|Don't let him eat this more than once a year.
First, I must declare that I am not a doctor (even of theology) and that random posts by church tea ladies should not be read in lieu of seeking proper medical advice.
Second, I regret that this will not be a particularly intensive article.
But, third, I also point out that all men--despite being the same in some respects--are unique, each carrying a wondrous galaxy within. Therefore, the SAHM (stay at home mother) and other wives in general (why do we not say SAHW?) will have to think about her own particular man whenever weighing up advice about the care and feeding of husbands.
Incidentally, not too long ago it was common for a Scotswoman to refer to her husband as her "man," and Scotswomen--after getting past initial greetings and remarks about the weather--would say "How's your man?" Now they seem more likely to say "your partner," and I no doubt cause offence when I say, "My husband is very well, thank you."
1. Medical care
My husband is very well, thank you, and not six feet under because when we first married, I signed him up at the medical clinic charged with the care of our geographical area. I was surprised to discover that I could do this until I read that, in general, men in Scotland don't go to the doctor unless their wives (women, partners) send them. The male reluctance to go to the doctor is apparently one of the reasons why men-in-general die before women-in-general do.
Therefore, I recommend to the starry-eyed young bride to find her husband a family doctor (or sign him up at the neighbourhood clinic) as soon as the honeymoon is over. If he hasn't had a physical in some time, it might be a good idea for him to have one now, just as you're starting out. You might want to have one, too.
Naturally, suffering may be involved. The overweight nurse who weighed me told me I weighed too much, and she told Benedict Ambrose that he drank too much. However, the sting wore off when I realised that 60% of women in Britain are overweight or obese, and 26% of men in Britain drink more than the recommended 14 units per week. More on this anon.
2. Man flu, etc., should be taken seriously
My mother has never made a joke at my father's expense, and I was quite advanced in age when I came across the phenomenon of women mocking men for "man flu." The idea is that men lack fortitude and make the most of their minor illnesses so they can do even less housework/childminding/yardwork than ever, ha ha. But it turns out that men might actually, objectively, suffer more from minor illnesses because they have weaker immune systems.
Having just come out of a rather achey bout of COVID (which I thought was flu and through which I breathed as freely as a zephyr through the woods), I cannot think of anything crueller than mocking someone suffering from an illness so badly that they take to bed.
Meanwhile, my own husband is still alive because I took his aches (behind his eye, in his neck) seriously and said, "You should see the doctor" and "You should reschedule that cancelled eye appointment." Of course, it was not just me. Benedict Ambrose was also saved by the late food critic A.A. Gill, who wrote that the first sign of his terminal cancer was a pain in his neck.
Therefore, I also recommend to the starry-eyed young bride that when her husband confesses to her that he has a strange shortness of breath/recurring angina/a pain in his neck/a pain behind his eye/recurring migraines/a lump or any other weird thing that she say "You should see the doctor" and then, if he does not make an appointment, to make an appointment for him and inform him where and when. If necessary, drive him.
3. Meet your sick husband's primary caregiver: you
Should your husband end up in hospital, God forbid, visit him every day, get to know the people caring for him, and don't take COVID for an answer. (I don't myself know how to do that, mind you, and I often thank God B.A. recovered by 2019.) At any rate, try to be privy to all conversations about his medical care, and go with him to appointments if you are in the slightest doubt of his current mental capacity or ability to communicate clearly.
I don't know (of course) how things are where you live, but the National Health Service in Scotland was very stretched, even before the COVID crisis, and it was obvious to me that whereas nurses and doctors had to divide their attention among dozens of people, I had the advantage of being able to concentrate on only one.
Had we had children, by the way, I believe I would have sent them to family in Canada during this period--or imported my own SAHM to watch them.
As I have blogged many times over the past 16 years, my mother constantly praised my father to their children. This means that it feels easy and natural to praise my husband. Of course, my husband is also very praiseworthy individual, but presumably even the good-enough husband does praiseworthy things like wash the dishes, take out the rubbish, bottle the apple cider, call the plumber and all those other things you would have had to have done had he not done it.
I have a theory that men need praise more or less in the same way they need food, so if you want to help keep your husband mentally and physically healthy, you should thank him every time he does some household task, tell him he is clever whenever he does something clever, and applaud him for anything he rather thinks he has done well.
This also has a good effect on wives. I once had a very sad email or comment from a young reader who wrote that she couldn't stand to go to bed with her husband because she could no longer respect him. I do not at all know their circumstances, but it occurs to me that if she heard herself thanking him daily for such simple and mundane things like putting his dirty socks in the hamper or applauding his ability to throw an apple core into the trash bin from 12 feet away, she might not feel that way.
Fifty years of propaganda have led me to believe my dad is just a little less than the angels, and fourteen years on, I am pretty sure B.A. is reaching dad-like heights. Is all this rooted in reality or in brainwashing? Hmm. Either way, my dad and my husband are both still alive.* Yay!
5. Example vs nagging
People are very much influenced by the people with whom they spend the most time. Therefore, if you are determined that your husband should have healthier habits, you should first adopt healthier habits yourself. During the COVID lockdown, when my health club locked up, I bought an exercise bike. I kept it in the kitchen as a reminder to exercise. I pedalled away and was absolutely delighted when my never-caught-dead-in-a-gym husband began to pedal away, too.
Another healthy habit to consider is giving up alcohol on the same days you give up meat, should you be the sort of Christian who both drinks alcohol and periodically abstains from meat. If you announce that you are no longer going to drink alcohol on Wednesdays and Fridays, your husband may decide to join you in that. (To be honest, though, I think Benedict Ambrose and I came up with that idea together.)
So much for alcohol and fatness, the twin devils of the NHS (see above). Other healthy habits you can take up include eating at least 5 vegetables (and fruit although vegetables are now said to be vastly superior) a day. If you are in charge of cooking, you have a lot of control over what your husband eats. If you yourself smoke, you should stop. If your husband smokes and refuses to stop despite everything doctors, scientists, his mother, his sisters, his teary-eyed children, and you have to say about it, you can at least set limits like "not in the house" and "not in front of the children."
But I don't have very much experience with nicotine addiction because my smoking grandmother quit cold turkey after landing in the hospital with double pneumonia. To this day I associate cigarettes with nervous but affectionate old ladies with long crimson fingernails, and when men ask me if I mind if they smoke, I usually say, "Oh, not at all! It reminds me of my grandmother." This never fails to annoy them, which I don't mind. In fact, I hope it makes them so self-conscious they quit because--I haven't had an excuse to type this in years!--men are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life.
*UPDATE: All joking aside, your husband is going to die, and unless you murder him, it won't be your fault. (See yesterday's post.) God will call him to Himself when He sees fit. However, I feel that there is some room for negotiation with the Most High on this matter.