Healthy Spouse


My husband has had bad experiences with physicians and had cancer in the past. And now he won’t go in for check-ups. I'm afraid for his health. I’ve voiced my concern, but he isn’t doing anything about it! What can I do?


Did you know that men live about eight years less than women and die from almost all major diseases at significantly higher rates? In fact, there are few survival or health statistics that don't show a disproportionately negative rate for men, not to mention the impoverished quality of most men's personal lives. Most men have pursued excellence as breadwinners, work machines and performers and everything else in their lives has suffered.

One of the main reasons for the significantly lower life expectancy rate of men is the fact that they don’t take good care of themselves and get regular medical care. We could write an entire article on the reasons for this but suffice to say it is a real issue. So what can you do?

This issue like other issues can take on the face of a power struggle, and power struggles rarely bring positive results to a relationship. We applaud your concerns about your husband’s health.

We encourage you to think about how you have approached your husband to this point around his health issues. You may have tried every angle “to get him to see what you are feeling” and to “get him to do something different.” From your perspective nothing has changed in terms of his self-care, so we can safely say that how you have communicated with him has not motivated him to eat differently or see a physician and perhaps has left you feeling even more fearful and frustrated.

Perhaps there are some ways of talking to him that you haven’t tried. Have you ever invited him out on a dinner date and at a special moment taken his hands in yours, looked him in the eyes and then slowly and deliberately expressed your love for him, your need for him and your desire to have a long life together? Have you told him that one of the ways that he can love you and the kids is to take good care of himself?

Here are some suggestions that other women have found helpful.

Write him a letter in which you express the things we’ve just mentioned and send it to him at his office. If your children share your concerns have them write a personal letter to him in which they share similar affections, thoughts and concerns. Does he have any good friends who would talk with him? Would your pastor be willing to talk with him? Are there any articles that you could put on his desk or send him through email that highlight the need for and value of good medical care? Have you tried using humor?

Sometimes in relationships there is a delicate line between what feels critical as opposed to what feels encouraging. You might ask him how you could be more encouraging and what that might look like. Consider letting your husband know you’ve learned that challenging the way that he eats or encouraging him to see a doctor hasn’t motivated him to take care of himself, so you’ve decided not to do that anymore. Let him know one more time that you love and care about him and that you want to spend many more years together, but this time acknowledge that he alone is the one that controls his choices.

As you look at your experience with your husband, you might ask yourself, “What can I control and what is out of my control?” Since you can’t control his health habits or how long he lives it would be valuable to spend more time focusing on what you can control. Look at the “one another’s” in the New Testament and ask yourself, “How can I nourish, cherish, edify and encourage my husband?” It’s painful to watch someone you love make unhealthy choices. Over time and with some encouragement and prayer, your husband just might come to terms with his own choices. In the meantime seize opportunities to give your fear back to the Lord and to cultivate interacting with your husband in ways that give both of you more joy.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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