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 husband or wife, 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 his or her 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. Often, men end up regretting not having heeded their wives in this regard. 

Reasons People Refuse to See a Doctor or Seek Help

  • Rationalization that the problem will go away.
  • Fear of what the doctor will say.
  • Belief that this is not the right time to be sick.
  • Too busy.
  • Dislike for the whole medical experience.
  • Medical care too expensive.
  • Spending too much time in the waiting room.
  • Embarrassment about the illness or medical condition.
  • Concern about being viewed as weak.
  • Fear of painful medical procedures.
  • Bad past experience with a particular doctor, healthcare facility or medical procedure.
  • Denial about the current health status.

What You Should Say and Do

  • Tell your spouse that you are worried. Talk to him or her 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 mom. Your spouse is an adult and capable of making personal medical decisions.
  • Tell your spouse that you want him/her to see a doctor because of your love. You can also offer to go with him/her.
  • Ask if you can set up an appointment for your spouse to see a doctor.
  • If you believe your spouse's refusal to seek medical or psychological care is life-threatening, then you need to get professional help in getting your spouse the help that is needed.
  • 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 You Should Not Say or 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.  

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