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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.


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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • B.Catlin
    9 months ago

    Any good Dr. Phil may do has to be weighed against the profits off his Jerry Springer like exposure of the misfortunes of others. He’s a ghoul.

    Not two of the 100%
    30+Married 25+MS

  • gmc
    9 months ago

    I always thought he was an idiot; now I’m sure.

  • Dan and Jennifer Digmann moderator author
    9 months ago

    Thanks for checking in with this essay! While Dr. Phil can have some useful things to say every now and again, we think he was totally off base on this one. Way to go to the caregiving and disabled community for using our voices to make him very aware of this 🙂 -Dan and Jennifer, Moderators

  • Debbie
    9 months ago

    Coming from someone who has only become famous for appearing on Oprah and bought his doctorate online and never really earned it from schooling I do not give a rats a$$ about anything he has to say

  • Dan and Jennifer Digmann moderator author
    9 months ago

    Good to hear from you, Debbie! Regardless where Dr. Phil came from or how he got to where he is today, he has a huge platform and has a lot of influence (for better or worse). He made his point, but this opened a huge door for us all to use our voices and change the narrative on what is possible in loving caregiving relationships. Real-life stories of love and compassion do a better job of teaching than any academic degree.

  • Mjnotms
    9 months ago

    Dr. Phil put a floodlight on himself. Perhaps he is 100% selfish. How can he help anyone? Musnt project his personal feelings onto vulnerable or hurting people. Me Thinks He cant even spell True Love, or Compassion. The sad part, hes a bit long in the tooth and has effectively ripped himself off..

  • Dan and Jennifer Digmann moderator author
    9 months ago

    Thanks for your comments. It did seem a bit off for someone who is in the business of helping others make such a negative and pessimistic comment. Something that got missed in all the post-show commentary relating to Dr. Phil’s “100 out of 100” comment was a valuable statement about caregiving and living with a disability that his special guest author Chad Hymas said, “When you learn to depend on others, you become more independent.” Would you agree?

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