Friends! I'm kicking off yet another brand-new series on the blog today, and it's one that I'm super passionate and excited about. Let me tell you a little bit about the idea and what I hope this space can become.
If you're visiting the blog for the first time today, welcome! I assume you came across this post because you're in a relationship with someone in the medical field, someone in the military, someone who travels a lot, or someone whose job is demanding and emotionally taxing and all-around-weird at times. I'm so glad you're here.
(side note: I'm calling this series "Marriage & Medicine" because I thought the alliteration was nice and I'm not great at naming things. Please know that this isn't just for married couples, nor is it solely for medical folks. I hope that people in any stage of a relationship and any demanding career path will be able to relate and find community in some way!)
I remember scouring the internet for articles and advice during Beau's last year of medical school, desperately searching for a glimmer of hope in what I deemed would be a miserable four years of residency. Honestly, I didn't find much. And what I did find was pretty discouraging and played into my deepest fears — that I'd be a "residency widow", that I'd have to do things alone, that I'd come to resent my husband and his career.
I want to speak hope and positivity into this space because, while some elements of those fears can be true at times, Beau and I have, in all honesty, loved our time in both medical school and residency. I mean, really LOVED it. Our experiences with both have grown me in ways that I could have never imagined and I'm so very grateful for it all.
For those who are used to coming to this blog for the artwork, this probably seems like quite a departure. But in actuality, I would not be making art for a living (a dream that I never thought would be possible!), without making what I deemed at the time to be "sacrifices" for Beau's career. Don't worry, I'll dive deeper into how all of this went down in further posts. :)
Being a "Doctor's Wife" (a title that I sometimes resent, but I'm not sure what else to call it) is a huge, essential part of my story. It shapes our relationship, my relationships with those around me, my own career, and the way that I see the world on a daily basis. Ultimately, I want to start sharing the wisdom that I've gained over the past few years so that you'll feel a little less alone.
Cool? So let's dive in.
I'm starting the series with what I think is the best advice that I can offer you. It has to do with your mindset and expectations, and I think it all comes down to this:
While we can't change our circumstances, we can change how we respond to them.
Yes, medical school and residency are demanding of your partner's time. You will attend social gatherings alone. You'll likely spend some holidays alone. Your loved one will work weekends and night shifts and will often need emotional support (not to mention help with basic daily tasks).
It's tempting to think about all of this stuff through a lens of self. Trust me, I've been there. You think about the negative ways that it will affect you, how your other married friends don't have to deal with this, how it's not fair.
But that line of thinking leads you straight towards resentment. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy of what you feared it would be. If all you can think about is how miserable you're going to be, well...you probably will be miserable. And if all you can think about is how these things will impact you, you'll miss out on a huge opportunity to deepen your relationship by supporting your partner when they need it the most.
Here's how I've learned to look at some of those "negative" things in a more positive, hopeful light:
1. Having more time alone means that I have an opportunity to invest in my friendships in a deeper way.
I like to joke that even though I'm married, I still get some of the benefits of being single. That sounds a little scandalous, but I mean it like this: since I'm not spending every waking moment with my husband, I have plenty of time to call up a girlfriend, grab a meal, or even go on a weekend getaway. I feel fortunate that I'm able to be fully present for Beau as well as my friends with ease...a balance that I assume is harder to achieve for most couples.
2. Beau's long hours give me time to invest in my own career.
Back when we were in medical school (yes, I say "we"!), there would be days when Beau would get home long after I did from my 9-5 job. Yes, there were times when I sat around feeling frustrated and lonely. But I eventually learned to use that extra time to my advantage. I started drawing, painting, writing and illustrating in those extra hours, which eventually led to me starting this business.
3. Serving is a blessing, not a curse.
Early on in our relationship, Beau used to handle everything. Trip planning, taxes, bill paying, logistics, making plans with friends, you name it. This makes me sound lazy (I was), but I'd also like to think it was because Beau is really freaking good at everything except for delegating (sorry, babe). Residency was a huge awakening for both of us in that I was forced to pick up the slack. And I can honestly say that nothing has been more rewarding and empowering than supporting our family both financially and logistically (meal planning, learning how to cook, running errands, planning vacations, making fun plans for Beau's days off, etc.). It feels good to serve in these ways, makes me feel like a badass (which is clearly very important to me), and has done wonders for our relationship.
4. We don't take our time together for granted.
In residency, 6 day, 80-100 hour work weeks are common. So whenever Beau gets a two day weekend, you better believe that we are LIVING IT UP. It's almost laughable how much life and adventure we've squeezed into such little time. But I love what all of this has taught us...that our time is valuable and not to be wasted or taken for granted. If we both had jobs that gave us two day weekends every single weekend, I can almost guarantee that we'd start to get lazy in the ways that we pursue one another. And I think we'd watch a lot more Netflix.
5. Beau's difficult days give me perspective.
There have been times when I've been stressed out about having too many puppies to draw (ha), and then Beau comes home and tells me about his patient who passed away or the child abuse case he witnessed. He's so great about not discounting my feelings of anxiety about the things going on in my life (they're important too, after all), but these stories quickly put everything into perspective for me. I'm always grateful for that wake-up call — that the world doesn't revolve around me, that there are people out there dealing with a lot worse things that I am, and that we should be thankful for all of the good things in our lives.
I could go on and on with these examples, but I think you get the point. Friends, I urge you to find the good in your circumstances. Look for opportunities to grow and serve rather than looking for reasons to feel sorry for yourself. Fill your alone time with things that bring you life rather than thoughts that bring you resentment. Both you and your partner will be better for it, and I promise that other challenges down the road will be easier to tackle when you've equipped yourself with a more positive, hopeful mindset.
That's it for today, but don't worry, I plan to continue writing on this topic. If you thought this was helpful, would you share it with someone you know who might need it? And will you let me know what other topics you'd like to hear about? Finances, loneliness, the decision to have children in residency, being around doctor friends that constantly talk about gross things at the dinner table? Nothing is off limits and I'd love to hear from you. We're all in this together, after all!
Love & Respect,