MARRIAGE & MEDICINE
Practical Advice and Lessons Learned
Dr. Mary Helen Davis Dr. Al Martin
1. Better to be Superwise than
Superwoman (You can’t do it all–
be willing to ask for help).
2. Having a housekeeper is an
essential, not a luxury.
3. You work hard– don’t forget to
play hard as well (have friends,
hobbies, take time off). 1. Men and women communicate
2. Embrace dual roles, learn to share
all responsibilities, and man-up to
outside criticism and judgement.
3. Develop and pursue additional
common interests outside of
medicine (even when you don’t
think you have the time or
The playwright George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “The problem
with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” While
this is an important issue for any couple, it is especially essential with
medical couples. Fatigue, stress and burnout are high in physicians
across their professional life cycles from medical school, residency,
early career to retirement. Clear communication, with personal and
professional disclosure, can be a way of alleviating stress. Recogniz-
ing when you are prone to permitting your communication skills
to deteriorate is also essential, i.e. the bad day, the difficult patient,
the sleepless call night, the ongoing demands of family life.
One of the first lessons is learning how to be collaborative. The
“team concept” is one the medical couple must learn—we got into
medical school by being competitive—so learning how to turn the
dial down on competition is crucial. Hopefully we learn early on it
is better to be happy than right. We must give up keeping score as
“I” and change it to “We.” We must practice the art of compromise
and collaboration. Compromise comes in many forms, from choice
of specialty, timing of fellowships, having children, other family
relationships, the location of practices, the sharing of household
and childcare responsibilities – the list goes on and on.
These are just a few reflections on the topic, looking back over
more than 40 years of a medical career. The dynamics of medical
relationships are still evolving. The complexities of family life and
dual physician parenting would constitute a whole other article.
It also would be interesting to hear how current day early-career
couples manage the issues of role strain, work-life balance and
coping. Is this an issue that our medical societies should address
in supporting membership?
Dr. Davis is a practicing psychiatrist with Integrated Psychiatry PLLC and works as
a consultant for Psychosocial Oncology at Baptist Healthcare of Louisville.
Dr. Martin is the System Medical Director for Pathology and Laboratory Services at
Norton Healthcare & CPA Laboratory.