The thorn in my side — Why won’t my man go to the doctor?

“I’m worth more to you dead than alive.”

That’s an actual quote from my actual husband during an actual conversation we had recently about his lack of commitment to his own health.

I was so infuriated, I countered with, “You’re not taking into consideration your future earnings or the fact that there’d be no one to unclog the stubborn downstairs toilet if you were dead.”

I was mostly kidding.

Our battle is an ongoing one. One that I know has been taking place in households across America for decades — wives forcing preventative care upon their tough guy husbands who, in reality, are probably too scared of the doctor to make a habit of going. I heard it growing up as a child in my parents’ house. I hear it from my friends and colleagues…men don’t want to go to the doctor.

But who does?

I certainly don’t like being poked and prodded and strapped up to all kinds of machines. Especially as a relatively healthy person who is usually sent home with a clean bill of health after what feels like a wasted hour. But I don’t get checkups for their entertainment value. I do it because every once in a while, my doctor will unlock a mystery that I had pushed to the back of my mind because I didn’t think it was a big deal and who has time to go to the doctor anyway?

A few months ago, it went something like this:

Yeah, I’ve been super tired lately. You mean it’s not because I work full time and have two children and manage a household? It’s because my thyroid isn’t working right?

A small pill once a day later and I’m back to my usual energy level and feeling great. It was that easy.

Going to the doctor is like an insurance policy. You probably have no need for it. And that’s what you strive for. But I’ve heard too many stories of people who don’t go until they are hurt and need an X-ray, only to learn they have a massive tumor or some other horrible finding that could have either been prevented or discovered and treated earlier, with much better outcomes. I don’t want that to happen to my life partner. I need him to stick around.

I think my husband is afraid of the limits the doctor may place on him. Having a weakness for sweets, my husband used to regularly snack on Swedish Fish at his desk. How do I know this? Certainly not because he told me about it — at least not until his most recent doctor’s visit, during which he was diagnosed with prediabetes and told not to eat Swedish Fish anymore. He then came home and confessed his snack choice secrets. I could have told him it was a bad idea. But he didn’t want to hear it from me. Apparently, a doctor in a white coat has more clout than a nagging wife — even when we are saying the exact same things.

My husband is a smart guy. He knows the value of taking care of oneself. He just doesn’t want to be bothered. And I get that. So I will continue to pester and scold the man I love until he does what he knows he’s supposed to do anyway.

Recently, this has become easier. He has found a doctor that he truly likes and doesn’t mind talking to once he’s there. I think making that connection was an important step and has helped close the gap a bit between what he needs to be doing and what he actually does. He respects his physician and tries to abide by his advice.

I love my husband and don’t want a life without him. So for now, I’ll keep nagging and making his appointments like he’s an 8 year old — whatever it takes to get his butt to the doctor for my own peace of mind. And I will hold out hope that he continues to progress in understanding the value of prevention over treatment.

Next up — getting my husband to go to the dentist.

Wish me luck!

Written by Julie Shapiro, copywriter at Northwell Health and patient of the health system.


If you need to make an appointment for your man like Julie does, you can call (888) 321-DOCS.