It is a fact that married physicians have a 10-20% higher divorce rate than that of the general population. Of those who stay married, almost half of physicians and more than half of their spouses report that they are unhappy; figures that are approximately 15 percent higher than those for the nonphysician population. “ ...The rate of suicide is greater for doctors’ wives than for wives of any other professional group.” 1
Due to the challenges involved in being a physician, with long hours, taking call, etc., marriages/committed relationships often suffer. Qualities that make for excellence in the physician (dedication to the pursuit of knowledge, commitment to patients, attention to detail, thoroughness, willingness to work hard for long periods of time) may result in the neglect of the needs of the physician’s family members. 2 When the physician is in medical school or is beginning to practice, the spouse and the physician tend to have a teamwork perspective. They look forward to the time when things will settle down a bit and they can have more time together. Sadly, what can happen to many couples along the way is that they lose the friendship they had originally, and no longer see each other as having the same focus.
It is important for each spouse to make a concerted effort to keep the relationship going. Loving marriages take work, time, and commitment. Here are a few suggestions from experts that can nurture your marriage while trying to manage a challenging career:
• Protect the marriage by setting boundaries around your practice. This can mean many things such as setting schedule limits or not expecting yourself to be able to respond to every demand that is placed upon you.
And speaking of boundaries -- Be cognizant that money, opportunities, and loneliness (for whatever reason) can set a physician up to “wander” into relationships outside of their marriage which can bring pain, and disaster.
Give undivided attention to your spouse when together. Put your cell phone on vibrate, turn off the computer and other electronics and just be with your spouse. It’s the quality of your time that is so precious to your spouse. A physician spouse suggests setting aside a “date night” each week with dinner and no serious discussion.
Listen to each other and talk about your mutual needs. Women want to know that their needs are being validated. Honoring each other’s needs helps build a trusting and loving relationship. Women want to be listened to even more than to be given a quick fix from their husbands. Develop your listening skills.
Express appreciation for what your partner contributes to your life together.
Schedule more mini-vacations and vacations. Doctors are known to take very few which isn’t healthy for you or for the marriage/relationship.
Talk as a couple about what can be done to strengthen the relationship. Communication and forgiveness are key to a successful marriage.
“More than anything, it is important to help each other slow down and have fun....Once playfulness leaves your relationship, intimacy will soon be out the door.” 3 Laughter is essential.
1 Wayne M. Sotile, PhD, Mary O. Sotile, MA, The Medical Marriage: A Coupleʼs Survival Guide, 1996. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid.
Editor’s Note: The following article is being re-printed by permission of the Physician Health Services, Inc.(PHS), a Massachusetts Medical Society corporation.