Sometimes We Need to Walk in our Spouse’s Shoes Before we Can Truly Understand Them

When I first told my mother that her son-in-law aka my husband was leaving his medical practice- she looked at me like I just asked her if she wanted a hit of a crack pipe. And to be perfectly honest that was the reaction I got from many people.  Most of those people then followed up their incredulous looks with, ” Well, you’re not going to let him leave- right?” And the truth is when he initially told me he wanted to leave that was my gut reaction, “You can’t leave. We have expenses, we have kids, we have a mortgage.” It’s not that I looked at him as a meal ticket- it was more that I looked at him and saw so many years of medical school, residencies, internships and fellowships just being tossed aside.


Sometimes We Need to Walk in our Spouse's Shoes Before we Can Truly Understand Them

I looked at him and thought, how can he possibly walk away from something that he spent so much of his life invested in?

In the beginning I really did think he was just burnt out. I thought 25 years of practicing medicine, in a field that had undergone such massive changes- did warrant a respite. Of course several months in a few people, still stunned by his decision, said to me: “You’re going to give him an ultimatum and make him go back- right? I mean this is not what you signed up for, right?”

And in a sense they were right. I got married thinking that I’d be with a man who worked as a physician. That he’d be donning that white coat and strutting through the halls of his hospital into his ripe old eighties. I actually couldn’t conceive of him doing anything else. It was like he was born to be a doctor; he was a well of information- and his stoic personality and laser sharp focus and ability to detach himself emotionally were just nails in his medical persona. In many ways being a physician was his identity. And yet the cloud of malpractice was like a noose tightening around his neck. The fear of being sued for just doing his job, to the best of his ability, completely paralyzed him. A few times he thought he was having chest pains- we rushed him to the ER. He couldn’t sleep and there were moments when he confessed while driving to work he contemplated driving his car off the bridge.

Having never been in a position where I was being questioned about my abilities- I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t just POWER THROUGH the fear. Just section it off to another part of his brain while he did his job. Why couldn’t he be LIKE EVERY OTHER DOCTOR who each day can potentially be sued for doing their job. But I guess there are some personality types that can’t handle that kind of pressure.

I was not very understanding of it- but of course I wanted my husband to feel relief. I didn’t want him to suffer so I accepted his decision and our marriage has endured the repercussions of his professional decision.

And then a few weeks ago I get a letter from an attorney that I am being potentially sued for using a photo that I didn’t have permission for- the  short story is that the photo was sent to me by a publicist- and it was done so in the context of a celebrity modeling her client’s product. I assumed that automatically meant it was her client’s photo and I used it. NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING  is what I am learning now. But more than anything this lawsuit threat that is enveloping  me like a thick fog has in a sense paralyzed me.. it has made me fearful of everything. It has made me question everything.  My husband’s fears, now that I’ve experienced just an iota of them ( my getting sued for using an unauthorized image is far less daunting and costly than being sued for the perceived mismanagement of someone’s health and gd forbid their very life), have made me look at his decision with an entirely new perspective.

I get it now. And it makes me so sad for him, that he can’t do what he loves. That he felt each day when he went in to do his job- there was the potential of having everything he’s worked so hard for taken away from him. I understand it in a way I didn’t before and I am ashamed at myself for not being more sympathetic — I guess sometimes we need to walk in our spouse’s shoes before we can truly understand them.


  1. Jessica @EatSleepBe says

    Great post and such an interesting perspective. On a side note, I am so sorry to hear about the potential lawsuit.

  2. says

    You know, I am way more stunned be people saying things like “you’re not going to LET him…” and “you should give him an ultimatum” than I am by your spouse’s decision to change careers. What sort of marriages do they have, anyway? Good for you for supporting him in a difficult decision! I know plenty of doctors who are miserable due to their working conditions – no autonomy, an increasing pressure toward specialization within fields, no control whatsoever over their work schedules, the threat of lawsuits. He’s not alone.

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