Advice Regarding my Wife

I know this is a weird topic, but I need some help with this:

I had posted some time ago with questions regarding the minutia of getting into medical school. Recently, I posted about becoming a nurse and then eventually going to medical school. I’ve always had an interest in science. As a kid I was fascinated with the human body and how marvelously it reacted and adapted to stimuli. The brain, I thought, was possibly the coolest concept and construct I’ve ever come across.

Anyhow, my wife and I are at odds (which seems like the status quo as of late) about going into medicine. She doesn’t think that I should go into medicine at all. it’s very frustrating to argue a point when somebody is so dead set that they’re right. I mean, attempting this is hard enough without your wife being totally negative about the WHOLE process…

Any advice from anyone would be greatly appreciated.

Well, is your intention to change her mind or to understand what her concerns are? Sounds like you all need to do a lot more talking and you, in particular, need to do a lot of listening. My guess is that she is scared about what it would mean, and she is right to be concerned. Hear her out, and when you think you’ve heard it all, then listen some more. Practice good communication techniques: have her talk for awhile, and then say, "OK, it sounds to me like you are saying that… " and paraphrase HER views and HER concerns. See if you have heard her. Repeat the exercise (take turns, too) and see if you can really, truly hear each other.

This is not something to strong-arm your spouse into. You both have to be 100% committed to each other AND to this goal. You can’t just drag your spouse along and hope that eventually they think it’s great, because it will NOT be great for a very long time.


whose spouse is wondering, when does the “great” part come, anyway? I’m sitting at my kitchen table on a Saturday night, doing notes…

Merlin -

As always, Mary has great advice. I was looking back through your old posts to refresh my memory and in one of your first posts you stated that the med school idea was actually one of your many ideas that your wife didn’t immediately say was dumb and that she was beyond you 100%.

So, I guess my question would be - what changed between your initial post a few months ago where she was 100% behind you and now?

As a couple, you committed to one another to communicate & share the burden - rarely is that sharing precisely 50/50. As your declared life-partner, you owe her the time & communication efforts to help her understand what is motivating you AND she absolutely deserves to be able to voice her fears & concerns & have them logically & emotionally addressed. This is not about selling her or “convincing” her to see things your way. Marriage is all about negotiated compromise. And, spouses, esp long-term ones, have this wonderful & nasty habit of having a clearer picture of “who” YOU are in real-time.

The only way she may ever become an advocate of this process is if she included, helped to learn the impetus behind it & help in working out the failsafe points & safety nets.

People want to feel secure in their lives & marriages. Undertaking this journey can be extremely unsettling on many levels simultaneously. Even the best of relationships will be strained. And, if you go into this with less that a full-investment on both your parts, you may as well go ahead & retain an attorney.

I sincerely appreciate the advice, and I will do what you’ve suggested. I DON’T want to strongarm her into anything, and believe me, even if I wanted to she’s not one to be trifled with. However, this is not the first time we’ve found ourselves on opposite sides of an idea and butting heads.

Going into medical school is what I want to do. You’re right that my wife is probably afraid of what may happen, and I am too. I’m well aware of how difficult this could be. It would be virtually impossible, however, at my level of income - a big reason why I thought that nursing would be a good inbetween while I was pursuing a 4 year degree (BSN).

Anyway, I’m just not sure. This situation can be very frustrating. She’s even arguing me down on the nursing thing. That’s not even a big step. It’s an AS, which is what I’d be pursuing if I went for computer science (which is what she wants), anyway. And then I’d have to move on to a 4 yr to purse bacc degree, because you can’t do much with a computer science/engineering degree if you don’t have a minimum of an 4 yr. That’s not where my heart is, anyway. I love science, and medicine, and I think that I would be happiest doing this. And a happy employee is a productive employee…or something along those lines.

Again, very good advice. I try very hard to communicate with her regarding these issues, but my wife has a nasty habit that can be difficult to overcome. She tends to shut down whenever you bring up an idea or concept that she has strong feelings about or is opposed to. That, in of itself, puts a huge amount of stress and strain on me. I’m the only one who works in my family (she stays home with our son), and I’ve been working upwards of 70 hours a week just to maintain our standards of living, which aren’t very high. So, when I bring up the concept of medicine or nursing, she just blocks me out or tells me she doesn’t want to talk about it.

