Why is Being Married to A Doctor So Hard?

October 1, 2017

If you’re married to a doctor, you may have found yourself asking this question more than once.  Especially since medical careers tend to have higher rates of job security and financial stability, a lot of people may assume you have an easy life and shouldn’t have anything to complain about.  But even though being married to a doctor has many benefits, there’s no denying that supporting a spouse on their medical journey is a tough job.  Here are a few reasons why.

Medical life is not very flexible.

Even though a lot of medical specialties schedule their doctors to work in shifts, they often have to stay until the work is done and they can’t just take off in the middle of an emergency.  We’re all grateful to live in a country where we have access to 24-hour emergency medical care, but that service only works if our Dr. spouses are there to take care of those emergencies, which means we can’t always rely on them to be home in time for dinner or to be around for every soccer game or birthday party.  

In addition to doctor’s demanding schedules, the entire process of becoming a doctor doesn’t provide much flexibility either.  Where you live and work can heavily depend on where your spouse gets accepted to medical school, where they match for residency and what jobs are available when they finish.  As a spouse of someone trying to become a doctor, their lack of flexibility means that you may have to be extra flexible in pursuing your own educational and career goals and your dreams of where you want to live.

You’re on a different timeline than everyone else.

Maybe one of the hardest parts of being a medical spouse is feeling like you’re life is on a different schedule than everyone else’s–both long term and short term.  Besides the fact that many of your friends may be out of the college phase and settling into long-term careers and homes long before you and your spouse, your everyday schedule will likely be different than a lot of other people whose spouse’s work from nine to five.  Sometimes your spouse may be home during the day after working a long night shift and you’ll have to adjust your routine to make sure they can get some sleep.  Oftentimes your spouse will have to work on holidays and you may have to celebrate it on a different day or just go on without them.  

It’s hard to plan things. 

You can do your best to make plans with your Dr. spouse, but you can’t ever really know exactly what time they’ll get home for dinner because you never know when a surgery may run long or an emergency might happen.  In some specialties, your spouse can only request vacation weeks a few months in advance, which can make it difficult to plan extensive vacations like cruises or trips out of the country.  In a more long-term sense, it can also be difficult to plan the future when you don’t always know where medical school or residency may take you and where your final destination may be.  

Sometimes you may feel like a sidekick.

Medical professions are often praised as one of the noblest jobs a person can have, so it can be hard to be married to someone so idealized, especially if you didn’t receive as much education as your spouse.  Going to your spouse’s work parties can feel awkward or uncomfortable if everyone in the room is talking about that last surgery and using technical medical terms that are way beyond you.  With your spouse’s medical journey heavily influencing many parts of your life, you may find yourself constantly talking about them and their job instead of yourself, which can be frustrating and sometimes lead to feelings of resentment.

You feel guilty complaining, because, hey your spouse is a doctor.

This might be the hardest part of being married to a doctor.  You feel guilty complaining because there are a lot of good things about being married to a doctor and a lot worse things that can happen to a person than being married to a doctor.  It can be especially hard to confide in someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to be buried in student loan debt or what it’s like to maintain a relationship with a demanding work schedule or what it’s like to have no idea where your going to be living in the next year.  This guilt can make being married to a doctor even harder when you constantly put yourself down for not always being happy in your situation. 

Yes, being married to a doctor is hard.  But does that mean it’s also miserable?

There’s no doubt that being married to a doctor has numerous challenges.  But being aware of those challenges and accepting that your life may not be like a lot of other people’s can save you a lot of frustration and grief.  By letting go of your expectations and taking things one phase at a time, you may find that the medical journey may help you grow in ways you never expected.  Instead of constantly planning and focusing on your future expectations, you can view each new move or life stage as an opportunity to meet new people and gain new experiences.  Maybe you might have to sacrifice a dream job or school in order to support your spouse, but you never know what other doors or opportunities may be laying ahead for you. 

The important thing is to keep moving forward and to go easy on yourself when things do get hard–you don’t have to feel guilty for feeling frustrated when you have to move and leave dear friends behind or you have to spend another long night putting the kids to bed by yourself.  Being married to a doctor is hard.  But it can also be incredibly rewarding, knowing that by supporting your spouse and sacrificing time with them, you’re also helping to take care of those in need of medical help.  Even if you don’t feel like you’re contributing as much to society as your spouse, be confident in your own talents and realize that everyone in the world has a different role to play.  We need all sorts of people for all sorts of jobs and just because your talent is not being a doctor doesn’t mean it’s less important. 

Life may not turn out exactly how you plan, but most people’s lives rarely do.  If you can stay focused on the positive things in your life and do your best to keep your marriage strong even when things get hard, you’ll find that in the end, your attitude matters a lot more than your circumstances. 

By Hannah McKay – Married to Doctors Contributor

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