MedSpouse In A Rut? Here’s How To Get Out

What can send a medspouse into a rut faster than a new resident can put on their long, white coat?  


Maybe it’s the never-ending quest to find balance while working with an ever-changing physician’s schedule. It could be that empty feeling one gets after a successful career becomes too hard to juggle with a family & unpredictable physician hours. Perhaps you have this internal conflict between loving the support you’re able to provide to your dr. spouse and secretly longing for some ‘main character’ energy. No matter the situation, know that most seasoned medspouses have been in these ruts and a high percentage have successfully found their way out.

There are many changes you can make to live a life that feels more authentic and meaningful to you. The path out requires reflecting on how you got where you are and determining what you truly want out of life. 

If you’re looking for help getting out of a rut as a medspouse or partner, here are a couple of things to consider before you get started. 

  1. Time + Effort = Results. It may not have been immediately apparent, but it took some time to reach this point. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you won’t get out of this rut in a day, either. It’s necessary to dedicate some time to self-reflection and do the internal work necessary to facilitate the changes you’re trying to make. If you follow through, you’ll find the answers you’re seeking.
  2. This isn’t a plan to make your spouse or your kids happy. Of course you’ll include them when considering what’s ultimately best for you; however, at the end of the day, this exercise is about you and what makes you happy.  
TIP: If focusing attention on yourself instead of everyone else has historically made you feel “selfish”, give this a read. Being selfish isn’t such a bad thing. Ultimately, you’re doing work that’s in everyone’s best interest.

Now, let’s get you started.

Is This A Rut or Could It Be Something Else? 

According to the Oxford Languages Dictionary, a rut is a “ habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.” 

Associated feelings may be:

  1. Lack of enthusiasm or motivation to do things you used to feel passionate about.
  2. Lack of inspiration and finding yourself struggling to come up with new ideas or feeling uninspired in your work or personal projects.
  3. Feeling bored and unengaged with the things you’re doing.
  4. Lack of progress in your personal or professional goals. 
  5. Feeling negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, jealousy, or frustration. 
  6. You’d rather spend time alone than with friends or family.

It’s important to note that some of the feelings of being in a rut also overlap with clinical depression. If you think your feelings are heavier and deeper than a ‘rut’, seek help from a therapist. Some things we simply cannot improve on our own. We need professionals, and sometimes medication, to help. 

Get Acquainted with Your Feelings

Clearing distractions and just being ‘with’ yourself can go a long way to finding you again. It’s hard to find a sliver of time for yourself, especially as a medspouse. We promise, though. If you can make it a priority, you’ll be amazed at what you can learn about yourself when you turn off the outside noises and just ‘be’, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day. 

TIP:  Use times when you’re driving, doing the dishes, or taking a shower, as an opportunity to turn off the noise and practice some self-care. (Yes, self-care also means taking the time to reflect on who you are and who you want to be!)

So how do you do this? How do you get acquainted with yourself and your feelings? Depending on your personality, you can do the following exercise in one of two ways. 

One is to simply make a list of each of the bullets, then answer them individually. Whether you put the questions on a sticky note to make sure you think about them the next time you’re in the car, or you sit with each specifically while you journal, take the time necessary to dig deep. This will provide more clarity in order to create your plan.

Another idea is to read through the list, then practice something similar to Morning Pages-style writing. If you’re not familiar with Morning Pages and The Artist’s Way, the rule is that there aren’t any rules. Just start writing. Simply drop your thoughts on the page and see where it takes you. Write one, two, or three pages. The beauty of this style is that the fluidity gives you permission to just get thoughts on paper. No punctuation. No making sense. Solely your thoughts on paper. 

Be careful not to get yourself stuck in either of these processes. Take a deep breath and let the thoughts flow. This is the beginning of your journey to self-awareness and self-improvement. 

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. What am I feeling? If you’re having trouble putting words to feelings, print a feelings wheel and sit with it. Begin in the middle with the most simple feeling and then work towards the outermost part of the circle to drill down on what it is that you’re actually feeling.
  2. How deep are these feelings? Sometimes these feelings may feel like a simple itch that needs to be scratched. Some may feel deeper than surface level, like a broken bone that needs a cast and time to heal. Determine where you are with these feelings and how truly deep they go.
  3. In what areas of my life do these feelings show up? Things may be great at work but your home life may be a whole different story. Taking note and determining what areas of your life aren’t meeting your needs is a key step in figuring out what steps need to be taken to get out of your rut. 

