Love Triangle: You, Dr. Significant Other and Medicine
By Megan Vilson
It was about two weeks after we were married, I packed up what remaining possessions I had left at my parents and at a small storage unit I was renting to move with my husband to a new state as he started medical school.
At the time, I was excited. I was eager to start life as newlyweds in a whole new state. I had high hopes and expectations for merely starting our lives together, as one. The day I arrived in a new state, which was only six hours drive from our previous home, my husband greeted me with flowers and a kiss. He said, he was happy to have me here. He had already driven down ahead of me as his classes started a few days prior to my final move. The move took place in July.
Fast forward into September, I made him a surprise birthday dinner. He was late to dinner because he had medical school obligations. Maybe it was this moment and seeing him drag in late for dinner, tired and having to still study where I began to notice that the medical journey will take us further apart from each other more than I realized. Our relationship would either fail or succeed. I really began to feel as time went by that I was truly on the back burner. Medical school came first. While I was always excited about him getting into medical school which is no easy feat, I was also devastated that our marriage was being tested so early on. We were still newlyweds.
To this day, I almost get irritated when friends or family around my age group tell me about their marriage woes, because I am like “…live through being a spouse to a medical student or resident, and then come talk to me…” The experience, while I try to be understanding of other relationships has almost made me numb to them because you cannot possibly understand the stress of a marriage in medicine and what that meant for my husband and me. But this was just MY situation and how I left. I am aware that all couples go through trials and tribulations and the idea is to never discount anyone’s experiences but being married to a doctor is different.
To experience a marriage in medicine is different than a marriage where two people work normal or somewhat stable schedules. My husband is in his residency years now. He is in residency for six long years. We have made it to the start of year four. Making it to even residency and through that unforgiving, savage of a year they call intern year was a huge moment for us. Intern year was another test I was not prepared for.
In intern year, he came home very late, eyes blood shot and would plop right on the couch to fall asleep. I would think to myself, “this cannot be it, no this cannot be”. From this experience, we had several conversations on how to spend our time together wisely, communicate and remain proactive in each other’s lives. Let me tell you, it is hard. It all is very hard. So, if there are any spouses out there thinking that it is just you—it is not just you.
The medical training journey will take you from your loved ones, across country, have you feeling like a single parent, and some of us having to now deal with this all during a pandemic! The journey is wild, but I do enjoy seeing how excited my husband is about what he does. The experience has taught me patience.
If ever as a spouse you are feeing frustrated, resentful, lonely and at your wits end, remember and or practice these simple things:
1) Have a friend you can call and who will not judge you. Make them aware that they are --“You are my person”, like Christina told Meredith on Grey’s Anatomy. Grab a person and grab them quick. Make sure they will let you call them when you are angry a pager woke you up at 3 am.
2) Communicate! Communicate! Communicate as much as you can without being annoying or causing added stress to Dr. Significant Other. Set aside a FaceTime or Google Duo while they may be running around the hospital. We did this for our son and my husband loved the chats from him during a hectic day.
3) If you have children and you are at home while Dr. Significant Other is busy, you too need to find or stick with a hobby, create a schedule for yourself and/or kids and invest just as much time into you and the things you like to do.
4) Be Gracious. Things will NEVER go according to plan. Be Gracious about changed or failed plans.
5) If you love your Dr. Significant Other, see them work hard day in and day out whether during medical school or residency; the best advice I received from a friend was “Make him a sandwich. He is tired. Who knows when he’ll eat. Make him some food.” Sounds crazy but having some kind of meal ready at the end of a long day/night really made him happy to be home and refocus my energy towards the bigger plan.
The medical training years are hard, and I would be lying if I told you they were easy. I do not want to lie. They are not easy. If you know more from the beginning and have those tough conversations with each other, then that is a step in the right direction.
My name is Megan and I am married to a doctor. We share a 4-year-old son and a Pomeranian. We are all currently surviving and thriving during his surgical residency years, now during a pandemic.
Currently, I am taken courses in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT). My goal is to become a Licensed MFT with a concentration in addiction and substance abuse. Prior, to our many moves I worked at a Veterans non-profit organization in Washington, DC. In my free time, I enjoy walks with my family in the San Francisco bay area. I love to cook with my toddler and my husband, and I are avid watchers of Married to Medicine on BravoTV (Go Figure!). I love to meet and chat with other spouses in medicine, so if ever anyone needs an ear, feel free to reach out to me on Instagram, my handle is @yourbetterhalftomedicine.