swinging girl around on the berach

Anytime I do a Q&A with you guys, one of the most frequently asked questions is always about advice being married to a medical student/resident/fellow/doctor. Hint: for some of the rest, check out my FAQ page!

I’m always so surprised, yet when I recently shared this post I realized that so many of you guys are in the same position with your significant other. Furthermore – many of you ARE the MD and have said that I help you understand how your partner feels. Hats off to those smarty pants. You go Glen Coco!

I always strayed from the topic because I was worried that I would sound like I was just complaining, but a reader had the great suggestion to make it more of a “how to stay busy when your partner is away 90% of the time.”  I thought, now THAT I can do.

We took some of these dreamy beach photos with Abbi Cooley in July, and I’m so excited to share them with you guys. There will be a second part sharing the rest of the photos we took (and when I got tackled by enormous/aggressive waves not once, not twice… but three times).  I thought these photos would be perfect for this post that I’ve been wanting to share.

SO, all that to say… scroll down for my tips for being married to someone who’s an MD. Fun Fact: I’m actually the daughter, sister, sister-in-law and wife of doctors… so I’ve learned from some of the strong women in my family too. And I would think what I’m sharing below applies to anyone whose partner works a lot.

couples shoot in the oceanorange county couples shootyellow yumi kim maxi wrap dresslisi lerch white earringscarrie bradshaw liednewport beach couples shootnewport beach couples shootyumi kim yellow maxi wrap dresschristian and kathleen barnescouples shoot on the beachblack and white couples beach shootguy twirling girl on the beachyellow maxi wrap dresscouples anniversary beach shoot

Photos by Abbi Cooley

 

dress available here and here (also styled in this post) | earrings | Christian’s shirt | shorts

1.  Find a job or hobby you’re passionate about.

Their job and the health of their patients is going to come first, so your life will be more fulfilled if you’re passionate about your own career. If that’s not the case, picking up an exercise/running hobby, perfecting your cooking skills or learning a new craft (calligraphy, painting, learn a language, learn photography, etc.) are some suggestions.

Maybe this hobby is a Bravo! or Netflix marathon… I’m not judging. #Youdoyou.

2.  Keep it moving.

In our house, Christian would much rather me keep things moving and live my life than wait around on him. He can easily get caught up at the hospital – most recently when my parents were in town he didn’t get home until 1AM. So go ahead and cook dinner, and leave him a plate in the microwave.  Go to the musical or movie solo (the lights go out and you can’t talk anyway – who cares if you’re alone?). Walk the dog without him. You get the drift. Sometimes a spouse can feel pressured to not let you down when they know you are waiting but their schedule is out of their control. C always knows I would rather him be present, but when he can’t be, he wants me to have fun without him.

I’ve always been independent and after a being a med school girlfriend for four years and a resident wife for five years, I’ve become even more independent. I call AAA my boyfriend.

3.  Make the home a peaceful place.

I always try to have the house tidy and clean by 5PM (my mom always did this for my dad), and if I’m really good – the kitchen is brewing with good smells or a candle is lit.  I want Christian to look forward to coming home to a quiet, relaxing house rather than feel like he’s leaving one hectic place for another.

When I work crazy hours and come home to this scenario – it’s the best!

4.  Share how proud you are of them.  And when they’re exhausted… remind them that their patients don’t want to be there either.

Of course your partner knows you love them and are proud of their commitment to helping others… but a reminder doesn’t hurt. And when they’re exhausted and feeling snippy, remind them that their patients don’t want to be at the hospital either. They would much rather be… pretty much anywhere else.  My father-in-law told Christian this and he continues to say it was one of the best pieces of advice!

5.  Respect their sleep.

Growing up, my mom made it very well known that 9:50PM was last call on loud noises or incoming phone calls. My dad is like a fine-tuned robot – in the bed at 9:30PM and lights out at 10PM. We had an upstairs phone line for the kids because anyone who knew our family knew that calls on the downstairs line after 10PM were no bueno.  Procedures are often scheduled crazy early in the morning, and my mom was majorly protective of my dad’s sleep.

