelings and you have validated their trust in you. Phew! All on a simple flower/cup of ice cream!
So when we finally figure out what it is we need, we require our SOs to encourage us and reassure us that they will be there if we fall. We need to know our SO can be counted on. This is a lot to ask of someone but these are the minimum requirements for a Cancer. Most people will never meet the ideal for a Cancer and so the Cancer will never be completely happy but if you are gentle, patient, understanding and caring - your Cancer will be yours forever despite occassional withdrawals.