What is it like, being married to a doctor? My gorgeous wife is an eye surgeon; we have been together for 16 years and married 7 years ago. When we met, Anne had two children, a boy aged 4 and a girl aged 5, and I had three girls aged 12, 17 and 18 years.
My first awareness of her was seeing how amazing this woman was, to have brought up two children by herself, and at the same time practise medicine and surgery. I say this not in any disrespect to any other woman in any other profession, trade or work; just in awe of how she managed to do it all.
But all this doing did come with a cost; she was very driven by a duty that demanded she look after everyone – that being her children, her patients and me – at the expense of herself and leaving her to live in guilt at not being able to meet all these demands.
This was not that easy to live with. On the one hand you had this incredibly hard working partner that you could not fault as far as effort and commitment to life and attempting to do whatever was asked of her, and why would I find fault as I loved her; but on the other hand we all lived in great tension knowing she was living on the edge of exhaustion and overwhelm. And each month all that Anne had kept a lid on would erupt like any great volcano to release the stress of all that had not been expressed and had been bottled up and suppressed by this driven duty and guilt. It felt very male like in the way she worked and then monthly the female would express herself to say, ‘I’m not that’ and demand it be known.
Entering into a relationship with a doctor is also entering into a ‘ménage à trois’ relationship with the medical/hospital system.
To get through the arduous steps required to become a doctor and then a surgeon requires dedication and drive, in a way that is nothing short of disregard to a person, their wellbeing, their body and their whole life. They are asked to be this super human that then goes and cares for others, whilst not caring for themselves and usually at the expense of themselves. It’s as if they think their training has and will make them immune to life as they have acquired some extraordinary powers that enable them to be above or removed from the consequences of a life lived in disregard to their own body, being and welfare.
But doctors are not super-human; instead we have doctors that do their utmost best but live in anxiousness, exhaustion, feeling ill at ease, with psychological disorders and physical diseases, the same as the very people they are attending to as their patients. In truth, doctors are actually worse off health wise than their patients in many ways. (1)
This is what a doctor is living, but so too are their families.
I am very fortunate here as my wife developed lymphatic cancer and was offered a necessary stop to the way she was living and through this experience came to a great revelation that doctors are human too and that medicine had to be lived, not preached.
However this was not always the case. 15 years ago Anne was caught up in a consciousness of being the ‘good doctor’ first, then caring for family, then herself and she would even cry out for ‘some time for herself’, meaning – to escape from the life I’m living. And to try and uphold this way of living she consumed copious amounts of coffee to keep her going, cakes to sweeten and treat herself, and at the end of day alcohol to take the edge off the day and mellow her own edginess and overdrive.
All of these were much needed then for her to function because of the way she was living, but is life just about function and what is then the state of having a relationship with someone who is just functioning?
What happened to being in a loving relationship? Isn’t that what we all yearn for? To feel lovely in yourself and take that love that is innately you to work, to family, to your husband or wife.
That’s what my gorgeous wife did; she started treating herself with doses of love, started to care for herself and her body, listening to what her body was truly asking for – a good night’s sleep, regular exercise, food that nourished her body and most importantly she started to honour the beautiful woman she is.
This was a big turnaround, which in turn translated to us – all the people she comes in contact with. When we meet now, I really get to meet Anne as a woman and the glorious sacred being she is.
This new steadiness is in all her life, including work. She has rewritten how to live in a relationship with family and work as a doctor/surgeon in a steady loving way that supports her life and everyone she comes in touch with. And I’m the luckiest man on the planet as that’s the woman I’m married to …
Beautiful and honest read showing how we simply cannot truly care for others until we truly start to love, honour and care for ourselves.
Hi Paul ,
Thanks for sharing your story together and the transformation that has happened with Anne and between you both. As nothing is nothing and everything affects everything else in life, this story is very inspirational as many of us have all sorts of ideals and beliefs that drive us to try and be everything for everybody at the expense of the body. The medical system also seems to play a big part and take a heavy toll on its doctors and nurses through the university and training where people learn to push and drive themselves to get through the huge study & work load in the internships at the hospital, thus explaining the high statistics of suicide and burn out. Which really makes no sense and is contradictory to true medicine /healing and health which should never be at the body’s expense.
Thanks for writing this blog Paul. Your words so clearly express how much love and respect you have for your wife, and also a deep understanding of her. It’s a real treat to read a husband express lovingly about his wife.
Thank you Paul, this is so honest and the transformation just beautiful.
Doctors have an enormous responsibility to be the leading role models of true health and well being for all of society and the world at large. I take my hat off to anyone who works in the medical system and I find it a huge honour to experience the great service they offer humanity. I find so many place huge and at times unrealistic expectations on doctors and nurses without honouring that they are also human too with a family and life outside of work just like all of us.
I absolutely love this Paul, thank you so much for finding the words to express my experience as the wife of a constantly over-stretched and exhausted rural GP-obstetrician. I wrote a book to try to wrap my head around what was at play here and what I was married to (the system as well as the man). Even his attempts at self-care are high cortisol, addictive and time consuming pursuits! He is much admired and loved in our community and has been willing to be vulnerable and share his journey and his attempts at balance but it is a work in progress! Thank you for expressing the cost of this through a lens of love.