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Not all advice has to be professional. Sometimes your problems deserve a little blatant honesty from a guy with only a computer and a conscience. Fortunately, I am that guy. Welcome back to Tough Love.
Today we are discussing with your partner what it is like to have a seemingly irreconcilable dead end if a person does not want to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In this case, how do you deal with the dilemma when the only pro-COVID vaccine partner is an intensive care doctor?
Note: I am a columnist, not a therapist or a certified doctor. My advice should be interpreted in that sense. If you have a problem with something I say file a complaint here. Let’s start now.
My fiancé and I have been together for three years now and we have been engaged as a COVID hit since early 2020. It feels like the pandemic has only strengthened our relationship and made us appreciate what we have taken for granted so far. Working as a doctor in an intensive care unit, I’ve seen firsthand how devastating it can be to get sick and die of COVID. When the vaccine came out I rushed to get mine and felt so happy to be protected early on. The rest of my family and friends are also vaccinated, so I’m grateful we had access.
My fiancé, on the other hand, doesn’t work in healthcare. He works in technology, has remained largely isolated from home and, amazingly, has not really developed COVID in his personal life. He doesn’t want to get the vaccine because he thinks the trials were done too quickly and he wants to wait at least a couple of years before getting it, if at all, so that more data can come out. He’s not against vaccinations as he got all the other vaccines. But when it comes to the COVID vaccines, he has read a lot online about possible side effects that made him anxious, even though I tried to explain the science to him based on my medical background. This is the first time we have disagreed on something this important. We keep arguing about it because I can’t understand why he doesn’t want to protect himself and the people around him. And the more I talk about it, the more he digs into his heels.
Ultimately, I understand that it is his body and I cannot force him to have it. However, since he will not be vaccinated, it will affect our plans for our wedding, whether we will be able to travel in the next few years, etc. He is also not sure if he would allow me to vaccinate our children when it comes to it and there’s no way the hell not to vaccinate my kids to keep them safe from COVID after everything I’ve seen. It almost feels like this is a deal breaker for our relationship, and I wonder if we even have a future when we disagree so fundamentally on such an important health decision.
Any thoughts on how to fill this loophole?
A vaccinated Valentine’s Day
Dear vaccinated Valentine’s Day,
I can only imagine what it is like to be in your position. After all, you’re an intensive care doctor who witnessed the horrors of COVID in ways most people can only imagine. To have a partner at home who will question the effectiveness of the world’s best escape route from this marathon plague, it has to be a direct challenge to your worldview as a doctor.
The first time I read your note, a picture of your fiancé appeared to me and to be honest it wasn’t pleasant: a guy who works in tech and wants to see more data on the COVID vaccines and possibly is okay, maybe it will Virus transmitted to others in the meantime, prolonging our collective horror. And what for? Personally, when I think of this type of guy I think of an asshole. Who is he to assume that he could know better than the global coalition of Scientists who developed mRNA vaccines? Did he study epidemiology? Does he actually understand peer-reviewed studies? Being smart about one thing – your job in tech – doesn’t mean you know shit about anything else, let alone something as complex as global epidemics.
But the truth is, I don’t know this man. You want to marry him so there are obviously many things that will bring salvation about him and it is up to me to find possible solutions.
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You mention the issue is raising arguments, and while I can see how this can upset you both, you might be wondering if you could take a casual stance when talking about the COVID vaccine. If the whole idea of discussing this is like some kind of trigger where the two of you immediately head off against each other, try to clear the emotions if you can. I mean, the facts are on your side – the vaccine wasn’t “too fast” For example, as he assumes – maybe a more detached representation of them will pique his interest in being logical.
I understand this might be a challenge for you, but try asking yourself a few questions and then maybe moving on from there: Can you occasionally discuss the vaccination program and its success so far? Can you deliver positive news in a neutral, non-confrontational way? Trying to do it this way may help him get used to the subject without feeling the need to work his heels in as you put it.
Since he is not an avowed anti-Vaxxer, there is still a chance he will be satisfied that this particular vaccine is safe and effective. Will he get the vaccine in a year if all side effects are calm and millions of people don’t get sick from their bumps? If there is anyone who can convince them of the other side, it should be you as you are a doctor and have no interest in lying to your fiancé about his health.
Now consider for a moment the broader context in which we live today. The vaccines are truly a triumph of scientific ingenuity and collective societal endeavor, but they were, at least in some ways, the result of highly politicized and scared-off efforts. Data is of course data and The vaccines are still safe and effective, but it helps to understand the climate that influences some of our deliberations.
On another point – and I will not hold back here – you are in a fix. To be honest, you’ve known this guy for three years which is quite a long time, but neither is it. Could there be another hill he wants to die on that could prove insoluble to your relationship? When it comes to vaccinating your kids against COVID, this is a whole different mountain that you may have to climb in due course. (I assume he is up for kids when it comes to all of the standard vaccinations, but if he isn’t, that would probably be a deal breaker for me).
You don’t want this to anticipate any more arguments where he doubles up out of pride or whatever is holding him back from listening to scientific consensus. Fortunately, that’s not inevitable, and you don’t have to endure it if you don’t want to. But I hope he comes to his senses. If not, you are facing a difficult path.
That’s it for this week, but there’s a lot more Tough Love. If you’d like to be featured, please contact us by describing your dilemmas in an article E-mail me (Please put “ADVICE” or “TOUGH LOVE” in the subject line). Or, Tweet me with the hashtag #ToughLove. Serious inquiries only: Don’t send me emails or messages if you don’t want to appear in the column. Disclaimer of liability: I cannot answer all of them. So make sure you describe a specific problem in your note. I will not respond to generalizations like someone who is “mean” or vague descriptions of “relationship problems” without specific examples of what is making you sick. Take care of yourself until next time!