“Once all struggle is grasped, miracles are possible.” Mao Zedong
If you were to look at the national averages for divorce rates in the US for people in the healthcare profession, it would show them beating the national averages (Physicians and Surgeons divorcing at a rate of 21.8% and Healthcare professionals 31.6% according to quartz.com*). However, that hasn’t been my experience.
I have doctors and surgeons, wives of doctors and surgeons, nurses and therapists as clients. I also have teachers, administrators, corporate execs and other professions, but people in the healthcare field certainly make up more than their fair share of my private clients. In working with these people over several years I have some insights about why they struggle in their most important, most intimate relationships.
Let’s start with the doctors and their spouses: Doctors work A LOT. They endure long hours under a tremendous amount of stress. Not surprisingly, what they bring home and into the relationship is an overworked, exhausted and stressed-out human being. I think this is the primary cause for why they struggle in their marriages. But there are some additional subtleties at play in their relationships as well.
They are also problem-solvers, which seems like it would be a good thing; in this case it actually works against them. Doctors are trained and rewarded for finding answers to problems. If we ran out of health problems, they literally would be out of a job. And because how we do one thing is how we do everything (this is just how the brain works), it’s common for these same individuals to approach their relationships looking for the problems and being critical of their partners. Sometimes, their intent focus on the problems keeps them from seeing what is good inside the relationship and with their spouses.
Plus we look to doctors to have the answers. They’re supposed to be able to pinpoint the cause and identify a solution. However, when it comes to struggling inside of their marriages, they don’t know the cause and they don’t have the answers, otherwise, they certainly would have solved it by now. But asking for help when you’re the one that’s supposed to have the answers is difficult, so they wait. The problems in the marriages worsen over time until it becomes unbearable before one or both of the partners reach out for help.
Much like doctors who are supposed to have all the answers, you can imagine how difficult it must be for a therapist to reach out to a relationship coach for help in their own marriage. They listen to troubles in people’s relationships all day and that can bring increased focus to the troubles in their own relationships. Everyone has blind spots (even therapists) and it’s always much easier to see the flaws in someone else’s relationship because you’re not emotionally involved, nor are they attached to the outcome. The good news for them is that they typically know not to wait until the relationship is beyond repair before seeking answers.
Lastly, are my nurses…Oh the beloved nurses…The reason why nurses struggle so much in their marriages is simple: The very thing that makes them great in their jobs is what is killing their marriages. Nurses are traditionally over-givers. They take care of others before taking care of themselves. They put others needs before their own needs. And they give until it literally hurts, leaving nothing left in the tank for themselves or their marriages at the end of the day. Plus people who over-give typically find people who over-take in the relationship.
These are not scientific studies on my part, but rather more anecdotal information that might point to the source of the issues in our struggling marriages – regardless of whether or not you’re in the healthcare industry.
- Being overworked and stressed-out isn’t limited to doctors. Anyone who is working long hours and is consistently under a great deal of stress won’t be bringing their best to the relationship.
- People who pride themselves on having all the answers, don’t readily reach out for help when they’re hitting the metaphorical rumble strip on the side of the highway in their most important, most intimate relationships. They reach out for help when they’ve crashed into the ditch and are stranded, hurt and stuck.
- And anyone who consistently puts everyone else’s needs in front of their own never gets their needs met. They begin to feel resentment about doing so much for others, but no one ever doing for them, not realizing they’ve enabled the exact behavior in their partners that they did not want. You don’t have to be a nurse to subjugate your needs for decades; any mother knows this all too well.
There are some consistent traits that cause the issues to worsen in our marriages – particularly when things get tough. And many of those traits are found in people in the helping professions.