Is Medical Practice a Marriage Breaker?

By Forster, Jeff | Medical Economics, April 13, 1998 | Go to article overview

Is Medical Practice a Marriage Breaker?


Forster, Jeff, Medical Economics


Nothing in life comes easy, and some things come especially hard. Like being a doctor. Or being married to a doctor. Or being a doctor married to a doctor.

Medical school doesn't teach the secret to a happy marriage. You can't find it in postgraduate training, either, even if you subspecialize.

For doctors, as for the rest of the world, marriages succeed and marriages fail for all the reasons known to man and woman. And yet there are unique stresses and strains in medical marriages that bear scrutinyenough stresses and strains to spawn a minilibrary on the topic. A recent search of the National Library of Medicine's HealthSTAR database, for example, turned up more than 30 English-language articles on doctors' marriages.

Many doctors, it is said, don't have time for personal lives. Some aren't inclined to make the time. Tending to patients drains the cups of energy and emotion, leaving the physician precious little to take home at the end of the day. In medicine, the emphasis on career is more pronounced than in most other walks of life. (And when was the last time you walked through a day, anyway?)

Your risk of divorce may even depend on which specialty you practice. Consider what researchers at Johns Hopkins found recently: Over a 30-year period, the cumulative incidence of divorce was 50 percent among psychiatrists, 33 percent among surgeons (including thoracic and orthopedic specialists and Ob/Gyns), and 22 to 24 percent among pediatricians, pathologists, and internists.

Doctors' personal lives have always been part of the Medical Economics editorial franchise. We care about the quality of your life, both inside and outside your practice. If you find the title of this Memo familiar, you've got some memory. We used it on an article back in 1966. Our answer, then and now: If medicine is not a marriage breaker, it most certainly is a marriage tester.

And now, in this issue, we begin a fivepart series, "Doctors and Divorce." It's not a how-to. Rather, the focus is on: How does divorce happen? .... How can marital relationships be built to last? ....How can damage be repaired?

The first installment is on page 98. …

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