At the time I was like… ok everyone relax! But now I totally get it. Christian’s hours are very intense and he is operating on patients in both scheduled surgeries and emergency room scenarios, so when he has the opportunity to sleep, he needs to take it. Buy your partner a silk eye mask and if you’re a late night TV watcher, invest in some wireless headphones.

I try to put lavender essential oil on his feet, but he draws the line!

I’m by no means saying we have a perfect marriage or that there aren’t times that I feel lonely or jealous of my friends whose partners are around more often… but these are just some of the things that work for us!

Do you have any tips for being married to an MD or partner who works crazy hours? I’d love to hear. Thank you so much for reading and as always, if there are posts you’d like to see I love getting your feedback! XO –

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70 thoughts on “5 Tips for Being Married to an MD

  1. Love the black & white photo of the two of you. You will treasure these. You sound like a very carrying spouse and i wish both of you the best in the years to come. Hugs, peggy

  2. I’m an ObGYN resident, and marrying another resident. one of the best pieces of advice, like you talked about it, is don’t wait for the other person. it ends up with the non-resident partner being resentful (and hungry), and then you start out on a bad foot the second they walk in the door. typically we get home around the same time, but there are times i’m stuck doing a consult, and my fiance will just eat and i’ll eat when i get home. it’s nice to eat together, but it’s nicer to just eat 😉

    1. Fran! First of all cheers to you and your super smart fiancé. I totally feel you. Christian gets anxiety if he knows I’m waiting on him and I don’t want to rush him so I try to just keep it moving and he will join me when he can. I feel like everyone is happier that way!

  3. My fiance is in consulting and he is gone for weeks at a time, his current project is taking him around the world. When he gets home from a 2 week trip I know that he’ll have a little energy when he first walks in then he crashes. I try to keep the fridge stocked with snacks he’ll eat and make his favorite meal when he first comes home. Oh, and I always keep the washing machine open for him! haha, still trying to figure it all out! But these are great tips!

    xo, Sarah

  4. tHIS WAS THE BLOG POST I NEEDED TO SEE TODAY. MY BOYFRIEND OF 5 YEARS WORKS IN THE OIL INDUSTRY STATES AWAY. HE WORKS 2 WEEKS ON AND FLIES HOME FOR HIS WEEK OFF, BUT WE HAVE VERY LITTLE COMMUNICATION DURING THOSE TWO WEEKS THAT HE IS WORKING. IT IS TOUGH SOMETIMES! THIS LIST IS A GREAT REMINDER OF SOME OF THE THINGS I ALREADY KNEW TO DO, BUT NEED TO IMPLEMENT MORE!

    THANKS FOR SHARING THIS WITH US!

    i LOVE ALL OF THE PICTURES, SO ROMANTIC!

    1. Oh wow – that is such an intense schedule! You must be a very independent woman to maintain everything – sounds like your boyfriend is lucky to have you!

  5. Amen to all the above (especially respect the sleep!)… days away from meeting our first babe and I think going into motherhood knowing it’s A lot on Mama (because it’s not like daddy can peace out and leave patients To pick her up if she’s sick) is going to be important too. My own career has been to keeping my sanity. Keeping the house tidy, stocked with favorite foods, and peaceful also is key. You hit The nail on the head, girl!

  6. Wow, Kat! These photos of you and your hubby are absolutely STUNNING!!! You can really feel the love between you two. cheers to you for being such a strong and independent woman; it’s very admirable and I love your approach for keeping it moving. This is great advice for all married couples!

  7. I’M not a wife of an md but this such great and especially SWeet advice. C is lUcky to have have you and oTher way around as neither one of your roles is easy. Absolutely stunning pictures too!

  8. This is so good. My husband and i got married Three months before he started medicAl school. He is now in his fourth year. Medical schooL isnt easy and the career in whole isnt for the faint of heart. Being independent and being able to continue With your life while they are working is a huge component in making things work. Thanks for the post. Love your stuff.

