Practical Advice for Nurturing our Medical Marriages

Practical Advice for Nurturing our Medical Marriages

By April Thorpe


Doctor husbands are like puppy dogs. That got my own doctor husband Matt’s attention a few nights ago, as he was standing at the kitchen counter chopping veggies for our dinner. (Let me pause and say that having Matt home for dinner on a regular basis has only started happening the last two weeks, since he finished his intern year and started his radiology residency.  Normally, I’d be having this conversation in my head while heating up a frozen pizza and pulling up my Netflix queue.) Really, I continued.  A puppy dog who bolts out the front door, digs a huge hole in your lawn and then comes bounding proudly back to you, ready to collect praise and belly rubs for a job well done and doesn’t understand how he instead ended up in time out. The wife is the master who can’t see past the giant hole in her front lawn. Sorry, Matt, I grinned. I guess I just called you a dog. No! He grins back. It’s perfect!

In the almost 11 years that I have been married to a budding doctor, there have been a lot of holes in our front lawn. Actually, that isn’t right. In the 11 years that I have been married to a budding doctor, we have only had a lawn for the last 12 months…

I have a lot of friends who are married to doctors. We flock together out of necessity because our marriages are nothing like those of friends whose husbands have weekends and holidays off and are home every night for dinner. This flock mentality can be very cathartic, but it can also result in a lot of husband bashing. Recently, I heard the wife of a newly minted attending physician complain that her husband was suddenly home a lot more and had become a lot more romantic and attentive. She was having a hard time returning the affection after years and years of feeling like their marriage had been sacrificed for medical training. It might be too late, she said. I wasn’t sure who to feel sorry for. He built his career to provide for his family, he did what needed to be done to give them stability and security, he finally came bounding home and got yelled at for digging a hole. She and her children had been neglected for years and had, understandably, had enough. So what’s the solution?

Anyone who has ever been in a medical marriage knows that trying to talk about the realities and difficulties we face with our non-medical friends and family can sometimes get met with “Boohoo, you’re married to a doctor, go buy some shoes and a beach house and buck up” comments. (I could go off tangentially now on how inaccurate this perception is, but I’ll save that for another blog post in which I take a picture of my giant walk in closet full of doctor wife appropriate yoga pants from Old Navy.)

Fortunately, I have found quite a few resources written just for us (minus the snark):


The Medical Marriage: Sustaining Healthy Relationships for Physicians and Their Families by Wayne and Mary Sotile

The Sotiles run the Sotile Center for Resilience, which focuses on individual and family therapy for physicians and their spouses. Their book examines the unique challenges that medical families face and offers tools and examples to aid in recognizing and easing strain that occurs in these marriages and family relationships.

(Editor’s note – the Sotiles have recently been joined in the “family business” by daughter Julia Sotile, MSW, LCSW, whose first blog post for Physician Family will appear in this space next week. The Sotiles are regular contributors to Physician Family.)


Intimate Relationships in Medical School: How to Make Them Work by Michael F. Myers

Dr. Myers, a psychiatrist and clinician, uses case studies from his own practice to teach medical families to recognize, confront and resolve conflicts.


Surviving Residency: A Medical Spouse Guide to Embracing the Training Years by Kristen Math

Kristen, the founder of, is a fellow doctor’s wife and stay-at-home mom. Her book gives practical advice on parenting, moving for residency, handling finances, and also tackles those feelings of loneliness, lack of control and inadequacy that all medical spouses feel at some point along the way.


At Least You’ll Be Married to a Doctor: Managing Your Intimate Relationship Through Medical School by Jordyn Paradis Hagar

Jordyn uses her experience as a medical school wife as well as her professional clinical background to examine the realities and challenges that medical students face as well as the oft ignored challenges of the medical student’s significant other, and presents a process for creating and maintaining a healthy medical relationship.


Finding Balance in a Medical Life by Lee Lipsenthal, MD

Dr. Lipsenthal helps physicians to analyze their own personalities and gives them tools to manage the stress and burnout that comes with the medical life, while learning to develop and sustain relationships outside of the hospital.

All of these books are readily available on


April Thorpe is the stay-at-home mother of a very precocious future doctor, the master of a rather naughty Havanese puppy dog named Oliver Wendell Holmes, and the wife of Dr. Matthew Thorpe, M.D., PhD., Resident Physician of Radiology at Duke University. Before finding her doctor, April studied Theater Design and Vocal Performance at Brigham Young University and worked as a professional musical theater actress and director. For years during the medical school and graduate school years, she kept herself sane by maintaining a popular book review blog and still gets hounded for recommendations constantly by family and friends. She is currently working on her first novel. Her holey lawn can be found in Durham, North Carolina.

(Editor’s note – Inclusion of information about these books should not be interpreted as an endorsement by Physician Family.)

4 thoughts on “Practical Advice for Nurturing our Medical Marriages

  1. What a wonderful and practical article, April. As a guy, I admit that I can be a “bit” insensitive at times. But, not often. 😉 All kidding aside, this short article can help those who are going thru a “sham peer review” of any type. Medical Malpractice is a bear but a sham peer review with the lack of due process and the fact that the hospital has immunity, is much worse.

  2. Molly O'Holleran says:

    It goes without saying that a healthy marriage is sustainable when both spouses are interdependent. As long as each realizes that happiness is not something provided from others but derived from within oneself, blaming is kept to a minimum. Throughout our 38 years of marriage, Tim and I have aspired to “save our best for each other” one day at a time. The most beautiful gift of all is not measured by material possessions but rather by unconditional love. If you are lucky, each of you will have goals and aspirations of your own that you can share with a supportive spouse.

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  4. I just discovered this site, and this organization, and I couldn’t be happier. This was such a wonderful article, and thank you so much for the book ideas!