Dear Margo: For Better or for Worse — but Not for Hospitals?

When I have to stay in the hospital, my husband finds an excuse not to. Margo Howard’s advice

For Better or for Worse — but Not for Hospitals?

Dear Margo: I’ve been married for quite a number of years, and something has been bothering me recently. My husband comes up with all kinds of excuses not to be with me when I have any kind of surgery. It all started four years ago when I had rather serious surgery. He dropped me off at the front door of the hospital and went home to wait for the doctor’s call. He came to visit me once during my four-night stay. I admit that I didn’t make a fuss since it did seem OK, at the time, for him to simply wait at home and call me to keep in touch.

Since that time, I’ve had other surgeries that required either an overnight or a two-night stay. He never stayed in the hospital to see me post-surgery, nor did he come to visit. He did, however, keep in constant contact with me.

Lately, this has bothered me more, as I see the behavior of others. In his favor, his first wife died of cancer, so perhaps he became hospital phobic after that. But it does seem rather selfish, the more I allow myself to think about it. As more friends and family say he is getting away with murder, I, too, am beginning to wonder. Should I make more of a fuss or simply insist that he “be there for me” if hospitalization is necessary again? We are both retired, so a work schedule does not come into play. — Confused After a Lot of Years

Dear Con: You don’t say what the general nature of the relationship is, so I will just assume there is no underlying hostility floating around and that this is your major issue. To find out his reasons for basically saying you’re on your own in medical situations, have you tried asking him? If it’s simply that hospitals give him the willies, that would be a good thing to discuss. As things are now, he is definitely “not there for you.” The outlines of this problem make him sound selfish and self-centered. If he has a fear of hospitals, I suggest he get some help in overcoming his phobia, and also in understanding that you need support, not abandonment. — Margo, correctively

Brushing Off Difficult Questions

Dear Margo: I grew up in a small town, left for college and moved away 30 years ago. After living outside of the United States for several years, I have now returned to my home state, but several hundred miles away from my old hometown. I attended my high school class reunion, but that visit didn’t go well, and I need advice about whether I should visit again.

Several people at the reunion asked about my older brother, who still lives there. I was not sure how to deal with these inquiries because my brother sexually terrorized me as a child and I ended all contact with him years ago. Our mother keeps me informed about my sister-in-law’s and nieces’ activities, but we do not discuss him. Obviously, I am not going to discuss his behavior toward me, but I felt hypocritical smiling and telling them he is fine and happy, which is really all they wanted to hear. What can I say to end these inquiries and not give away our family secrets? — Childhood Trauma Survivor

Dear Child: How nice for your brother that the whole town doesn’t know. Should you find yourself in a similar situation, feel free to skip the hypocritical smile and just say you were never really close and don’t know anything of his life now. Over and out. I am not for playing yourself false, and I also don’t have a problem with cutting people off if they’re going where you do not want to go. — Margo, directly

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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41 comments so far.

  1. avatar Angeleyes13 says:

    LW#1:  You need to discuss this with your husband pronto!!  As your partner he should be there to take care of you in sickness and be your advocate.  The fact that he isn’t would bother me as well.  It could be he hates hospitals, but who honestly likes them?  You suck it up and you take care of your loved one because you love them!  Like others have said this discussion is long over due.  I had a good friend that lives in another state who was having surgery on both her feet.  She came home and her husband still expected her to make dinner for them!  She could barely walk!  He did absolutely nothing to help her.  Is it that selfishness going on?  Or is it some phobia of the hospital and seeing his previous wife die?  Only he can tell you. 

    LW#2:  I really feel bad for you having to re-live this pain when you go to a reunion.  But Margo is right.  Don’t lie about anything and be honest.  Just say that you have no idea how he is because you don’t keep in touch with him anymore, and that you’ve been living out of the country.   People usually will leave it at that.   And change the subject.  You are not required to keep the happy facade going!  People naturally ask about your family at reunions.  If its too painful to go to the reunions, then don’t go, simple. 

    I would be worried about what your brother is doing to his kids. Most offenders are lifelong offenders.  Maybe mentioning something to your sister in law would be a good idea.  Then at least you know that its out there and they can keep an eye out for any abuse.  So sorry for what you must be going through.  Just remember its not your fault, it was ALL HIS.

  2. avatar Anais P says:

    My heart goes out to LW2. Margo’s advice to her is perfect. I do wonder about the fate of the children of the horrible brother, though, and any other children he may have terrorized since the LW’s childhood.  Does the mother know what happened? Is the LW getting any therapy? I hope she has help to cope with her terrible childhood.

  3. avatar Lym BO says:

    LW1: I think it sods like you were okay with this arrangement until your friends started ganging up on him. Many of the posters have mentioned no one likes hospitals and while that may be true for the most part, your husband seems to have an intense phobia. If it were me, I would have a brief talk with him. I would confirm he is scared to go there then I would ask him if you really needed him could you count on him to come. It would also be nice it you had a non-judgmental friend who could come in his place. If not, be sure to let the nurses know, your husband is a swell guy but has issues with hospitals so they can try to pay extra attention to you & so they will know to notify him/include him in any decisions or dialogue that takes place. This is less common than you think. And I’m sure it really bothers him that he can’t will himself to go. I’ll bet he has a lot of guilt over it and wants to be there. . It sure sounds that way.

    He sounds like an okay guy so let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill. Especially when it didn’t bother you from the get-go.