  9. First off, these photos are stunning! I’m the reader that suggested this post!! I feel so honored to be mentioned on your blog 🙂 On a more serious note, I relate to this post so much. My husband plays baseball for a living and is doing 12 hour days from February-October (yay offseason!) and you hit the nail on the head with their sleep! These guys have to perform in one way or another and getting adequate sleep is so important for them. We actually rent an apartment during the season where one of the bedrooms has no windows so he can sleep well into the morning (we’re on that night game schedule). And I figured out not to wait around this year and it was so much better. He doesn’t feel guilty and i get to do what I want on my own time. I tell him I’m proud of him as often as I can and you can see on his face how much it means to him. I’m still figuring out a hobby to love but the player wives do a lot of community and charity events through the team that keep us busy. I can definitely improve on the homefront – i cook all the time and clean, but I forget the candles! He would love that.

    All in all, I really think it takes a strong woman to handle a husband with this demanding of a job. I’m always in awe of the mothers in our lifestyle who do so much on their own. It really does help to read this. Just to hear how other people make it work, too. I have a lot to be thankful for so keeping myself in a good state of mind through the loneliness is essential. Thanks Kathleen!!

    1. MELISSA! Yes you did provide the “how to stay busy” angle and you are brilliant! Even more brilliant are all of these incredible tips. Being an athlete’s wife is an entirely different beast and you sound like a great and level-headed partner. How lucky is he! I so appreciate your tips and I definitely could tell Christian how proud I am of him more often. Thank you for sharing all of this Melissa!

  10. I enjoyed your article! But what advice would You have when both spOuses are busy (i am a CFO and hubby is a doctor)? Oh, and i am in grad School as if we don’t have enough on our plates 🙂

  11. i loved this, kathleeN! my sister told me to start following you because my husband is PGY2 ophthalmology. sometimes it’s a little daunting to think how far there is to go, but we’ve also come so far!! we got married right before medical school, so it’s been a journey 🙂

    love these tips – the “don’t wait” one has been huge for us the past couple of years. telling him i’m proud and also reminding him what a privilege it is to be entrusted with someone’s care helps his sometimes defeated mentality as an overworked resident.

    thanks for always bringing a light hearted and upbeat angle to my day! I really appreciate it 🙂

  12. Such wonderful advice! I’m married to a doctor and we have been out of training for 2 years now, and all of this advice still rings true! his schedule is busier than ever. During his last 2 years of TRAINING , We moved ACROSS country and back for his 2nd and 3rd fellowships AND I always tried to look at it as an adventure rather than an inconvenience. Now that we are post training, I try to make the most of the time we do have together rather than FOCUSING on how much time he is at work . It also helps to REMIND myself often that if he is in surgery late, his patient needs him in that moment way more than I do. It is all about perspective:-)

  13. Girl, I get asked about this all of the time. When we were newly married and he was still a resident, i thought why isn’t there a book or guide about how to do this? then during fellowship, i thought seriously, where *IS* that guide?? i’ve often times thought about writing that book or guide myself, but like you..didn’t want to sound like i was complaining. but you are right, it’s how to learn to be geographically single (that’s how I like to refer to it 🙂 90% of the time! maybe we should collaborate on this…both married to mds, both southern, both experienced fellowships in the la area, both bloggers, both travelers…hmmmmm……we should!!! 🙂

  14. This is a great post! My husband and i married 15 years ago and at the time, he deployed to iraq our fist year of marriage. Since then, he worked a full time job while going to law school at nIght for four yeaRs He works at a large law fiRmnow with billable hours – usUally working 7 days a week. He did all of this while having a family too. Our daughter is now 16and ill tell you, she has the absolute best work ethic because she doesnt know any different than what she has seen growing up! The absolute best advice i can give is definitely take advantage of Date nights whenever possible. Even if its eating pizza aT home and watching netflix. Try and travel together (even for just a weekend) when possible and always support each other. times may gEt tough, but they will only be as tough as you allow them to be!and if You ever get down, do as i do, send YOURSELF a gift fRom your spouse! Keep up the good work, girl!!

