The #1 Best Way Resident Physicians Can Thwart Medspouse Resentment

Thwarting resentment is a challenge for many spouses and partners of physicians, particularly those in residency. It can stem from the demanding schedules, long hours, and emotional exhaustion that come with life in medicine. Over time, resentment can build up, leading to feelings of frustration, neglect, and isolation. Unaddressed, medspouse resentment can erode the foundation of even the strongest relationships, causing emotional distance, frequent conflicts, and a breakdown in communication.

Luckily, most resentment can be mitigated with one thing: Communication

In physician families, communication is absolutely crucial. The demanding schedule of a resident physician can create more than enough opportunities for misunderstandings and unmet expectations. Open, honest communication helps bridge the gap between the world of medicine and the home life you both cherish. 

Here are some practical ways resident physicians can use communication to prevent resentment and foster a healthy, supportive relationship. (If you’re a resident or their spouse or partner, sharing this guide can be an excellent way to initiate a conversation and learn together. If this article has been shared with you, the sender has sent it with loving intentions, hoping to thwart or improve your relationship.)

Short Term Plans (Communicate Monthly):

Make sure your spouse or partner is aware of your upcoming schedule, including months where you’ll have longer hours, challenging rotations, and any planned time off. This transparency helps them prepare mentally and logistically for the demands ahead.

Current Schedule (Communicate Daily):

It takes less than 5 minutes TOTAL each day to update your spouse or partner on your schedule. Let them know if you’ll be late, on time, or if there are any changes. Ask about their day and discuss how you can help with any responsibilities, especially if you have children. This daily check-in ensures you both stay connected despite your busy lives.

Your Plan to Help (Communicate Monthly/By Rotation):

Despite the exhaustion from residency, you still have responsibilities at home. Agree on manageable tasks you can commit to, like taking out the trash or doing the dishes. If certain rotations make these tasks impossible, have a conversation about how to handle this and when things will return to normal. This proactive approach shows your partner that you’re committed to sharing the load, even when it’s tough.

Your Feelings (Communicate Regularly):

Bottling up your feelings is never beneficial. Share your emotions and challenges with your spouse or partner, who is your main source of emotional support. Be open and vulnerable about your struggles and practice good conflict resolution by avoiding absolutes like “always” and “never.” Honest communication about your feelings fosters intimacy and understanding.

Spouse/Partner’s Feelings (Communicate Regularly):

Regularly check in on your spouse or partner’s feelings. They might hesitate to burden you with their concerns, so ask thoughtful questions and truly listen to their responses. Pay attention to their tone and body language, which might reveal more than their words. Showing genuine interest in their well-being builds a stronger, more empathetic connection.

Understanding (Communicate Regularly):

Recognize the significant sacrifices your spouse or partner makes by being with you, especially knowing they often come second to your patients. Understand that their feelings are valid, especially when you’re late or miss responsibilities. Instead of becoming defensive, try to empathize and make necessary changes to support their needs. Your understanding can help ease their emotional burden.

Encouragement (Communicate Regularly):

It’s easy for your spouse or partner to lose themselves in the role of supporting you. Encourage them to pursue their dreams and interests. If you have children, ensure your partner gets time for self-care by taking over childcare responsibilities periodically without increasing their mental load and needing detailed instructions. This shows you’re equally involved and considerate of their well-being. Supporting their personal growth can strengthen your partnership.

Appreciation (Communicate & Express Regularly):

Acknowledge and thank your spouse or partner for their sacrifices, support, and understanding. Expressing gratitude regularly, whether by words or actions, reinforces their importance in your life and helps them feel valued. Simple acts of appreciation can go a long way in maintaining a positive and supportive relationship.

Long Term Plans (Communicate Quarterly)

If you’re considering significant changes, like pursuing a fellowship, moving to a different state, or switching specialties, communicate these feelings early. Discuss these plans openly so you can both be on the same page and make informed decisions together.

Implementing these communication strategies and showing consistent support and appreciation, can help resident physicians mitigate and decrease medspouse resentment in their relationships. It’s about making small, meaningful efforts that demonstrate your commitment to your partner and acknowledging the challenges you both face. By working together and communicating effectively, you can navigate the journey of medicine with a stronger, more understanding relationship.

How To Manage Feelings of Resentment As A Doctor’s Spouse or Partner

Orthopedic Surgery Residency: A MedSpouse Perspective

Having Kids During Residency and Beyond


  • Elizabeth Landry

    Elizabeth is a Physician family advocate, Certified Life Coach for Physician Wives, EM wife of 20+ years, mother, and Founder of The MedCommons – a marriage between her tech/business dev background and passion for helping physician families.

    View all posts

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