Inside Doctoring: Stages and Outcomes in the Professional Development of Physicians

By Robert H. Coombs; D. Scott May et al. | Go to book overview

Structural Strain in the Medical Marriage

Robert H. Coombs

Interpersonal strain is inherent in a medical marriage, regardless of the personalities involved. The overlapping statuses of physician and spouse, with their accompanying roles, are in a state of delicate balance and can easily be strained. When career and marriage become unbalanced, both domains suffer. But because the family is the most adaptive of all human institutions, problems at home typically occur first and are the most readily conspicuous.

The following discusses aspects of medical training and practice that most often exert stress on an intimate relationship. My information comes from lengthy tape-recorded interviews with academic physicians located at thirty different university teaching hospitals, mostly psychiatrists and obstetricians whose patient clientele includes physicians and their families. In what follows I use the masculine pronoun to refer to the doctor and the feminine to refer to his wife because, up to now, this has been by far the most typical configuration in the medical marriage. Nonetheless, the structural strains described here may be found in all medical marriages.


ABSENTEEISM DUE TO PROFESSIONAL STATUS ANXIETIES

Since relationships of any type thrive upon rewarding interactions, minimizing shared experiences does little to promote feelings of

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Some of the materials in this article have been adapted from my earlier writing on "The Medical Marriage" in Robert Coombs and C. E. Vincent (Eds.), Psychosocial Aspects of Medical Training. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas, 1971, pp. 133-166.

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