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Carolyn Hax: Prepare without counting on him

Carolyn Hax Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: How do I get my husband to discuss tough subjects, like important health issues (death, severe illness)? First he deflects with a joke. Then, when I say, “No, really, this is important to me to discuss,” he jokingly calls for the dog to protect him. When I repeat that I need to discuss whatever, he gets up to leave.

I’ve even humorously pointed out these three stages to him (“Now you’re going to call for the dog”), but the deflection continues. I worry that when something big happens – like his father dies – he will resort to avoidance rather than deal with the issue. (He says he’ll sit in a bar all day.) – M.

Then expect him to sit in a bar all day when his father dies, and make sure he has safe passage home.

Just because the mental health community isn’t likely to prescribe alcohol as a grief remedy doesn’t mean it’s your job to change your husband’s plans. He has his way of dealing with tough subjects, and you have yours.

When the tough subject is about you, then you are entitled to force his hand: “I would like to talk about my end-of-life plans, should I ever become incapacitated.” In that case, when he summons the dog, you summon a good attorney and put your wishes in writing. You may also want to designate someone to carry out those wishes for you, if you don’t trust your husband to do it.

His avoidance approach might work, for him, just fine; talking isn’t the answer for everyone. You probably have plenty of evidence already of how effective he is (or isn’t) at processing things on his own. But either way, he won’t just wake up and embrace your terms. Since it’s in your nature to prepare, prepare as well as you can to work around his ostrich ways.

E-mail Carolyn at, or chat with her online at 9 a.m. each Friday at
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