    1. I LOVE this advice. Times may be tough but they will only be as tough as you allow them be. I need this attitude! Thank you for sharing Dawn –

  15. LOve the photos, LOve the article!
    I’m a writer at google and my significant other is in sales at redbull. aside from our demanding careers, promotions recently made us long distance! talk about making it work, especially when he gets a call saying, “oh in 10 days we’re sending you to houston to clean up post harvey.”
    My best advice is to treat any time together as a celebration, whether it’s getting dressed up for a date night out or picking a new series to binge watch. Learning to let everyday annoyances, like piled up trash or dishes, has always been the hardest for me but it simply is not worth the argument during your limited time together.
    Also a great sleep routine is huge! my so is in bed by 9pm and up and going by 4am weekdays (while I’m a night owl) but he loves going to bed together. I lay down with him and pillow talk until he falls asleep, then i slip out to the living room.
    you find what works for you and make it happen.

    1. Kat!! I love that you lay down with him until he falls asleep. I am a night owl too and I love this strategy. I swear – I’m doing this tonight!

  16. This was so refreshing to read! I’m quite the opposite – my boyfriend & i live together and pretty much operate on the same schedules, so we’re together more than most. that being said, I find myself getting bored when he’s not around (with family, friends that we don’t share, etc.) & while I know that I need to be happy and fulfilled when i’m alone, it can be tough. This really inspired me to realize how lucky I am that I get to spend so much time with him, but at the same time feel happy when it’s just me.

    xo, B&K
    http://www.BKCsquared.com

    1. Aw you are so lucky! But even with all that time together you still love spending even more time together – that is just the sweetest.

  17. Kathleen! I love this post. My boyfriend is a cop so his shifts are at least 12 hours long. The respecting his sleep part is huge. he gets better sleep at my apartment than his and on his days off he will sometimes sleep for 12 hours and i make sure not to wake him bc when he’s on shifts he barely sleeps. I have a flexible job so i try to schedule to have the same days off as his. I just try to make life outside of work as relaxing and easy for him as possible.

    1. First of all, thank you and your bf for his service. To put the safety of others before yourself is truly such a sacrifice and we are lucky to have men like him! He sounds lucky to have someone as thoughtful as you!

  18. I love this post! (Also, not sure why tHis is in all caps but iT won’t let me change it!) anyways, i’m a pgy4 myself and my boyfriend is starting residency in July so i can relate to both sides of this! I totally agree about the not waiting around, you put into worDs what i try to tell him but it’s hard to artIculate. I eSpecially love the advice you gave About remembering your patients don’t want to be there either- i could use this reminder myself! One thing we have found helpful is long term bartering. Sounds kinda silly but you haVe to be willing To move for work / residency- but know that it’s all temporary. We can live where we need to now, but then the other person can maybe choose later. Also just in general i remind myself- resiDency (crap pay, long hours, and being at the bottom of the food chain) Is temporary. Also i would recommend an amazing book “when brEath becomes air” (written by a physician) which remindEd me to not put life on hold while in resiency- we all are not guaranteed a tomorrow, so make the best of today.

  19. My boyfriend and i have been together since highschOol. I just finsihed my DOCTORATE in Physcal Therapy and he is in his last year of medical school. Im traveling as a Physical Therpaist and we have been long distance for over 8 years nOw. We both have crazy schedules anD we only see each other every few months right now. One thing that my boyfriend and i always do is ask if we can do anything for each other to make anything less stressful. Whether its just letting the other one vent about their day or helping out with something on a to-do list, just knowing that they are there to give you peace is so nice. And to add to your tip about finding a hobby, i think that also goes for your SIGNIFICANT other. We all need some alone time and while i would rather spend time together, i have to remind myself that after a long day of work if my boyfriend needs to play a video game or go to the gym alOne, i need to give him thAt time.

  20. Im a medical studen here in The dominican republic (ABSOLUTELY love tour blog), one advise i Will RECOMMEND is not make him feel bad about been home late or for haVing to study when he is Home, for that MakeS me feel really bad; also Dont make him feel bad about picking a Residency that taKes to long or to much time for family, probably you like to have kids or travel more nad because he dosen’t haVe time or the mOney aT that time!

