Sage Advice: Husband Won't Adapt to COVID-19 Hygiene

By Amy Dickinson | April 22nd, 2020

What do you do when your partner isn't taking the CDC warnings seriously?


Senior practices good hygiene with handwashing Image

Dear Amy: My husband and I are both in our 70s. We live a fairly tame retired life.

So far, our state has not had many COVID-19 cases.

We are in generally good health, although my husband has a chronic autoimmune disease.

When we have to go into the community to get meds or groceries, I wear gloves and a mask; however, he pooh-poohs my precautions.

He will not even wash his hands immediately when we return home. This places me (who is adhering to recommendations) at risk. It places both of us at risk.

I am tired of being chastised for being “bitchy” when I remind him about precautions.

We have a generally solid relationship, but this is confounding me. I have to continue to share living space with him, but I am frustrated that he is taking my concerns lightly.

Is there another way for me to approach him that might be more fruitful (and safe)?

– Healthy for Now

Dear Healthy for Now: I’m glad that you and your husband are co-existing more or less peacefully. His behavior and unkind reaction to you puts your relationship – and your health – at risk.

I don’t know if you both have read accounts of the reality of suffering through a severe case of COVID-19, but – if you haven’t, perhaps you should. This is NOT an ordinary flu. Severe cases are horrific. And because your husband has an underlying health problem, he is already at a higher risk for serious complications if he contracts the virus.

Your precautions might protect you somewhat from infection – even if he contracts this virus, but one common sense precaution you could take as a couple would be to eliminate – or at least severely limit your time out. If you have to pick up supplies, only one of you should go.

Don’t fuss at him. Tell him you love him, say that you don’t want either of you to get sick, and ask him to be more careful … “As a favor” to you. Maybe he will “stoop” to doing the right thing if can feel superior and thinks he is humoring you.

I hope you will continue to be very careful, even inside your home.

Make sure you each have your medical histories and medications written down – if one of you enters the hospital for any reason, the other will likely not be able to go in to assist in communicating with medical staff.

Readers may want to weigh in with their own successful techniques for convincing others to adopt safer best practices.


Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2020 by Amy Dickinson

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