No matter what your profession is, marriage and personal relationships can be a source of stress. For physicians, however, maintaining healthy personal relationships can be especially trying — even more so if you’re in a dual-physician relationship (many doctors are).
Lack of time and lack of money are big culprits. Those following a doctor career path have notoriously demanding schedules (and notoriously high debts to pay off after graduating from residency). Naturally, this can lead to diminished time with loved ones and arguments about money.
Another interesting factor comes into play, though. Michael F. Myers, M.D., author of Doctors’ Marriages: A Look at the Problems and Their Solutions, points out that physicians tend to deny their problems, including those of physical, mental or marital natures. He argues that medical training breeds an “us vs. them” mentality, in which only the patients are seen as having problems. Therefore, doctors are prone to ignoring their own problems.
Let’s look at the most common physician relationship problems as outlined by Dr. Meyers, as well as ways to avoid (or repair) them. Having a successful doctor career and a successful relationship is possible, but it takes extra effort and care.
His Side: Rational, Steadfast and Stubborn
It’s admittedly a little sexist to say that all physician relationships have specific male and female patterns, but in general, there are trends. This doesn’t mean that such behaviors always apply, but in many cases, they do.
Dr. Meyers argues that men aren’t quick to worry about their relationships unless their partner is sending very strong signals that something is wrong. Typically, male physicians will rationalize the problem, blaming any issues on things that are out of control. “That’s just what it’s like being married to a doctor,” they’ll say. Another common thought is, “It’s impossible to have a successful doctor career and a perfect marriage at the same time.”
While a perfect marriage isn’t possible for everyone, you shouldn’t write off a happy marriage just because you’re busy or lacking time. (Keep reading for more tips to make it work!)
Her Side: Overworked, Overstressed and Frazzled
Dr. Meyers says that female physicians’ marital problems are (in some ways) the reverse of male physicians’ problems. They tend to be over-analytical about their romantic relationships, and also consider themselves the “caretakers” of their relationships. Essentially, they place high expectations on their relationships and will often overwork themselves trying to make sure everything is just right.
Meanwhile, they’re working just as hard at their doctor careers. As a result, female physicians are stretched too thin, becoming frazzled, exhausted and overworked. Their relationships don’t suffer from neglect; their lives suffer from trying to do too much at once.
Of course, you may see yourself having a mix of “his” and “hers” tendencies. These are just the most prevalent attitudes that typically breed problems.
Balancing a Doctor Career With a Healthy Relationship
The easiest way to prevent issues in a single- or dual-physician relationship is to be mindful of the fact that you might be more at risk to develop problems. Mindfulness simply means being mentally prepared and working proactively to avoid challenges.
Sit down with your spouse or partner and be open and honest about how you feel about the current state of your relationship. Do you feel like your partner is placing more emphasis on his or her doctor career? Do you feel left out? Keep the conversation cool, and don’t make it a time to attack or air grievances.
Talk about solutions to spend more time together and be happier. Then, stick to them. Check in with each other at least weekly to see how the other feels. A little extra effort and care go a long way.
Do you find yourself struggling with balancing a doctor career and a healthy relationship?
Doctor Career: Sponsors
Though the views expressed above are solely the writer’s, Southern Illinois Healthcare supports “The Dose with Dr. Goodhook” and is partnering with Adventures in Medicine to create an open, inspiring and insightful community for residents and physicians. Click here to learn more about ways that Southern Illinois Healthcare is making practice purposeful.