Hello, world. My name's Stephen LaConte, and this is Hey Stephen — a cozy little corner of BuzzFeed where readers like you can DM me for advice.
Today we've got this woman whose husband refuses to get the COVID-19 vaccine and points to some wildly incorrect anti-vax conspiracy theories as his reasoning. Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:
Oh boy. There are two key issues at play here: 1) your husband's refusal to get the shot, and 2) your husband's fervent belief in conspiracy theories. The first issue might be fixable with enough persistence on your part, but the second — as anyone with a QAnon-believing family member will tell you — is a much harder problem to fix.
Let's start with Problem #1, convincing your husband to get vaccinated. I assume, in your previous arguments about this, you've tried presenting him with the cold, hard facts: The vaccines are safe, they're remarkably effective, and the conspiracy theories he's spouting off are easily debunked. I'm guessing you've said all these things and they haven't moved him. Facts, unfortunately, do not move everyone.
So my challenge to you, letter writer, is to identify the thing that does move your husband — and then weaponize it against him to save him from himself.
For example: Does your husband pride himself on being a loving, caring partner to you? Let him know that you no longer feel safe around him, since unvaccinated people still pose a risk to those who are vaxxed. Even if he has some reservations about getting the vaccine, is he willing to set them aside in the interest of making his wife feel safe at home?
Here's another example: Does your husband care about kids? Point out to him that children under 12 still can't get vaccinated. Surely your husband doesn't want to jeopardize the life and long-term health of every child he comes into contact with, all because of some anti-vax memes he saw on Facebook?
How about this: Has your husband ever had a loved one get cancer? Remind him what a terrifying time this is for anyone with a compromised immune system. Maybe your husband would be lucky enough to beat COVID if he got it — but what about the woman he accidentally infects at the grocery store who's currently undergoing chemotherapy? Can he push through his vaccine anxiety, knowing that the shot in his arm might save her life?
Or, if your husband considers himself a diehard, red-blooded American patriot (something tells me he might lean to the right, politically), try framing the vaccine as the ultimate act of patriotism: "Grandpa Bill lost his legs in the war while serving this country. All you have to do to protect your country is get a needle in your arm. Go make Grandpa proud." (And if your husband supports Donald Trump, you might also point out that Trump himself got the vaccine and loves taking credit for it.)
Heck, I've even seen people weaponize masculinity against men who refuse to get vaxxed, and to great effect. Toxic masculinity is dumb as hell, but as long as it exists, I give you full permission to exploit it to save some lives. If your husband is the type of guy who really cares about being ~macho~, you might suggest to him that being scared of a little poke at CVS is not at all manly — in fact, it's weak and cowardly, and whatever other emasculating adjectives he fears most. (I cannot believe I am suggesting this approach, and yet, I've seen it work. To any fragile men out there reading this: Go get vaccinated, and then get therapy.)
The point here is to speak your husband's language on this stuff, whatever that language may be. There's no better example of this than former NFL star Michael Irvin, who, in response to reports that some Dallas Cowboys are refusing the vaccine, suggested that those guys simply don't care about winning that much. After all, if they really cared about winning, they'd do everything they could to help their team, right? Well, if there's one thing a pro athlete doesn't like, it's having their commitment to the sport questioned. Irvin's statements sent shockwaves throughout the league, and I won't be surprised if we see a whole bunch of linebackers lining up at Walgreens soon.
But if absolutely nothing can move your husband on this front — not facts, not your marriage, not a sense of civic duty, not the countless number of people he's putting at risk with his choice — then maybe your problem isn't that you have an unvaccinated husband but, rather, that you have a selfish, reckless, and stupid husband. Which brings me to Problem #2 in your DM: the fact that your husband is so willing to engage in these baseless and harmful conspiracy theories in the first place.
You're an educator, so I assume you value truth, science, and the ability to understand what is and isn't a reliable source of news. I can't imagine how it must feel to have a partner who is so far down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole that you're now worried he's aligning with QAnon. I wonder how long this has been going on and what it means for the future of your marriage. Getting him vaccinated is your first hurdle, but it's not likely to be your last.
If these anti-vax conspiracy theories are a relatively new obsession of his, maybe there's still time to intervene, convince him of the facts, and chalk the whole thing up to a man making some dumb, panicked decisions in a crisis. But if he's been wearing this tinfoil hat for a long time now, and if his theories extend far past the vaccine and into areas like, say, stolen elections and underground pedophile rings, you might have a much bigger problem on your hands — one that neither Moderna nor Pfizer can solve.
You share a home with this guy, so for your safety's safe, I hope you're able to convince him to get vaccinated. If not, you may find that your best bet is a home without him in it. Good luck.
That's all the advice I'm giving today, folks, but if you've got any words of wisdom for our DM'er, share them in the comments. I'll be reading...
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