Marrying a doctor? You are in for major challenges!
“Don’t marry a doctor” – That’s probably the first advice you will get if you ask someone who is already married to a doctor! Doctors have a busy and unpredictable schedule and spend most of their youth at school, working their way up a tortuous program before becoming a physician. This raises important questions such as “Who do doctors marry?”, “What does it take to marry a doctor?”, “What are the pros and cons of marrying a doctor?”, or “Should I marry a doctor?”.
Let’s look at 7 key points that you will have to keep in mind before marrying a doctor or even dating one. These facts are a combination of surveys and anecdotes from doctors and their partners. Hopefully, most of your questions about marrying a doctor will be answered after reading this post!
1. Are you marrying a Doctor for the right reasons?
If you are an Indian and planning on marrying a doctor, you are not alone. Doctors are in huge demand in India when it comes to marriage. That’s because people look up to doctors with respect and reverence.
Things can get very easy for you if you choose to marry a doctor. Matrimony sites have started lining up men and women based on profession. Don’t believe us, look this screenshot below.
Even the US, there are dating sites such as farmersonly.com, lawyerflirts.com to name a few!
There are also sinister reasons for the big demand for Doctors in the marriage market. The cost of getting a professional degree from a medical college is not cheap (especially if you want to enrol in any of the private universities or colleges) and this implies families have the means to afford expensive education and should be financially well off.
In fact, the growing enrollment of women in medical colleges is attributed to the perception that it is possible to get a “good match” for a daughter who is a physician. This, in turn, encourages the man’s family to demand more dowry as they think the woman’s family can definitely afford to pay off the ransom.
Doctors put in lot more time to complete their graduation and spend more time in gaining specialised skills before they can start practising at a level that will earn them a decent income. This makes it an inherently tough profession to take up on unless you are really passionate about being a doctor.
2. Are you in the medical profession?
Marrying a doctor is a great idea if you are a doctor or in the medical profession.
Doctors have a schedule on paper only. Most of the time, they are delayed because of some emergency and are also on call 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. This creates a major problem for the spouse as they are left to hold the fort on the home front. It is important that you understand what you are signing up for when marrying a doctor. if you are from the same profession or at least work with doctors, you will probably appreciate their erratic schedules.
According to 2014 Work / Life Profiles of Today’s US Physicians, over 40% of doctors are likely to marry doctors or those working in the healthcare industry. According to Dr Kavitha Shah Arora, MD, a gynaecologist:
“As doctors, your lives are so incredibly busy that it’s hard to meet people outside medicine and when you do, it’s hard to explain why you really need to work on Christmas or go in at 2 a.m. for a delivery. When you’re with someone in medicine, you have that shared language and experience. You share the same set of values when it comes to helping others and putting your responsibility as a physician above your relationship’s needs.”
The situation described by Dr Shah is universal. According to this response on Quora,
“There is very little incentive for a student in India to join the medical profession unless their family owns a hospital or have an unending disposable income to spend. This puts the (medical) profession beyond the reach of the middle class since there are no returns for the incredible amount of mental and financial investment required from a doctor.“
3. People studying to be doctors won’t have time for you
In addition to the 5 years of graduation, doctors need to spend a couple of years to specialise in a chosen area and also work as a resident physician.
Studying to become a doctor is a full-time job that leaves very little time for going on dates. If you are dating one, especially someone that is studying to be a doctor, be ready for long periods of no contact. Your planned weekend date can go for a toss on the drop of a hat. If you have found a prospective match (who also happens to be studying for a doctor) via matrimony sites, you will end up disappointed as finding time out of their busy schedule to meet you and go on dates will be tough.
If you have found a prospective match (who also happens to be studying for a doctor) via matrimony sites, you will end up disappointed as finding time out of their busy schedule to meet you and go on dates will be tough.
Here is an infographic that depicts the challenging life of a medical student!
Here is what Dr James Miller has to say when it comes to people studying to be a doctor.
It’s no secret that residency is tough. Medical residents work crazy hours with little free time and almost never enough sleep. So it’s not a surprise that residency can take a serious toll on our personal lives. For those fortunate enough to enter medical school or residency with a long-term romantic partner, the feeling of having someone in your corner can be a source of comfort when the going gets tough. The rest of us face a choice: Step out into the dating world despite our workload or take up the robes of a monastic existence for the next 3-7 years.
At least in India, parents have our back when its time to get married!
4. Advantages for a non-doctor marrying a doctor
An engineer started dating a doctor 8 years ago and this what he had to say.
No threat or ego issues: Ever saw your friends getting jealous of their spouses who are in the same line of work, and have become more successful? Here, I know that eventually, doctors tend to earn more, and hence am fully prepared for it mentally. There is no scope of jealousy or resentment, and we both can be as successful as we can without hurting each other’s feelings. Further, we both get equal opportunities to appear more intelligent in front of each other.
Interesting conversations: She tells me about the curious cases that come to her, I tell her about the new marketing campaign I am working on. We exchange work talk, not really expecting expert opinions, but interesting ones nevertheless.
Network: I know I can count on a dentist, a paediatrician, a surgeon and many others whenever I need them because of her. She knows who to call if her computer crashes or she needs life hacks or she needs to find good pubs around! Also, typically medical students are too engrossed in their studies to really get to know outside life, so my circle of friends prove to be a good break from that for her.
Understanding: She understands when I get really busy, or not able to take her call or get to work at wee hours, cause that’s what she expects from me.