Here are some areas in your life where satisfaction is important to feeling happy. Assign a life satisfaction number between 1-10 (10 being the highest satisfaction) to each of the following areas to identify which areas need some improvement. If an area doesn’t rank a 10, take some notes and put feelings to those areas. 

SocialEnvironmentPhysical Wellbeing
Mental WellbeingEmotional WellbeingSpiritual Wellbeing

Going through this exercise might also involve thinking about your values, your passions, and the things that bring you the most joy and fulfillment. Once you have a better understanding of what you’re looking for in certain areas of your life, you can start to make a plan for how to make it a reality.

TIP: If you’re seeking more clarity, print out 9 feeling wheel pages. Use one page for each area in your life to help you get more specific with how you’re feeling. 

Talk About It

Once you’ve determined the source(s) of the problem, you may find that it’s not something you can (or want to) tackle alone. Take advantage of those who have your best interest at heart and bounce your thoughts and ideas off your partner, a friend, or your therapist. Many times the back and forth of those conversations can help you learn more about yourself and how you’re really feeling. 

A word of caution for those of us who tend to navigate away from hard conversations. Don’t let the need to have a ‘courageous conversation’ kill your progress or your goals. 

What is a ‘courageous conversation’ you ask? It’s an uncomfortable conversation you wish to avoid at all costs and still initiate it anyway.

Courageous conversations with a loved one take time, preparation, and energy. Prioritizing your goal and thinking through your approach to them will help you move more smoothly through this process instead of stalling when things begin to feel uncomfortable. 

Whether it’s with a loved one or an internal dialogue, realize you may need to have these types of conversations to get past what’s keeping you in this rut. The goal is to move forward, not to go backward. Beating yourself, or your loved one, up over what’s happened in the past will only leave you stuck.  Having conversations in a loving, goal-oriented way will; however, keep you headed in the right direction. 

Make A Plan

As you work through this process, areas of your life where you feel stuck will begin to unfold. This is when you begin to develop your plan to get out of your rut. Without a plan, there is no progress. 

By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail.

Benjamin Franklin

Do yourself a favor and start small. This might involve setting specific, measurable goals and working towards them on a regular basis. It can also involve something like making simple changes to your daily habits and routines, such as incorporating more time for self-care or hobbies that you enjoy.

The first steps in a plan for a stay-at-home medspouse who misses their career may look like this:

  1. Think about the pros and cons of working in or out of the home. What makes me feel good to think about and what makes me feel stressed? 
  2. Talk to my spouse to make sure he/she understands how I feel. Maybe he/she can help.
  3. Instead of turning on a podcast in my quiet time, start taking that time to think about myself and what kind of things light me up. 
  4. Quickly work through the Ikigai process to get a feel for what I may like.
  5. Determine next steps. Include timeframe. 

This medspouse’s next step might include researching those ideas to see if they’re even feasible. Research can be time-consuming; therefore, the next steps should stay simple and underwhelming.  Here’s what that may look like: 

  1. Take the next two weeks to research my ideas and their feasibility.
  2. Make a dinner date two weeks from now to chat with my partner about what I found and how I feel.
  3. Determine next steps.

Those two weeks of research could have yielded minimal results, but it’s important to switch things up and continue testing new routes. Don’t worry, you’ll slowly see the results of your hard work. Keep the steps small and continue with your momentum. Even the smallest movement forward can improve how you feel.

Your last step should always include “determine next steps” until the day you look up to find yourself out of your rut! Be patient and celebrate small wins and progress along the way. This process takes time and effort and nothing about it has to be perfect. 

TIP: Rather than allowing yourself to be consumed by feelings of overwhelm or frustration with this experience, use it as a chance to practice gratitude. Honor it as an opportunity for self-care, self-reflection, and self-improvement. 

Final Thoughts

Remember, an important aspect of making changes in your life is to surround yourself with positive, supportive people. This might involve finding a supportive community of like-minded individuals such as other medspouses in your area, or simply reaching out to friends and family who can provide guidance and support as you navigate the changes you’re making.

Be open to new experiences and opportunities. Sometimes, the things we think we want are not what will truly bring us fulfillment and happiness. Try new things, meet new people, and embrace new opportunities that come your way.

If you ever feel stuck and unsure of how to move forward, consider seeking the help of a therapist or counselor. They can provide valuable insight and guidance as you work through your feelings and explore new ways of living.

It’s important to remember that no one else can live your life for you. You are the only person who truly knows what will make you happy and fulfilled when you’re living life as a medspouse. Trust yourself and your instincts as you make changes and work towards a more authentic and meaningful way of life.

  • 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.

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