Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: How can I get him to see the doctor?

He's in pain, but when his wife suggests getting professional advice, he refuses to go

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The Independent Online

Dear Virginia,

My husband has developed a limp – and a kind of lump on his hip. He tries to pretend it’s not there, and insists on walking miles and climbing hills, but I can see he’s in pain, and it worries me. But when I suggest he sees the doctor he either shrugs it off or he gets angry. Or he promises he’ll ring the practice next week and never does. This has been going on for six months and he’s started to snap every time I mention it. Can you think of any way of getting him to the doctor bar shooting him with an anaesthetic dart and hauling him off in the car?


Virgina says...

When anyone starts to behave like a child – as your husband is doing – it’s best to treat them like a child. Many’s the time I’ve got into some frightful tearful tizz that I just can’t get out of, and someone only has to put their arm round me and give me a sweet, as it were, and I’m right as rain.

Banging on to your husband about how sensible it would be to get this worrying problem checked out will get you absolutely nowhere. Asking how he’d feel if you were to put your head in the sand, ostrich-style, if you had a problem, will cut no ice. You can’t approach the problem in an adult way.

My own suggestion would be to shame him into going to see the doctor, playground-style. Only rather than shouting: “Cry-baby, girlie, my dad’s bigger than your dad!” or whatever kids shout at each other in playgrounds these days, tell him he’s being a total idiot. Tell him how utterly pathetic you feel he’s being and how you feel ashamed of him being such a coward. Because that’s what he is. He’s terrified of going to the doctor and being told that there might be something wrong with him.

Ask if he’d like you to come with him, if he’s so frightened. He won’t like that. Tell him stories of other, brave, heroic husbands, who have earned admiration and applause by striding along to the doctor and facing up to their problems. By making him feel even worse about not going to the doctor – making him feel like a wimp with not an ounce of masculinity in his tragic body – than he would if he were to go to the doctor and  be told he’d got a problem, you’ll get him to choose the lesser of these two evils and he’ll be on the phone to the practice in no time.

If all else fails, couldn’t you complain eventually that you’re unable to sleep with worry? Start losing weight. Say it’s all his fault. Go the doctor yourself and say you’re turning into a nervous wreck. Return with the news that the only solution is for him to go to the doctor and get an explanation for these sinister developments in his hip.

Or, if you really can’t face that, get the support of your children – and, if possible, his parents – and have a family conference in which you ambush him one day and all surround him, begging him to go get an expert opinion. If he still refuses to seek help, you’ll just have to give up. But somehow I think at that in the end he’ll give in. And probably find that he’s got nothing worse than a touch of sciatica.


Readers say... Be crafty

My solution would be to connive with your doctor to visit you at home due to the sudden onset of some illness, at a time when your husband will be there, and for the doctor to ask him to fetch something and then “notice” his limp and ask if he could take a look. Your husband will then be seen by a doctor but without having been to see one – which may be his psychological block.

Martin Kyrle, by email


It’s his loss

It is about quality of life: does  he want to continue walking and climbing? If he does not get the problem looked at, at this stage when it can possibly be diagnosed and treated, unfortunately the prospects for future walking and climbing will diminish.

Patricia Stein, by email


Conspire with his GP

Go and see one of the good male GPs at your practice. Ask if he can invite your husband for a Well Man check so that your husband can have a selection of blood tests taken, a blood pressure check etc. This will give your husband the opening he needs. If all goes to plan, you can confess afterwards.

Elisabeth Storrs, by email


Next week’s dilemma

Dear Virginia,

Since we married 20 years ago, I’ve tried to keep myself looking as good as possible. But my husband eats and drinks whatever he feels like and takes no exercise, weighing 7st more than me. The man I married was very attractive. This one still could be, but he has no intention of making any effort to be so again. Sex was always good but now I feel undignified climbing on top of him. I would love to know how other women who still love their husbands, but cannot fancy them in such a deteriorated state, cope with this problem.

Yours sincerely,



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