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How Do I Talk To My Husband About Managing His Incontinence?

Talking about managing incontinence is a sensitive and emotional topic, but...

senior woman sitting on sofa thinking about how to talk to a loved one about incontinence

You’ve come to the point where you have to say something. You love the guy you live with.

Neither of you are kids anymore, and even though you do a lot to stay active and healthy, certain physical things are happening that you can’t control or deny.

Like male incontinence.

When you do his laundry, it’s obvious, isn’t it? He’s having trouble.

You can almost feel his embarrassment, his anxiety, his flat-out fear that one day there will be a visible “accident” at the worst possible moment, with others or with you.

Maybe accidents have already happened, and he’s anxious to deny the reality and hide it (even from himself).

You want to do something to make him feel better, more secure. But that means bringing up the topic: dealing with incontinence. And I know that’s hard, for you and for him.

Because, yes, we men are sensitive about this issue. Loss of control in this part of our bodies can make us feel like we’re losing control of our lives, and plunge us into shame and hopelessness. And no, we don’t want to talk about it, because talking about it brings those feelings up.

So having this conversation is a challenge, for you and for him. But if it's done the right way, at the right time, with love and respect, he just might be comforted that he doesn't have to hide it anymore. That he's not alone. And, remember, even though it's a difficult conversation, it's coming out of the love and respect you have for him.

How to Plan the Conversation about Dealing with Incontinence

    1. First, choose a conversation opener that will put him at ease. Imagine how he'll feel when you do raise the incontinence topic, and try to choose an opener that speaks reassuringly to those feeling. That's right, try to take away his fears and sensitivities before he has them. One important need we men have is to feel respected.

    The r-word is really high on the list of things we need, especially from our mates. We need to feel competent, contributing, effective in our spheres of life, and incontinence can hollow out those feelings.

    For many of us, incontinence sounds too much like incompetence. So, it's important that what you say and do in the conversation shows your guy that he’s valued no matter what’s going on in his body.

    2. Next, choose the tone. Certainly not angry or scolding--but not worried either. Get on his side from the get-go, with empathy and in a spirit of “this isn’t a strange or shameful thing.”

    If you’ve had problems in this area--and I know that many women have--mention it. “Honey, I’m noticing that you might have some issues with your bladder. I’ve had them, and I know that it’s a really common thing at our age. It makes me feel really uncomfortable, and I’m guessing it makes you feel uncomfortable too.”

    Remind him that you want to be “on his team” as he deals with incontinence, and that what you want for him is relief from worry--so that he can be happy.

      3. Then, choose the time and place. The right time is, of course, not right after he’s had an accident and is feeling miserable and vulnerable. Pick a time when he’s feeling good, and have the conversation in an area that’s not--how shall I put this?--emotionally charged, like the bathroom or the bedroom.

      4. And suggest solutions. A little prior research on your part can give him a lift. Check out the major types of male incontinence and ask him if any apply. Have there been other changes that might be contributing?

      Let him know that there are good ways to manage the condition and that he’s far from helpless. Even print out or show him information that might help him see the range of solutions available.

      Zorbies customers have been so generous in providing product reviews, and some have even mentioned their situations. See if any might resonate, and show them to him. Other articles you may find helpful: Dribbling after urination and what you can do about it. Male urinary incontinence product options.

      This may also help. Zorbies customers choose us because our products look and feel like regular underwear; that takes away the emotion and stigma of wearing 'diapers'. And, they work and are really comfortable. Plus, they are actually luxury products that took quite a bit of 'engineering' to get right. If your guy is into how complex systems work, you could mention the engineering of Zorbies men's products: up to eight layers with different functions. He might just get hooked on the material tech! Whatever your approach, try to give him what he needs to make his decision to take action as easy as possible for him.

      The incontinence conversation isn’t easy, but done the right way it’s a terrific act of love, and your man will feel the love--and the all-important respect--that you have for him.

      senior couple looking at a laptop screen together

      Recap of How to Talk about Managing Male Incontinence with a Loved One

      Plan the conversation:

      1. Start the conversation in a reassuring way. Try to calm the fears and sensitivities you think he might have upfront to soften the impact when you do get to the topic.

      2. Choose the tone. Not angry or frustrated, but supportive, empathetic and helpful so he knows he's not alone, that you're on his team.

      3. Choose the right time and place. Trying to talk to him right after he's had an accident is probably not the best time. Pick a time when he's relaxed and feeling good. Pick a 'neutral' place, not one that is emotionally charged, so not the bedroom or bathroom.

      4. Suggest solutions. Do some research to educate yourself on the range of solutions available. Discuss them together if that approach works for him. If not, have information printed out and give it to him so he can read it in his own time. Do whatever you can to make his decision to take action as easy as possible for him.

      No doubt that it's a delicate topic. So, we hope this article has given you thoughtful ways to approach the conversation. And good luck. On behalf of men everywhere, thanks for caring enough to bring up a tough topic, and for following through with love.