Tonight my husband and I will be going to evening organized by medical students which is designed to give them a glimpse into “life after med school”. Yep, couple of all combinations and types will be present to talk about their lives and answer questions from the point of view of the physician and the physician’s “significant other”. I remember going to this event as a medical student. I found it very interesting and at times, inspiring. At the time, I classified couples into “old-fashioned” (i.e. wife at home and husband working as a doctor) and “modern” (every other combo in which the woman worked). This was a very simplified view of relationships. My personal goals at that time were to become a dedicated physician, get married, and become a mother (in that order).
I remember one couple who had shared a 50 year marriage and appeared to be as far from my goals as possible. He was a prominent physician clinically and academically and she had supported him through his training, providing a home and raising their 4 children. I remember thinking they were distinctly “old-fashioned”. But something about their obvious love and gentleness toward each other struck me. Both of them always referred to their experiences together using the pronoun “we”. As in, when “we were in medical school” and when “we were choosing a residency”. How beautiful is that? One person attaining goals outside the family but 2 people working to obtain them. I think this simple use of language really conveyed why their marriage and life together has been so happy. They truly respected each other’s role within their family. She described the time that he arrived home with a surprise present for her because he realized that he had not been home to help with supper and bedtime in over a week. And he described a time she surprised him by showing up at the hospital with their baby and some home-cooked supper for him when he had not been home for 36 hours. They did not speak of resentment about the other not helping/understanding/respecting what they did. They spoke only of mutual respect, love, and understanding for one another.
At the time, I did not understand the lesson. I scoffed at the use “we”. I thought, come one “I” am in medical school, this is “my” thing. Yes, yes, I was young and headstrong, with strong views of how the world and my life “should” be.
This is our second year attending this event. We were asked last year because someone who knows me told the med student in charge of organizing that I would be “candid” and “tell it like it is”. My husband and I fall into the “2 physician couple” category. There are always lots of those because you are of the marrying age when you are in medical school, so who else do you meet? I wish we could be the inspiring couple that I remember, but that is not who we are.
Too often, I tit-for-tat in my head. I think about how I am the one who plans every weekday meal whether I work in the OR that day or not. I think about how he is constantly arriving home later than he says he will be and how I usually have to serve supper and meet the needs of 3 tired little ones alone each evening. The two of us have had so many opportunities offered to us in our work lives that we are very busy with our professions. Often, we have the same opportunities offered. And too often, we say yes. Or he says yes, and then I resent it because I feel like I have to say no because we BOTH can’t be at late meetings all the time. We are still negotiating this 2-physicians, 3-children life that we have created. And it IS beautiful, and also challenging, and sometimes downright hard. But this afternoon, thinking about that lovely couple from years ago, I realize that even though our lives are different from their lives, they have many lessons to teach us. Our lives may be different but perhaps our marriage could be similar. Perhaps if we looked at each other’s accomplishments and goals as our OWN accomplishments and goals we could be happier, more understanding, and less resentful. Hmmmm….I am going to give this a try.
What an amazing reminder to show compassion towards the people we share our lives with, especially if we hope to that life for a long time, like maybe forever.
Perhaps in the future, my husband and I can be inspiring in our way….if we get invited back.