What to Do When Your Spouse Refuses to See a Doctor

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It's obvious to you that your spouse needs to see a doctor. To your partner, though, it either isn't so obvious or they just refuse to go. It is very frustrating and worrisome when a spouse does not have the motivation to take care of their health needs. It can also begin to impact your marriage quite negatively.

It is more common for wives to struggle with this problem. Men are particularly more stubborn about seeing doctors. Perhaps they feel invincible or that it is a sign of weakness to see the doctor. Women are also more accustomed to seeing doctors regularly, such as the OB/GYN.

Reasons People Refuse to See a Doctor

  • Rationalize that the problem will go away.
  • Fear of what the doctor will say.
  • Believe that this is not the right time to be sick.
  • Feel they are too busy.
  • Dislike he whole medical experience.
  • Believe medical care too expensive.
  • Spend too much time in the waiting room.
  • Feel embarrassed about the illness or medical condition.
  • Have concerns about being viewed as weak.
  • Fear painful medical procedures.
  • Had a bad experience with a particular doctor, healthcare facility or medical procedure.
  • Deny their current health status.

What You Should Do

  • Tell your spouse that you are worried. Talk to them about the fear you feel over this situation. 
  • Talk to your spouse about your own feelings related to the impact this refusal of help or treatment has on you. 
  • Accept your role as spouse and not as your spouse's parent. Your spouse is an adult and capable of making personal medical decisions.
  • Tell your spouse that you want them to see a doctor because you love them. You can also offer to go with them.
  • Ask if you can set up an appointment for your spouse to see a doctor.
  • Get professional help in getting your spouse the help that is needed especially if you believe your spouse's refusal to seek medical or psychological care is life-threatening.
  • Consider seeing a counselor on your own to help deal with your mixture of feelings. It is important that you take care of yourself and accept your own feelings of frustration, anger, etc.

What Not to Do

  • Do not continue to nag.
  • Do not set up an appointment with a doctor without your spouse's okay.
  • Do not continue to have endless arguments about this issue.
  • Do not manipulate your spouse into getting help.
  • Do not threaten to leave the marriage (unless you really mean it).

A psychological issue can cause significant distress in a marriage. This is often trickier, as the spouse may lack insight into the problem.

Both psychological and medical problems left untreated can begin to impact the entire family system.  

If a spouse continues to refuse to get help, perhaps starting in counseling together may be a productive gateway to helping your spouse get their own personal help. If your spouse still refuses to see a doctor, there isn't much more you can do other than to share your feelings of concern, fear, and love.

It always boils down to personal responsibility. Unfortunately, there may not be much else you can do. A spouse not getting needed help will unintentionally be sending a message to their spouse that he or she is not important enough to do so.  

By Sheri Stritof
Sheri Stritof has written about marriage and relationships for 20+ years. She's the co-author of The Everything Great Marriage Book.