How can I make any headway and try to get on the same page when she doesn’t want to read the book?

My wife has a bit of a tendency to change her mind. I think that the issue is that she didn’t agree with it in the first place, but didn’t want to go there with me. I really don’t know. She and I don’t communicate very well, and we’ve always had difficulty with that.

Sorry to say it, but your responses are all a fancy version of “Yes, but…”

You don’t like it that your wife doesn’t listen. What I’m suggesting is that YOU need to listen. You are not going to get anywhere in this discussion unless you hear her out. This is not something that you talk someone into or convince them of. You have got to talk it through until, by mutual agreement, you are pursuing the same goals.

In your last post you comment that you have communication difficulties… yeah, no kidding. STOP thinking of this as something to “win” and START figuring out how to really communicate. It may require getting a third party to help, and that would be well worth it. You’ve invested a lot into this relationship especially with a child… put your ego aside, forget about your career goals, and work hard to get into her shoes and her thoughts for a bit.

Running ahead with your new career goals seems pointless to me if she isn’t with you, frankly.

  • medeirosaurus Said:
I'm the only one who works in my family (she stays home with our son)....

Helllooooooooo raising a child and keeping a home is working. I can't believe that I have to point this out in 2008. Depending on a parent's income potential, they may actually be saving money by being home with a child, vs. paying for day care and all the other expenses that go with being a parent who works outside the home (commuting, higher meal expenses because of less time, dry cleaning & other clothing costs, help w/ household stuff, more doctor bills because kids in day care get sick more, etc. etc. etc.).

You speak of wanting to be on the same page, but it sounds like each of you is determined to stick with your own book (to continue the analogy). This will not work. Please get some professional help. Marriage counseling may appear expensive but so are divorce lawyers.


I don’t mean to come across with an attitude, but I feel like I’m being patronized here. I didn’t post to be berated and talked down to, I posted for some advice. You don’t think I’m aware of the work she does at home? Of course I am. My point is that the FINANCIAL burden is completely on me. I make $15.00/hr and have to maintain two cars, an 850.00 appartment, and the various other bills that go along with it. That means I have to work AT LEST 60-65 hours a week just to make it by. This is fine, except the overtime has dried up where I work, and I can’t work two jobs and go to school on even a part-time basis.

I appreciate your intentions in this matter, but it is not neccessary to address me like I’m a jackass. I’m not sexist, or think that my wife contributes less to my family then I do. She and I DO have communication issues we need to work on, but our intentions are both good.

I completely agree with everything Mary has said. I’m in a similar boat as you. Just yesterday my wife and I were talking about her concerns over how we would just “get by” and start having a family while I’m doing my prereqs and then hopefully going to med school. The difference though is that I was hearing all of her concerns and taking them to heart. As much as I want my life to be dedicated to working in medicine and helping others, if my wife isn’t going on the same boat I’m always going to choose her over anything else. This is your wife! She needs to be you’re number one priority. I know it can be frustrating if she disagrees with you on this, but I think she probably has very legitimate concerns because the road you’re wanting to go down is extremely challenging.

From one married man to another, if I were in your shoes I’d sit down with your wife and appoligize for the direction your conversations (or arguements) have gone whenever you talk about your desire to persue medicine as a career. I’d take full responsibility and admit that I haven’t been listening. Then, sit and LISTEN to all of her concerns. Don’t get mad or defensive. Just talk about it. And, don’t expect her to change her mind right away. It’s a huge decision that’s going to take a long time for her to become comfortable with.

If this conversation turns into an arguement I’d really consider seeing a counsler to help with the communication problems in your relationship. Communication is a VERY important skill that Doctors need to have. If you can’t communicate well with your wife I think you’ll have similar communication problems with you patients.

Also, you’re very blessed to have a wife who is able to stay home with your child. You should be thanking her for doing that.

I hope that helps.


