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Lives of Doctor Wives: Survivor Saturdays: Doctors Are Doomed From the Start

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Survivor Saturdays: Doctors Are Doomed From the Start

A recurring theme among members of this blog is the desire to know that marriage-wise, they aren't worse off than anyone else. It goes something like this...

Is it normal to carry the brunt of home responsibilities? Yes
Is it normal not to feel appreciated during residency? Yes
is it normal to question what I've gotten myself into? Yes

Just because everyone else shares these common complaints doesn't mean it's okay. I ran across this article that I thought was worth sharing. It's a bit "scientific" but it makes some good points about the pitfalls of being a doctor and being married to a doctor. In summary, it says that the medical profession requires characteristics that are contrary to what is needed for a healthy marriage. Suicide and drug dependence are common, as are stress and self sacrifice. It takes extraordinary effort to hold things together and we (the wives) may be their best chance of survival.

Before you throw in the towel and head for the door, scan the article and see how truly simple it is to beat the odds of divorce and all the other terrible side-effects. This article gives insight into why doctors are the way they are and what is needed to build a lasting marriage. It begins at home.

Interpersonal intimacy is key to survival. Not only the quality of intimacy, but the QUANTITY. If your spouse is not investing in the relationship during this most critical time, he may be his own worst enemy. There is no better time than the present to encourage him to become more intimate for his own good.

The study also points out that people who go into medicine are used to delayed gratification. Doctors don't see as much of a need for time together right now because they are busy building a better life for the future. They have studied hard, taken on huge amounts of debt, and worked unrealistic hours with the promise that some day it will pay off. You, on the other hand, may need a sign now and again to remind you why you're putting up with all the stress. The very characteristic that makes your spouse a good doctor makes him a bad husband. Understanding that your spouse can't help putting off gratification is a first step in dealing with it.

Emotional detachment is also a necessary skill in medicine and lack of emotional response does not indicate lack of caring. A doctor can't walk into the room of a terminal patient and start crying. It would be disastrous. So when you confront your spouse about the dire state of your marriage, don't expect an emotional meltdown. It won't happen -- even if he's an emotional wreck.

Those of you who are familiar with my wingspouse blog, know that I emphasize the importance of facing all challenges and crises as a team. You are your spouse's best chance for survival, and his best chance for survival is investing in you. What a wonderful interdependence. There is a lot more good stuff in the article, so take a look and don't be shy about discussing it with your spouse.

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Blogger Corinne said...

thank you for posting this. I've been following for a short while, although I am not a wife of a doctor, just a girlfriend. I've given up a lot to be where I am right now with him (moved 800+ miles away, left family/friends) so I have been struggling with this.
I'm off to read the article now. Thanks again for the helpful advice.

June 19, 2010 at 8:12 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

That was a great article - and accurate in a lot of ways. I really identify with the thought that I don't play much of a part in his success. Because we live such separate lives, it often feels like his work life is completely detached from his home life (therefore me). It's encouraging to realize that that's not true and I can play a part in his success as a person, and as a doctor.

June 19, 2010 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger Melisa said...

You are wonderful, Kathi! Thank you for this!

June 19, 2010 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger Alexandra said...

I think it's very important to remember that our spouses are sacrificing a lot in order to provide for our families and long after we as wives have "lived" through residency and are reaping the benefits of them being in practice (ie. money, free time, etc), they still have to face the day to day challenges and stresses at work. I think it's also important to remember that many families are in careers that are super challenging but that never have a pay-off. They work hard their entire life and sacrifice alot and don't enjoy the hefty paycheck down the road. Think of missionaries, stay at home moms, or pastors.

Also, to keep things in focus, I always remember that I have been placed here to be Tommy's helper and there to take on all the household chores. He shouldn't have to come home and be bothered with those things after a long hard day, that's in med school, residency, or practice.

My great grandmother, the mother of 13 children, always said, "Oh,I never ask Custer to do anything that I could do." She did so much around the house, with the kids, and at church. She lived a super healthy life of 95 years and was a blessing to her husband, not a burden. I hope that some day my husband will be able to look back and say that I was a blessing to him and our family.

June 20, 2010 at 10:24 PM  
Blogger Kathi the wingspouse said...

That is a great perspective, Alexandra. Outsiders may imply we marry for money, but anyone who is in our situation knows the sacrifice we accept would scare away any gold digger. lol

Also remember that as healthcare begins to go through changes, our spouses may have added anxiety and pressure. They have just assumed a lot of debt and now the rules have changed. They don't know what changes will affect them, how they will be reimbursed, or how much more they will be asked to do.

June 21, 2010 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger TheFamousStacie said...

After 10 years worth of undergrad, medical school and residency I don't think I can be thought of as marrying for money! Money, what's that?

I do not think DrH should be expected to do a lot around the house, however, he should be expected to do something. By expecting nothing, he is shoved out of the family equations and responsibility.

All I ask is for help with the dinner dishes. So my kids can see that daddy is a part of the family.

June 26, 2010 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I loved this article! Thanks for sharing. It's so reassuring.

I definitely agree with TheFamousStacie; I'm OK with doing the majority of the housework and taking care of the finances and pets (we don't have kids), but I do expect him to help with some domestic things, when he's available.

It took awhile, but having realistic expectations of what he can contribute has also helped me cope.

July 18, 2010 at 4:43 PM  
Blogger Mrs said...

I could just HUG you right now for writing this! I have a friend that I will forward this to. It is so encouraging!

September 3, 2010 at 12:11 PM  

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