“If you refuse to do it yourself, I’ll do it for you,” I threatened.
“Oh no you won’t!” Kim replied.
What had begun as a legitimate debate soon deteriorated into a test of wills.
Last week Kim received a letter from our primary care physician indicating that she was due for her annual physical. I informed Kim of the correspondence, and she was rather dismissive. “Yeah, whatever. I’ll make an appointment when they refuse to fill my prescriptions.” Yes, our doctor has been known to hold our prescriptions hostage if we don’t come in for a physical.
Kim’s attitude toward these annual checkups is not an uncommon one. Like so many people, she has no pressing health problems (that we know of) and is a very busy person. My understanding is that annual checkups are not as much fun for women as for men. I’ve seen the stirrups. Nevertheless, I just couldn’t let it go.
I argued that physical examinations are even more important as we grow older (perhaps an ill-advised tactic). I brought the letter over to her, and while channeling my inner male chauvinist (another ill-advised tactic) I demanded, “Call the doctor’s office right now and make an appointment.” I sat there, alternately staring down at the letter and up at her eyes, so as to indicate my resolve.
Unafraid, undaunted, and unimpressed, Kim pushed the letter back toward me and said, “No. I’ll do it when I feel like it.”
I slid the note back toward her and made that threat, “If you refuse to do it yourself, I’ll do it for you.”
“Oh no you won’t!”
“It doesn’t matter, because the doctor’s office will never let you.”
“I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?”
I did it. I contacted the doctor’s office and they allowed me to make an appointment for Kim, no questions asked. I felt like the secretary to an important person.
My important person became steaming mad. “What you just did is not okay.”
Kim determined that my punishment was approximately one hour of the silent treatment. The tension in the room was palpable, but eventually it dissipated. Since that time we have made our respective cases to several impartial people, but few are foolish enough to choose a side. We each stand by our original positions.
As I began writing this account of the confrontation, I had to ask myself why I felt so strongly that Kim should make an appointment sooner rather than later. As I said, I didn’t suspect that she had any particular, underlying medical problem. That wasn’t it. Of course I have immense love and compassion for my wife. That was obviously a major factor. Given my own medical situation, I’m more aware of the effect that health problems can have on a person’s life, and the importance of frequent and open communication with your medical team. I go to these appointments with a long list of issues, many of which are addressed at least to some extent during the checkup. These experiences definitely influenced my desire to have Kim hurry up and schedule her annual physical.
But if Kim wasn’t both my wife and my caregiver, and I didn’t depend on her so completely for my personal well-being, would I have been so insistent? In the heat of the argument I truly felt that I occupied the moral and altruistic high ground. But was I also motivated by self-preservation, at least a little?
Like so many arguments, this one was a mosaic of legitimate concerns and questionable tactics. There were plain statements and hidden agendas, genuine concerns and shameless posturing. Even though intentions were good, communications were flawed. In the end, however, this was above all an argument from love, and that’s the most important thing.