Minimum level of intelligence expected: Think about it. Doctors are anyway intelligent. Intelligent enough not to fall in love with idiots. Hence, both parties get the benefit of no-stupidity-no-frustration factor.
5. Disadvantages for a non-doctor marrying a doctor
Continuing from the same source that listed the advantages for a non-doctor in dating/marrying a doctor, let’s look at what he had to say about the disadvantages.
Patience: Chances are, your doctor spouse was standing non-stop 6 hours assisting surgeries, hasn’t had anything since morning and has slept only 6 hours in last 48 hours. In such cases in whatever you speak or breathe, please tread carefully, very carefully. Be patient and considerate, and remember, ‘This too shall pass’.
Doctor Ego: Fact is, doctors had to study more and grill themselves for longer hours doing harder work than any engineer will ever do. This might lead them to think that doctors are better than engineers or anyone else. Again, a delicate topic to stir up.
Family awkwardness: You might end up feeling a bit ignored in case your family members get more interested in discussing their minute health issues to get free consultation than pampering you like you were used to. I, however, enjoy the peace. Then there is also the pressure of standing up to the expectation of ‘how can a doctor and non-doctor work it out together?’
The doctor vs the spouse: Often when you will hold her hand, she will suddenly observe some weirdness in the bone structure of your hand and start cautioning you against medical conditions you have never heard that affect body parts you never knew existed.
6. Doctors are more likely to marry other doctors
According to Dan Kopf, staff writer at Pricenomics, some professions see a large number of marriages happening from within the profession while others see most marriages happening outside the profession. For example, lawyers and farmers are most likely to marry people in the same profession whereas miners will most likely marry someone out of their profession. Guess where doctors fall? Yes, there is a high probability that doctors will end up marrying another doctor. Let’s look at the data crunched by Dan kopf.
According to Dan Kpof, professions with more balanced gender ratios are more likely to have more marriages happening within the profession. With more and more female medical students enrolling in Indian universities, we should see a similar trend in India.
7. A woman who is a doctor will have a tough time after marriage
Women in India have been getting the raw deal irrespective of their profession or educational qualifications.
Being a woman and a doctor doesn’t change things beyond a certain point. Doctors have a hectic schedule and crazy workloads. On top of that, women who also work as doctors have the added burden of “managing” the household and making themselves available for family obligations. Once children are added to the mix, the pressure on women to juggle their busy work schedules as well as children’s activities on a daily basis will take its toll on the marriage.
A group of physicians analysed census data in the US to compare the divorce rates among doctors when compared to that of other professionals. Here is a brief summary of their finding.
Females traditionally bear more of the household and child-rearing responsibilities on average, and female physicians, if they have to do both that and maintain a job as a physician, that could lead to a lot of stress and lead to higher rates of divorce. For women physicians, they appear to be essentially getting a raw deal because there is a trade-off they have to make, that, the male doctors don’t have to be making.
Please check out this interesting book titled, “Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood.” One of the arguments made in the book is that women who in certain critical professions (such as doctors) should always consider their job to be more important and forget the idea of work/life balance. In fact, there is even an argument that doctors are way too important for the general public and we cannot let “families” become a priority over public well-being.
In summary, marrying a doctor is not an easy decision. But there are some broad requirements that seem to be relevant irrespective of who you end up marrying – a sense of shared goals and vision for the future, defining and communicating your expectations, alignment of goals and priorities, and chemistry.
Divorce rates among doctors
Anupam B Jena from Harvard Medical school conducted a study on the divorce rates among physicians in the US. The purpose of the study was to find out if the stressful, unpredictable lifestyle of doctors caused more divorces and relationship breakdowns compared to other professions in the medical sector.
The results of the study are surprising. The study found that doctors had the lowest divorce rates when compared to nurses, healthcare executives and lawyers!
The same study also found that woman doctors are more likely to be divorced compared to male doctors. The additional responsibility for managing the household and the children might be the contributing factors for this trend.
John Hopkins University conducted a long-term study way back in 1997 and concluded that Psychiatrists and Surgeons had higher divorce rates compared to that of the Pediatricians and Internists.
In India, there is on data available for divorce rates among doctors. In general doctors in India marry someone from the same profession as they believe only a doctor spouse can understand the pulls, pressures and stress associated with the medical profession. We suspect divorce rates among doctors in India is not very different from that of the rest of the population.
Click here to read about what medical students and doctors have to say about their preference for marrying someone from the same profession.
We created this handy checklist for you in case you have already decided on marrying a doctor.
1. Your spouse will go missing often: Just assume that your doctor spouse will not be around for dinner or that wedding reception you knew about 10 days ago. Always start the day with low expectations and who knows you may be positively surprised.
2. Develop lots of empathy but…: Putting yourself in their shoes and understanding the fact that they are always behind both at work and at home will make you appreciate them. However, find a doctor spouse who can also empathise with your lonely struggles every day in his / her absence.
3. Keep your family and friends close: Being married to a doctor without a support network to fall back on will be tough on you. Having family and friends around you or close by will make a huge difference when you have to face life in the absence of your spouse.
4. Keep a tab on your spouse’s health: This may sound ironic, but doctors are not very good at keeping a watch on their own health! This responsibility of making sure your doctor spouse remains healthy is probably on you.
5. Find a different doctor for you family: While it is tempting to get your doctor spouse to treat your ailments or the children’s health issues, it’s always better to find another doctor who can treat your family while keeping all emotions aside.
6. Not all doctors are rich: Be ready to duke it out for a long time before your spouse’s practice pays dividends. Doctors don’t become rich the day they come out of medical school unless they have parents who already have an established practice.