As Caregivers and Lovers, We Say to Dr. Phil: ‘Thanks and You’re Welcome’

The caregiving claim Dr. Phil McGraw made 16 days earlier quickly jackknifed the conversation we were having with other MS advocates as we celebrated #ProgressiveMSDay.

A break in our discussions about exciting research to treat progressive forms of this disease opened the door for one of our friends to ambiguously ask, “What was Dr. Phil thinking?”

The relationship was doomed

There was no need for specifics. Those of us in the MS community knew exactly which comment from the popular daytime TV talk show host was in question.

On the March 12, 2019, episode, “I Swiped Right on My Quadriplegic Boyfriend,” Dr. Phil essentially told a guest who is paralyzed and his caregiver that their relationship was doomed.

He declared to the guest’s able-bodied girlfriend that she, “ …can be his lover or you can be his caregiver, but you can’t be both… It won’t work, 100 out of 100 times this won’t work.”

Huh? What?

Offensive for caregiving, disabled couples

We actually saw that episode and both sat looking at the television with blank stares and questioned if we heard his words correctly.

Why, yes, we heard Dr. Phil loud and clear, and, as a caregiving disabled couple, we were deeply offended.

Who is he to say you can’t be both? After all, this has gotten us through nearly 14 years of marriage: sure, we both have multiple sclerosis and serve as each other’s primary caregiver, but we first and foremost are each other’s spouse and lover.

#100outof100

Apparently, Dr. Phil has never heard about us or the thousands of other couples who are proving the doctor wrong. Just look at the fallout and push back he received. From hashtags all over social media — #100outof100 — to blog posts (like the one you’re reading) to countless articles such as “Interabled Couples Criticize Dr. Phil for Saying You Can Be a Lover or Caregiver, Not Both” that appeared in The Mighty.

Now, more than a month after the show originally aired, we think Dr. Phil is some kind of genius, and we thank him for offending us.

Caregiving relationships now a trending topic

Just think about it: Him saying, “ …100 out of 100 times this won’t work…” got people upset. His comments sparked internet conversations about disabilities and caregiving relationships and made it a trending topic of sorts.

There now are thousands of caregiving couples whose stories are out there to serve as positive examples of how these types of relationships can and do work. Without Dr. Phil’s ill-informed commentary, so many open and honest conversations relating to caregiving relationships involving people with disabilities never would have happened.

Thank you and you're welcome, Dr. Phil

For Dr. Phil’s “100 out of 100 times this won’t work,” we all can collectively offer to him that, “100 out of 100 times this IS working… 100 times over.” He may have the book smarts, clinical smarts and major media knowhow, but until he has walked and rolled a mile in our shoes, deeply caring for and passionately loving a person with a disability, we respectfully question some of his credibility.

So, yes, we can thank Dr. Phil for these conversations and increasing awareness about caregiving and relationships. And conversely, we all can tell him, “You’re welcome,” for the real-life education we just provided to add to his academic degrees.

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