    1. I love that tip. I do hate that Christian can’t travel with me and I always need to work on being more understanding. And hats of to your smarts Thalia!

  21. I needed this! My Boyfriend of six years owns and manages a Restaurant and his hours are crazy! reading this was a sweet reminder tHat i’m not the only One waiting up Through the Wee hours of the night for my love to come home 🙂 by the way, these pics are to die for!

  22. This is great! Im not married to a md, but a chef! So his hours are 12pm-12am most days with maybe one or two day off (If we’re luCky). I work a 9-5. A chef iS Not as important of a job as a doctor, but i totally feel the lonliness of a spouse with long, crazy hours. Ive had to go to many weddings and fAmily Events as a single lady. . Thi post is So sweet! Glad to Know im not alone

  23. I feel like these Hit the nail on the head. My new husband and i just moved to the LA area from Kentucky for fellowship. While dating in residency i learned that you do have to keep it moving instead of waiting! My biggest challenge has been maintaining that same independce in a new city – especially working from home.

  24. We receNtly moved across the country from MissiSsippi to Washington for residency. One thing that’s helped Me is to make new FRIENDS, ESPECIALLY OTHER SPOUSES/PARTNERS, AND get involved in our new community. Since Family/friends are far away, i’m so thankful to havE peOple to lean on and spend free time with.

  25. my father is a radiologist and my childhOod was very dIfferent than most of my friends. At the time, i didnt know any diffeRent. Now that im married to a man that works around the clock, im TYPICALLY not phased. But What i have learned from my parents is that They had to be intentioNal to put thEir marriage fIrst. Yes, he worked hard for his careeR and yes, i admire him for that (he is my hero), but at the end of the day he is a husband and a father. And there is no patient in this world that would actually want to Take that fathers time fRom his children. I had to understand that, just like he had to learn to understand that when he was with his family, beiNg 100% present is a must (unless its a night float week which means load the kids up for grandparents for the week). You have a great attitude about this lifesTyle- its not easy! But dont forget You matter too!

  26. Kathleen,

    My friend sent me this post because my boyfriend (and hopefully soon-to-be fiance) is in medical school at University of Washington. It was so refreshing to hear that someone else in this world feels the same way I do. Dating someone in medical school (and residency and in their career after) is a completely different ballgame.

    Thank you so much for the tips! I loved them and will definitely keep them in mind as we move through this journey of medical school. I also look forward to following your blog now!

    My boyfriend, Alan, is also an aspiring ENT! I’m sure he’d love any advice from C, he’s a 3rd year and about to move into the interview process for residency.

    If you’re ever in Seattle and need a tour guide or someone to commiserate over hospital hours with, please let me know!

    xo,
    Emily

    1. Oh wow!! Thank you so much for coming over and sharing! I love Seattle. 🙂 And good luck to your boyfriend! ENT is such a small residency but the group really gets to know each other and hopefully create some lifelong friendships. And of course, welcome to CBL! xoxo

  27. girl! these pictures are absolutely stunning! the two of you are just so captivated by one another and it is so apparent! i love everything about this post. The tips are great for any couple no matter the career. i especially love the clean house by 5pm. Thank you for sharing.
    🙂

  28. THIS IS ALL VERY HELPFUL AND VERY TRUE. MY HUSBAND IS A CPA FOR ONE OF THE BIG 4 ACCOUNTING FIRMS WHICH MEANS SEVERAL TIMES A YEAR HE IS WORKING PAST 10P AND AT HIS CLIENT’S END OF YEAR HE IS WORKING 20 HOURS DAYS.

    We have grown in our relationship and went from struggling with the time apart to addressing issues and finding our own solutions. The biggest tHing was a lack of time togEther. We are lucky in the waY that we generally know when these busy times are coming so we are sure to set “bae time” which is just date night(hoWever laZy or fancy) together but esPecially during busy season, tmt “ten minutes togethre” is something we got from a friend of mine and we just turn off all electronics and hold one another, talk and Just soak each other in which could be any morning or nigHt.

