Among professions, doctors tend to lead more stressful and hectic lives compared to others. This has been especially true during the past year of the pandemic, with many physicians working more hours and having less time for leisure and family activities. However, it is not a new thought that doctors have a greater chance of being divorced due to the hectic schedules and lack of time at home. I think the extremes of the past year have made this previously held belief appear to be even more of a reality.
Of course, doctors do not represent a high percentage of occupations in our community or the world. If you ask me about small business owners, attorneys, people in sales, or even teachers and their relative divorce rates, I could probably offer you more of an opinion off the top of my head. The reality is that you run into people from other careers getting divorced more often simply because there are more of them than doctors. With that said, given the past year's focus on our health, first responders, and doctors, I think it makes a lot of sense to discuss this topic as we hopefully head towards greater normalcy in the coming year.
Right off the bat, in doing some research on the subject, I discovered that there aren't any studies to suggest that doctors do get divorced more frequently in comparison to other professions. There was even a study done in the British Medical Journal some years ago that suggested doctors have the lowest divorce rate among health care professionals. I know that work-life balance is important to all people and have come to find out that many people interested in medicine choose not to go into this field due to concerns about how practicing medicine would impact their family life. Hopefully, if those are concerns you might have in reading this blog post, you can be comforted in knowing that there is no real proof that doctors get divorced with any more frequency than other people in healthcare.
However, that does not stop anecdotal evidence from impacting you if you are a doctor. You may have colleagues or friends who practice medicine and have been divorced before, sometimes even more than once. As with anything, the more stress placed on marriage, the likelihood of a divorce increases. I would imagine that based on my review of some studies online, the more hours a doctor works, the more likely it will be that they find themselves facing a divorce. Keep in mind that this is not something unique to physicians. However, unfortunately, I find a key reason for divorce in many couples: the lack of a home life due to working excess hours.
Like with any other area of your life, it is important to note that trade-offs are an important part of working as a doctor. Balancing your home life and being a professional is difficult. There are times in your life where you will need to devote more hours to one endeavor than the other. This does not mean that you can't do both well, but it would be stretching the truth to think that spending time on one front will not take away from your ability to perform on the other. As a working parent, I understand that depending upon that time of year, I may have more work than other times.
By the same token, I also understand that there are stages in seasons of my home life where I am needed more at home and, as a result, will need to step away from my work as much as possible to meet the responsibilities of my family. Doctors are largely in the same kind of position. If you are a doctor, you need to have a spouse who understands the tradeoffs inherent in practicing medicine or being willing to shoulder more of the burden at home, depending upon your work responsibilities. Having a spouse who understands your role at work while being appreciative of the sacrifices that you make would seem to be an ideal circumstance.
Do female doctors face divorce more frequently than their male counterparts?
One of the more interesting and informative parts of the studies I have read on this subject relates to the differing divorce rates among male and female doctors. In the British Medical Journal study, I referenced above, female doctors or something like 1 1/2 times more likely to become divorced than male doctors. The study itself does not indicate a specific reason why the researchers believe that this is the case.
My interpretation would relate to women being a crucial component of home life for young children. Female doctors who are needed more at home in some regards than fathers may feel the strain of being tugged in two different directions more acutely than men.
What are some of the main reasons why doctors get divorced?
The reality of the situation is that we may consider doctors a cut above the rest of us in terms of their professional acumen and accomplishments. Still, the reality is that their work is similar to ours in that certain job elements may or may not increase the likelihood of a divorce. The relative importance of the responsibility of being a doctor is extremely high. As a result, I don't think we should completely discount the basic stress and emotional output required to be a doctor compared to other professions.
Certain responsibilities are a part of practicing medicine that cannot be replicated in other fields of work. Surgeons are tasked with safely going inside of their bodies to fix broken parts. If you get nervous when you take your car to the mechanic, consider the extent to which you trust a doctor to perform somewhat similar operations on you and your family if need be. While doctors, I imagine, become acclimated to their jobs' distress, they are called upon to perform vital roles in society. The stress and expectations of these positions can be quite intense. As a result, these expectations and responsibilities can often lead a doctor to be more prone to getting divorced.
Many doctors treat patients in a clinical setting where they have limited face-to-face time with each patient, and then we'll move on to the next person. If you have ever taken your child to a pediatrician, these are the sort of doctors I am referencing. My general impression is that these doctors have an easier time in terms of day-to-day stress levels than doctors who treat mentally ill patients or doctors who perform surgery. There is just a lot more day-to-day in moment-to-moment stress in these roles than a doctor who treats patients over more along gated periods.
