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When Doctors Marry Doctors: A Look Into Physician Marriages

samanthaHutchins

Grey’s Anatomy fans may be familiar with this storyline: a dashing young doctor unintentionally falls for his beautiful co-worker. They begin a tumultuous relationship, filled with drama from a reappearing ex (who also happens to be a doctor), flirtatious exchanges in elevators, nosey co-workers, secret sisters -- and the occasional plane crash or bomb explosion. Inevitably, they get through it all and marry each other, have children of their own, and live happily ever after. (Well, almost.)

While somewhat ridiculous, this fable isn’t completely fictional. In fact, roughly 40% of physicians end up marrying other physicians. This isn’t very surprising when you take into account the amount of time up-and-coming doctors have to spend together. Years of medical training, long hours in the hospital and little time outside of work can develop close friendships and, yes, even relationships among colleagues. Doctors marrying other doctors has been a trend for many years, and statistics indicate that the amount of dual-physician marriages will continue to grow in the future.

The Challenges

Every marriage faces difficulties, but the union of two physicians comes with challenges that are unique to their shared medical careers. It has been long established that nearly all physicians experience burnout in the job field; two marrying each other heightens the risk that one or both will have this symptom. Another challenge is having to deal with double the amount of medical school debt, which can put a financial strain on the couple. In addition, finding a healthy work-life balance and a schedule that accommodates the lives of two busy physicians can be overwhelming. Throw in kids, and you have another set of challenges to face, like finding reliable childcare and taking time off of work for dance recitals, soccer games, sicknesses, family vacations, etc.

In addition to the obvious challenges, being married to a physician can have emotional drawbacks. A demanding work schedule can keep wedded physicians from spending quality time together. Plus, the nature of the job requires physicians to be controlling, decisive, and at times detached from their emotions. These characteristics can be hard to ‘switch off’ as soon as you go home at the end of a long day.

The Benefits

Are you bummed out yet? Don’t lose hope: there are plenty of positive aspects of dual-physician marriages that counteract the negatives. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of physicians marrying physicians is having a deeper understanding of each other’s work experiences. You don’t have to thoroughly explain or ‘dumb-down’ medical jargon to your partner when they work in the same profession, therefore making communication easier. Having this understanding can help wedded physicians relate to the struggles their partner is going through as a fellow medical professional. Many married physicians describe this as having someone “in the trenches” with you. This shared perspective and passion provides an emotional and psychological benefit that partners in differing job fields may not experience.

Tips for a Healthy Dual-Physician Relationship

There are plenty of ways to make dual-physician relationships and marriages last. We’ve compiled a list of tips that can help strengthen this unique partnership and build a strong foundation of trust and support.

  1. Have outside support. It’s important for wedded physicians to have a network of people outside their jobs who they can rely on for support or childcare, if needed. This can come from family members, friends, church groups, neighbors, etc.
  2. Organization is key. As mentioned earlier, accommodating the lives of two busy physicians can be chaotic. Planning out your week (or month) in advance can help wedded physicians stay on top of their work and home life.
  3. Compromise. Understand that you and your partner both have demanding lifestyles. Be willing to divvy up household chores and childcare so that one partner isn’t overloaded with tasks.
  4. Make time for each other. As you go through the motions of your daily routine, it can be easy get caught up in the day-to-day tasks and lose sight of what is really important. Make an effort to carve out time in each other’s schedules so you can spend quality time together and communicate openly.
  5. Make time for yourself. The demands of medical work, finances, family life and marriage can quickly become overwhelming. Understand that your mental health and stability is important and take time to relax and de-stress. Pursue a hobby that takes your mind off of life’s demands -- or go for a run, read a book, or get a massage. There are plenty of ways to replenish and rejuvenate yourself, in turn making you a better physician, parent, co-worker and spouse.