As others have stated, there appear to be multiple other issues here besides medical school that need to be worked out between you and your wife before you can even think about medical school or school in general. Besides the obvious communication issues there seem to be financial issues. You state that you do indeed appreciate the work your wife does in staying home (and I’m not saying that you don’t), but maybe SHE doesn’t feel that way. You seem very stressed out about how much you have to work in order to make ends meet financially and I would venture to guess that in addition to be being worried about the possible change in your financial situation should you return to school, she feels badly that you have to work so hard doing something that you obviously are not happy at. Intentionally or not, you may be projecting your frustration with the situation on to her, making her feel like you don’t value her staying home and/or feel like she doesn’t contribute to the household.

I don’t remember if you ever said or not - but how did you guys decide upon her staying home? Even if you two sat down and “agreed” that it made the most sense for her to stay home with your child, she might not be 100% with that decision. Logically, she may have agreed that her staying home was the best thing, but that may not be what her heart says. For some women, agreeing to stay home with children can feel like they are giving up all kinds of power. She is completely dependent on you for all things financial. Imagine for a minute how that must feel.

Speaking of financial issues, I realize that you are working all kinds of hours, but have you and your wife really sat down and discussed finances honestly and openly? Are there ways you can trim your budget so that you don’t have to work so much? Can you manage with one car instead of two? Are there cheaper living options?

I know professional counseling is expensive, but it seems to me that in your case, it might be well worthwhile. Another option may be a clergy person if you and your wife are affiliated with some sort of church. Some employers offer mental health counseling as part of their insurance, and marriage counseling falls under that. We don’t know the whole situation here, there are too many potential issues, we don’t know your wife’s side of it - so all we can do is give piecemeal advice here and there. You would both be far better off if you could find someone to sit down with both of you and identify ALL of your issues and help you plan how to deal with them.

Good luck.

Okay. I just want to make something clear to everyone. My wife chose to stay home with our child. She expressly requested to stay home. I had no problem with that. I really appreciate what she does, because I couldn’t do it. I don’t have the patience to stay home with our son all day, and I would get frustrated.

People also all seem to be under the impression that we have communication issues and we shoudl seek professional help. Well, youi’re right, we do. However, I’ve already gone to see a councilor by myself. My wife refused to go, and still does. I’ve done my best to work with her, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. This isn’t as cut and dry as some people make it out to be, although I wish it was.

  • medeirosaurus Said:
Okay. I just want to make something clear to everyone. My wife chose to stay home with our child. She expressly requested to stay home. I had no problem with that. I really appreciate what she does, because I couldn't do it. I don't have the patience to stay home with our son all day, and I would get frustrated.

Fair enough. I don't think anyone was suggesting that YOU decided that your wife stay home or that she was somehow forced into it. I was merely speculating that perhaps the dynamics of how she ended up staying home were part of her issues. Along those lines though - just because she chose it doesn't mean she doesn't have issues/insecurities about the situation. I honestly don't know.

  • In reply to:
People also all seem to be under the impression that we have communication issues and we should seek professional help. Well, you're right, we do. However, I've already gone to see a councilor by myself. My wife refused to go, and still does. I've done my best to work with her, but sometimes that just isn't possible. This isn't as cut and dry as some people make it out to be, although I wish it was.

I don't think that anyone here thinks it's cut and dried. It rarely is. The only thing that seems to be cut and dried is the fact that there are issues in your marriage. Good for you for going to counseling by yourself. I'm glad to hear it. Has your wife ever said why she refuses to go as well? Is it marriage counseling that she's opposed to or counseling in general? Would she consider individual counseling? I do know some people who really bristle at the suggestion of marriage counseling for various reasons. Maybe it's because going means that they are admitting there are problems and that is something that they refuse to acknowledge. Maybe it's because they aren't familiar with anyone going through counseling and working it out.

None of us are experts here. You asked for advice and we're trying to give it based on the limited information we have. We're bound to make incorrect assumptions because we don't, and can't possibly, know all the facts. About the only thing we do know is that medical school is going to be very difficult if not impossible in the current situation.

I don't envy your situation - it sounds very difficult. I'm sure it can't be easy.

This is the point where I go “sigh”, and say “but, you guys are right”. And, you are right. My wife is not the only guilty party in this equation and I’ve done my fair share of not listening.

