What you need to know as a non-medical spouse to a surgeon

Combating loneliness as a non-medical spouse to a surgical resident is my current struggle.

I do not just mean the absence of his physical self — which do not get me wrong is frustrating– but the complete absence of his mind when he gets home from a long day at the hospital.

Absolutely no one gave me the proper and direct heads up that I needed as to what it would feel like being a spouse to a doctor. The pure loneliness.

Summer of last year, we moved across country. Although, I was of course extremely excited about his residency match which was a pretty darn good one; I was however petrified for what that meant for us. We had a baby who had not turned one year old yet. We had to pack, find housing, move, transport cars across country, fly across the country and again I was left for the second time to resign from my place of employment and tell colleagues why we had to move. I was simply annoyed with the process. So annoyed that by the time September came around; I found myself crying in the middle of our living room floor, exhausted and lonely.

Sitting in a house, a neighborhood, city, and state that I knew nothing about and frankly did not want to know nothing about. I knew no one. We have no family here. What are we doing here? Oh, that is right! The residency match. I resented moving and making plans that really were not about my life and goals but my husband’s. Not to mention the holidays were approaching and I was missing family and saw that my husband was coming home close to 10 p.m. Tired. Eyes red. There was no conversation between us. This was intern year. I am questioning what did I sign up for? I envisioned a life where my husband was present. Present in body and mind. Present to get up with his wife and son and enjoy a Saturday as a family. Awake enough to sit through, pay attention, and actually enjoy an entire movie.

When you first tell people your spouse is a doctor you are met with comments, “it will be worth it” or “you must be proud” but absolutely no one asks you, the spouse who basically moves the parts along in the background, “how are you holding up?” My sacrifices were not met with cheers and smiley face emojis like his announcement of residency match on social media. It can be disheartening.

Recently, I learned to find solace in completely divulging into myself. Which I assumed I was always doing but because our life changed — I had to now change the way I looked out for myself. My recent trip back home to the East Coast to visit family — I realized that during that visit my family will always be there.

But here I am on the West Coast now with my husband and son and they are indeed my family. Finding my niche and space for me to be me on the west coast is now priority because if I do not, that will be the end for me as a person. How I combat loneliness now is very simple. I do not expect much from him, and there is no disappointment. Currently, I stay-at-home with our toddler and that in itself keeps my day full. I have a son to keep alive and thriving during the day. As a mom, there is no time to be in a slump.

Being open to my husband about how I was feeling lonely in a sense changed our relationship. We both realized that it was not going to end up well if we both did not reassess how we were responding to one another’s needs and wants. We are currently doing that and in a better space. He plans his “golden weekend” better. We both make plans around our son and getting out and about with him. Slow and steady wins the race. Not at all was I prepared for this and if someone told me earlier instead of basic sugar coated congratulatory responses, I would have undoubtedly handled my emotional response differently. We are literally here in it now, and I intend to do what I know will make my family and me happy. The frequent flyer miles to see family back east when I miss them helps too. Needless to say, this is from my perspective as a married woman and mother, couples without children or single doctors may experience different stances in these situations.

My advice for any non-medical spouse getting ready to or in the journey with a medical professional is find someone who will tell you the absolute truth about how your life too will change. Find a friend who you can call and complain to. Try not to complain to your doctor significant other; I learned this as well. They too deal with their fair share of stressors in the hospital, especially as residents. Home is supposed to be a safe haven, not stressful. All in all, be well informed about the entire process and know that if you have signed up for this journey and love the person who decided to devote herself or himself to medicine and caring for others — you are in for a ride.

Megan N. Brown-Vilson can be reached on Instagram @yourbetterhalftomedicine.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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