Mark Mengel, chair of the department of community and family medicine at St. Louis University School of Medicine, says men view their bodies like a car. "They don't think they need to do anything unless something goes wrong," he says. "Men see any defect as a sign of weakness. They don't want to acknowledge there's anything physically wrong with them because it embarrasses them."
The dilemma for wives and significant others is how to get their men to the doctor without causing an upset likely to dramatically increase his blood pressure. Here are some suggestions from Mengel and others:
- Don't start with the nagging. Gently suggest to him that annual checkups are a reasonable and responsible thing to do, and leave it at that for now. He needs time to get his head around the idea.
- Don't start by telling him how out of shape and unhealthy he is. He knows these things already. This is precisely the reason he doesn't want to go to the doctor. He doesn't want to be told by you or a doctor how out of shape and unhealthy he is.
- Don't start with threats. He'll just dig in his heels.
- Don't start with prophecies of doom and death. This is another reason he won't go to the doctor. He's scared. He's afraid the doctor will tell him of his imminent doom and death. He'd rather be surprised by these things.
- Appeal to his sense of responsibility as family provider and protector. This tactic may take some time to work, but its chances of eventual success are high. Most men cherish their role as provider and protector.
- Appeal to his love of his family. Another good, though slow-acting, strategy.
- Clip articles and ads featuring sports figures and other "manly" men who advocate for men's health issues. Leave these on the kitchen counter or on his desk or dresser, without comment. But don't ask him whether he's read them. That's nagging.
- Indirectly solicit the help of one of his friends who you know has annual physical exams or other regular doctor visits. Ask your husband's friend to talk to your husband, or ask your husband's friend's wife to ask your husband's friend to talk to your husband.
- Make an appointment for him, tell him when it is and tell him if he chooses not to go he'll have to be the one to cancel the appointment.
- Don't offer to go with him. That's too much mothering. Most men hate that.
- If he relents and agrees to go, send him with a written list of things to talk to the doctor about. Otherwise he'll probably just sit there while the doctor pokes and probes, and he'll come home with no useful information whatsoever.
- If all else fails, go ahead with the nagging, threats and constant reminders of how out of shape and healthy he is.