Sooner or later, spouses will have to nurse each other through illness.

Sooner or later, spouses will have to nurse each other through illness. (iStock)

Have you ever taken care of your spouse after routine surgery? If not, you’re in for a real treat. Even healthy people age. Bodies give way to wear and tear. Our doctors sometimes recommend dreaded cataract removal, joint replacement, bladder tacking, gallbladder extraction, bunion removal, hernia repair and other common procedures.

If your husband goes under the knife, beware. Whether you like it or not, you’re on the hook to be his post-operative caregiver.

Back when you stood before family and friends and promised to take “thee,” to be your wedded husband, “for better or worse, rich or poor, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part,” you were thinking of your sparkly ring, your mother-in-law’s side-eye, and whether or not your Uncle Harold would get sauced and say something dirty.

You definitely weren’t thinking about coming face-to-face with your husband’s neglected toenails while putting on his socks after hip replacement surgery. Now, that time has come. Your spouse needs you to make good on that “sickness and health” clause. Ready or not, you’re it.

Your instincts may scream, “Run for the hills!” But remember, as a loving wife, it’s your job to be there in your husband’s time of need. However, as any Brylcreemed lawyer can tell you, contracts are always up for interpretation. Arguably, your duty to have and hold in sickness and health has reasonable limits, beyond which arises a legal presumption of “Suck it up, Buttercup.”

Wives must be honor-bound caregivers during those first post-operative days (or hours, depending on the severity of the procedure) of convalescence, but once her patient-husband is out of the woods, she’s well within her rights to mitigate her contractual responsibilities as she sees fit.

Having experienced caregiving firsthand after my husband’s two hip replacement surgeries, I’ve developed a step-by-step method for escaping spousal servitude, while coming out smelling like a peach.

Step 1: After he’s released from the hospital, be at your husband’s constant beck and call. Fluff pillows, make sandwiches, freshen ice packs, bend straws, change socks, and let him laugh at all the silly jokes in “Family Guy.” Smile, be kind, and never show annoyance, even when you hear him on the phone telling the umpteenth person his surgery story in excruciating detail.

Step 2: When your husband still needs your help, but has made some recovery progress, it’s time to preemptively communicate, “Don’t get used to this, cuz I ain’t no Florence Nightingale.” When hubby asks, “Hon, can you put that pillow under my foot?” stand stock still, hold your breath, and let your eyes roll back into your head. Appear as if you are experiencing physical pain. Slowly exhale as if you must regulate your breathing in order to muster the mental strength needed to fulfill your husband’s unending demands. Make it clear that caregiving is not something to which you aspire. You have a life. This role is only temporary, and might expire at any minute.

Step 3: This final stage requires your strict adherence to the tenets of what is commonly known as “tough love.” Your husband still wants your help, but your assistance is arguably not necessary for his survival. Just like that lone logger who cut his own leg off with a pocket knife to unpin himself from a fallen tree and crawl for help, your husband could technically get by without you and live to see another day.

This is when he needs you the most — not by providing a bendy straw, but by teaching him to fend for himself. Tell him you have to run a quick errand, but stay out long enough for him to put on his own underwear, find the television remote and forage for food. Then, upon arriving home, feign admiration. “Well, look who’s up and about! Making progress, I see!” His feelings of neglect will be overcome by his pride of accomplishment. Once he’s progressed, there’s no going back. Repeat this process until your freedom is restored.

Many wives wonder, “What if I’m the one who needs surgery?” My advice to you is simple: “Milk it for all it’s worth.”

Read more at and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email:

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