    I personally Really get sad making dinner for just myself :/ but making a big helping and saving leftovers in a “meal planning” type of way it is easy for him to Take for lunch and he knows im thinking of him and i have lunch/dinner the next day or so.

    Youz da bomb for Being So selfless, sharing the love Of your life with others isnt as easy as it looks. You are a specIal kind of lady! To the barnezez!!

  29. IM MARRIED TO AN ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON HE JUST FINISHED HIS FELLOWSHIO IN JULY AND STARTED His job in PRIVATE PRACTICE IN AUGUST!!!! MY SISTER SENT ME YOUR BLOG POST. I THINK YOU PERFECTLY DESCRIBE HOW TO HAVE A SUCESSFUL/STRESS-FREE RELATIONSHIP WHILE YOUR HUSBAND IS IN RESIDENCY.
    FOR ALL YOU DOCTORS WIVES IT GETS BETTER RESIDNECY IS TOUGH BUT FELLOWSHIP IS SO MUCH BETTER. YOU CAN DO IT!!

  30. My husband (not an md), works extrEmely late hours. Now that we have a 7 month daughter, he is making a serious effort to be home earlier, but thaT means the moment she goes to beD, he hopS back on his computer for work and frequenTly works until 3-4am. I think your advice is amazing, and i think for those with children it is important to not feel afraid to ask for help. I work from home, so we haVe a nanny who comes part time so i can Get some work done, but 1 night a week she sTays late so i can just do something non-work related. Most od the tIme i just spend the time grOcery shopping or coOking, but Having that alone time away from work helps me so much To recharge so i can be a beTter mom and wife.

  31. i couldn’t agree more with advice #1. once i found my career and passion our relationship changed for the better and naturally I became more independent (which is way more attractive than needy!).

    I also love advice #2 Keep it moving. My fiance is an ortho trauma rep and whenever i’m caught waiting around, I end up getting frustrated and not enjoying the moment we finally get to spend together. it is great to see a solution in writing that works for you. I will remember this tip!

    thanks for sharing 🙂

  32. OMG… We are the total opposite in our household. While I work long hours and on the weekends, where Sundays are sometimes my “Only day off” that it drives my husband bonkers. And I’m like man up buttercup. Get a hobby. Go do you. BUT he doesn’t and its put the pressure on my marriage. Kudos to you for understanding. when I get off early on Saturdays, I love having sushi alone and he just doesn’t get it. I wish that I could get in my husbands head to go ahead and eat solo, go watch a movie, I don’t know what he needs to do, but do you. I’m praying one day he will, or I will have to end it.

    Thank you for this post, I wish my husband was passionate about his career like I am! 🙂

  33. Hi lady! Loved reading this post. As the wife of a pilot, i can relate for sure. my husband is gone 1/2 of each month, so being independent is a must. my blog has helped so much, you’re totally right, having a passion project is crucial.

    thanks for being one of my favorite bloggers!
    xx -Annie
    http://www.successonstilettos.com

  34. These are really great. One that I’ve realized recently: my husband’s job doesn’t allow him a lot of alone time. Whereas I get a lot of time alone (which has its ups and downs). Lately, when he gets home from the hospital, I try to give him a little space. He needs time to just chill: strum his guitar, scroll through his phone, play video games. These little time wasters are actually luxuries to an MD. Try to be sensitive to your spouse’s need to just do nothing!

  35. This is one of your best blogs! I just read your “Self Esteem” blog and this one. There are perks to not seeing those “Runway-fresh” bloggers. Pretty sure thats why I continue to keep reading yours is because you are so real. Thank you for this post, I have a BF who’s career/schedule is out of his control and this couldn’t be any more true!!

  36. First of all I loved the pictures, they are gorgeous! Second, I SO needed this right this moment, while my partner Is not an MD or anything even remotely similar, this totally apply to being a musician’s girlfriend. These are great things to help things go smoothly, specially when I stay home and am not able to go with him to each gig. I appreciate the honesty so much, I sometimes think it´s not ok to feel lonely o jealous of other couples, but reading Im not alone in this made me feel so much better.