The stress and responsibility of treating patients in acute pain would appear to be my cause of divorce based on what I have read and observed in physicians. Not only is the work difficult, but it is emotionally taxing due to the investment that these doctors make in each of their patients daily. When you go to the doctor for high blood pressure and receive advice in a prescription for medication, you are dealing with a different set of circumstances than if you go in to see a doctor in need of open-heart surgery. Each way of practicing medicine would require a different mindset and, therefore, may tax each sort of position in different ways.
Another consideration that I would offer towards answering why doctors may get divorced more frequently is if a doctor got married before graduating from medical school. There can be a tremendous transition to graduating from medical school and then actually beginning to practice medicine. The levels of stress change, the responsibilities change, and your income will change as well. Sometimes getting caught up in this transition or find a doctor and their spouse being on different emotional wavelengths and not connecting as they did during medical school. If you are a person reading this blog post who finds himself on the cusp of graduation from medical school, then I would recommend doing your best to make sure that you are emotionally available to your spouse so that you all will not lose a connection as you transition into a professional atmosphere.
Having a support system is important for any person who goes through a divorce. I can't tell you how often I get to see firsthand the difficulties people face in a divorce when they have no one to turn to for advice or even a friendly conversation. It could be that you lean on your friends or family members as your support system. Whoever is going through a divorce without a safety net of help can be a recipe for disaster. I will always recommend that clients not hesitate to lean on their social circle as heavily as need be during a divorce. These are the people that can pick you up and help you when you need it the most.
Medical school students and recent graduates are young enough to center their social circle around their parents. I would be interested to see the correlation between having intact family units in the rates of successful completion of medical school. I would wager that people who come from intact families tend to succeed more often than not in medical school than students who come from homes where divorce has occurred.
This means that if you are facing divorce, you need to surround yourself with people you can trust and that will be there for you when you need them the most. On the other hand, if you are a doctor who is trying your best to avoid divorce, then you need to make sure that you are focusing heavily on your marriage while also doing what is necessary to set up a safety net for yourself as far as family, friends and even counselors who are willing to help you sort out any problems in your marriage.
Another factor that I think plays into physician divorce is the unwillingness to accept a problem instead of pushing ahead without considering the impacts on your family. In many ways, doctors are like attorneys because they are people whose job is to solve other people's problems. Due to this heavy responsibility, doctors can feel like they don't have an opportunity to ask for help because others are asking for help from them. I want to emphasize that people are willing to listen and lend a hand if you need help.
Divorce is not inevitable. It seems like for many doctors, and the feeling is that if they grew up around divorce and see their peers getting divorced, merely letting the thought into their minds that a divorce may be on the horizon means that they, 2, will be getting divorced. From experience, I can tell you that even people who begin a divorce case can ultimately avoid divorce if they and their spouse are willing to work through their problems and communicate their differences to one another.
Oftentimes this means seeking out the help of a skilled counselor or therapist or merely taking more time to discuss their problems with one another. Either way, I want to emphasize that it is not uncommon to be angry or upset when under a great deal of stress at work or home. Sometimes expressing this anger can be therapeutic and even helpful for a relationship. However, this is typically true when expressions of anger also sing in the context of other honest dialogue. If the only honest dialogue you have with your spouse at the moment is surrounding your anger towards one another, then you may be on the fast track for divorce.
What should you focus on if you are a doctor who was getting divorced?
The foregoing information in today's blog post centered around what you could do as a physician to avoid getting divorced. However, if you are confident that a divorce is occurring in your home and that there is no way to avoid it, then there are some issues that I think doctors need to focus on in their case. First and foremost, if you have children, your kids need to be the center of your divorce. You may feel like your relationship with your kids will always be there in that nothing could harm that special bond. That may be true in many ways, but you still want to devote more attention to your kids than anything else.
Do not lose sight that Visitation and possession orders are crucial for a doctor like yourself who may have an uneven or unpredictable schedule. You want to make sure to negotiate and think through any settlement terms in these areas since you will be responsible for upholding them in your post-divorce life. Simply agreeing to a Visitation structure because it is easy or presented to you early in your spouse's divorce is not a good idea.
Additionally, you should consider what a divorce could mean to a medical practice if you own one. Medical practices can potentially be like any other part of your community estate. They are subject to valuation and ultimately division in the divorce. As a result, he will want to work with an attorney who has experience helping people with wealth and business ownership get divorce successfully in our state. Depending upon the specific circumstances of your case, you and your spouse may need to pay particular attention to how your business is valued, whether or not you want to divide it in the divorce and what will need to be substituted for the value of your business if you are to retain all of it in the split.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material in today's blog post; please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family circumstances relate to the law in our state.