3 Biggest Challenges Of Medical Marriages During Residency (And How To Overcome Them)

You said “I do” to the person of your dreams, and that person happens to wear a white coat. Lots of joy and happiness follow when you get married, but you know like all marriages, it’s not going to be all rainbows and unicorns 😀

The truth bomb is that there will be some very HARD challenges for both of you in a medical marriage, which is particularly true while in residency and fellowship, a time of life entirely focused on intense medical training.

For your partner to wear a white coat:

They have to push their minds and bodies to physical and emotional limits. They are preparing for boards. A 70-hour work week, while insane for most people, is a light week for them.

For you to support your partner in a white coat:

You spend weekends, evenings, and holidays alone. You’re solo parenting. You’re relocating across state lines every few years due to the Match. You’re looking for a new job. Financially, you have late retirement savings and inherited their six-figure student loans.

Sweet friend, life is hard when you’re in training. But the days while in medical training are numbered. In the meanwhile, you need a toolbox to help you succeed.

Let me help you overcome some of your biggest challenges in residency with these tips.

3 Bigg Challenges Of Medical Marriages During Residency (And How To Overcome Them)

1. You Don’t Spend Enough Time Together

While you’re apart, both of you are doing two different things. They’re putting all their focus right now into training to become the best doctor they can be. You’re trying to juggle everything and wear all the hats to make your family run well.

When both of your worlds finally meet at home, you feel a disconnect. It’s like living two different lives.

How To Overcome This:

You need to connect, connect, connect — as much as you can.

I don’t care how you do it, but do it, even if it’s a text, phone call, FaceTime. Send pics, make jokes, and make them realize (and miss!) what they’re missing out at home. Even when they’re in a procedure or seeing patients and can’t respond, connect anyway. They’ll see your message when they can.

2. You Don’t Feel Appreciated

When you’re in a medical marriage, your DrSpouse gets recognized for being a doctor and for their accomplishments. And then when you don’t get recognized for your work, it hits you that you’re “the support.”

While you wish you were angelic enough that it doesn’t bother you, it still kinda does. You feel unappreciated, unnoticed, and unimportant while making a ton of sacrifices.

Here’s some examples of sacrifices that are made:

  • My friend Ann Marie of Honestly Ann Marie, wife of an orthopedic surgeon, said she had to stand on stools in a dangerous way to change lightbulbs because she couldn’t stand being in the dark any longer.
  • I had to break into our garage door because the chain had broke and my husband was sleeping to prepare for his next shift. If I didn’t do this, I would have to wake him up from his precious sleep or he wouldn’t get his car out and would be late to work.
  • Countless accomplished friends (I lost count!) have watched their careers fall unnaturally backwards due to unemployment or underemployment.

I KNOW you have had a fair share of stories to tell me, too. (Feel free to message me so I can feature them in a story!)

Next to them making life and death decisions at work, your wiping down spills and stocking the fridge doesn’t seem so important.

How To Overcome This:

Reframe how you view your work.

What is the one thing that the BOTH OF YOU cannot fail at and matters most decades from now?

It’s your family.

The real work is the family. The secondary work is medicine.

Read: Am I Unaccomplished Compared To My Dr Spouse?

3. You Feel Stretched And Frazzled

You are likely doing the lion’s share of the household chores to support your family. Crusty dishes pile up in the sink. Clean laundry covers every surface waiting to be folded or put away. The pets and kids need care. Appointments have to be made. Financial errands need to be done.

It just feels like you will never catch up.

How To Overcome This

Simplify your life as best as you can.

A simplified life involves time, space, and spirit.

  • It means having a free calendar with margin so you can sit still from time to time
  • It means a home that isn’t cluttered
  • It means only keeping what is positive, and getting rid of anything that’s negative

When you have a simplified life, you’re not just reacting to life. You actually are in control.

Remember, not everything that is interesting, fun, or even good (like volunteering) is worth your attention right NOW. Maybe later, but not now.

Here’s some examples of simplifying your life:

Resources To Help Your Medical Marriage

Married to Doctors podcast is a must-listen. Lara McElderry is married to a trauma surgeon and they have five sons with their fair share of challenges and joys. You’ll find her episodes to be very comforting and entertaining as you realize you’re not alone in the medical journey.

Family Physician is an online magazine by Donna Rivoto for physician families that’s supported by the AMA Alliance. It is chockfull of articles written for YOU.

Kim Blackham, a licensed therapist who specializes her practice solely on medical marriages, also has some free resources. Being married to a surgeon herself, she understands your marital issues and focuses on those issues.

If you are a dude married to a doctor, check out Dads Married To Doctors Facebook Community. There are issues only dudes have and this is the place you can get support.

In Summary

You’re in the tunnel of training. While your life is messy, imperfect, and frazzled now, there’s a ton beauty in it right now, too.

At even during our worst moments of life, remember that as quickly as this residency chapter came, it will also be gone just as quickly. This totally messy, imperfect life that you have is only temporary.

Embrace the good in it like the love in your relationship and the health of your family.

I know for me, for example, our Child #3 may leave a hurricane mess in every room she’s in for any more than 5 minutes. But how she puts her hands on her sassy hips will be gone in a blink. Soon she won’t do that anymore.

In the meanwhile, use your toolbox to get through these hard yet numbered days.

I’m a hugger. I’m hugging and supporting you, friend ❤️

To your strong medical family,



Your Turn

What tips do you have for ME and my readers while going through training?