Dear Mr. Dad: My husband doesn’t exercise, he eats tons of fried foods and sugary drinks, and hasn’t been to see a doctor in years. Worse than that, our two sons, ages 8 and 10 are following in their dad’s footsteps. I’m really worried. Why won’t my husband take better care of himself?
A: I really wish I had an answer to that question, but the closest I can come is, “It’s complicated.” Part of the problem is the messages we send to boys and men: “Big boys don’t cry,” “Take it like a man,” “Man up and stop complaining,” “Real men play through it,” and my favorite, “Pain is just weakness leaving your body.”
Once those messages get into our head, they’re nearly impossible to get out. So it’s no wonder that like your husband, we don’t get regular checkups, don’t do much preventive care, we ignore our symptoms, and generally stay as far away from healthcare providers as we can unless the pain is unbearable—and even then, we often hold off, hoping it’ll go away. On average, we’re half as likely as women to have seen a healthcare provider in the previous year—and that’s after taking out women’s prenatal visits.
Instead of “Why won’t he take care of himself,” the real question you should be asking is, “What can I do to help?” I know that doesn’t seem very fair. You’ve got enough to worry about already and you’re probably tempted to tell him to “Man up” (and you’d be right). But the bottom line is that his health affects you in a pretty significant way.