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The Doctor is Out: Managing Resentment as a Medical Wife

The doctor is out! Your student is gone or unavailable most of the day, and when they are available they are doing flash cards or seem distant because they are thinking through all the things they need to get done. Their day consists of studying, lectures, labs, and then the occasional potty/food break. Now, what about you? All our situations are different, but all those responsibilities that you and your significant other used to share have now all been put on your plate. You feel like you never get to see them anymore. For many of us, we assume that our student is going non stop, so we should too, right? We feel like we are burnt out from all our responsibilities that we now take care of, be it work, child care, keeping the house together, making food, etc. Our list seems endless! You start to feel alone and burnt out. Then you try to remind yourself that your student has a lot on their plate too. But then the thought creeps into your mind: this isn’t what I thought I signed up for when I entered this relationship. We were supposed to be partners, a team. Instead you might feel like a mother/caregiver/housekeeper for your student. The resentment starts to creep in, for one reason or another. But how do we move forward?

First thing to do is communicate! But we can’t just walk over to them and start talking, you have to plan it. Plan for communication. Text them and ask if they have 20 minutes sometime in their schedule. Plan it for after a Friday test. Whatever you have to do, plan for communication. Once you have a plan, tell them you are starting to resent them, that you know that medical school is hard and demanding, and that you are not asking for them to do everything. Start small, and see if it works. Communicate again and see if you need to reassess. They can help! The single students do everything on their own, so your student has time to do something. During our first year, my husband and I decided that his “anti resentment” chore would be to take the trash to the curb. He would miss a week every now and again, but that was fine, we didn’t have much trash. Then I started to realize that I still felt resentment towards him. I still felt like I was doing everything, and he was getting a 15 minute break every so often, whereas I was continually overwhelmed by my never ending to-do list. So, we set a plan to communicate and reassess. I realized he needed a more daily “anti resentment” chore that would make me feel like I wasn’t doing this alone, and that it was possible to get the rest of my to-do list done. Now he does the dishes as well as take the trash to the curb. There will be times where I will do it because he has a really hard test and it doesn’t seem too overwhelming for me at the time. But he knows that the expectation is that he does the dishes most of the time. We already have a plan to reassess our anti resentment chores for when we welcome our first child in December.

Chores weren’t the only thing that had me resenting my student though. Yes I felt overwhelmed, but I also felt like I wasn’t married anymore. My love language is predominantly quality time, so the sudden lack of that made me feel unloved and forgotten. Again, we planned to communicate and figure out what we could do. He felt his schedule was too unpredictable to have a guaranteed date night every week, so we instead would plan for a date whenever he had a Friday test. We also decided that whenever he had some unexpected time he would let me know, or I would let him know that I was needing some time so that way he could be aware and we could move forward from there.

Your resentment may not come from feeling like a mother instead of a partner, it may not come from feeling like you have no time with them. Resentment can come about for so many different reasons. The main thing here is to help each other realize what is really a priority and to find balance. Your first priority should be each other. Then figure out how to balance your lives together. Some students need more time to study than others, so their load is heavier. Acknowledge that your situation will be different from other significant others experiences, and don’t compare your journey. Keep communicating, and figure out what works for you. -Selina Hoffman

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