I came to you all for help and advice, and you gave it. I really appreciate it, and apologize if I was defensive with anyone. I guess this is a touchy topic for me…

I will sit down and do a reality check with her. try to understand where she’s at with this whole situation, and try to make myself more accomodating and understanding to her state of mind.

Thanks, again, for the help and advice.

Just a thought here…have you considered waiting a couple of years before going down this medical road? Taking a bit more time to get your finances beefed up a bit, and things a little more settled down at home. It can be pretty hard (I’m told) trying to juggle all that you and your wife are trying to juggle.

As I tell Stanford students when I am doing ad-hoc pre-med advising for a bit each fall quarter, students who are dying to start med school immediately after college, or those who are conflicted about what to do about taking time off: “Med schools will ALWAYS be there; your youth and opportunity are fleeting.”

This could apply to you as well. :slight_smile:



I do not think Mary meant to imply your were a jackass; however, she makes a very salient point in that you do not seem to be picking up on the core of all of the advice - and there is a lot of excellent advice beig surrendered to you for free here - that you need to stop viewing this like it is a debate where you’re trying to presenta logicaly argument in order to change her mind.

By your own admission, communications is an issue b/t you & your wife. We are all solidly telling you that this is a fundamental problem - period. And, if you desire this marriage to survive (even I can sense the palpable tension), you both need to learn to communicate openly, honestly & transparently. This process is simply too hard & too long - your marriage will not survive it…not sure how much candid I can be.

Throw into the mix that there is a child & in my eyes, your focus must be one cultivating communications with your wife. There is a child at stake & that is far more critical than your becoming a physician.

All relationships must stand on 4 pillars: honesty, communication, the art of compromise & mutual respect.

We are trying to help you…help you in the problems that you are describing. But, we are not interested nor will we provide strategies on how to conn your wife into accepting a path she is uncertain of. She deserves to have the opportunity to have her fears discussed & addressed - this will not happen over a long weekend. It may take weeks, months or even years. She may never buy into your pursuing medical school. But, you must respect that as an adult, it is her prerogative to not do so. Just because you want it, does not convey that she must accept or endorse it.

Just as there are many upsides to being a nontrad seeking the goal of becoming a physician, there are downsides too. We all come with more baggage/issues: mortgages, children, significant others…our parents are older & more apt to health issues. The list of potential ADDITIONAL hurdles for nontrads is infinite…and they are the exact same life issues that you would have to cope with anyhow. You will just have the additional massive & unrelenting burden of remaining afloat in med school while you also cope with these other monumental issues. This was one of the many motivations for establishing OPM - to address the things we nontrads have to deal with over & above what our younger colleagues typically do.

This is my thoughts on this

If medical school is your dream to be fulfilled in life then

You need to have discussions with your wife about life goals

What she expects and what you expect

You then can come up with how you will be able to reach these goals in harmony

Yea not easy, but Doable I think, I have done this several times with my wife and we revisit the goals and see how to reach them from where we are.

It’s been hard but it’s worth it.

You need to know whats important to you then with cool heads discuss this. If you are not fulfilled and happy then you will not be the best husband/father you could be, to be miserable in part of your life will affect the other parts, there is a middle ground you just have to find it.

Good luck

new to the site just read your note… I’m in your boat except its husband. I’m an RN looking to move on …15 years in ICU. My husband says PA school only option, less loan, better hours etc… I want to be a doc. We need to compromise here because MCAT is in May, as well as 4 years of undergrad work for BS Bio. Not much nursing transferred x the core, so heres me the 35 yr old freshman. I really can’t leave my family behind to pursue this… what good is it at the end of the day to have accomplished so much and sacrificed your family in the process…any thoughts?

I’ve talked more with my wife regarding this issue. She and I have a bit of a better understanding. Also, she did have my back regarding going to med school, but there was a misunderstanding because I had decided to put it on the back burner for awhile in favor of some schooling that would get me money faster. She thought I was dropping the whole idea altogether. So, I clarified and we’re pretty much on the same page.

She still doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but her only concern is that I won’t like it. I fully intend on doing more research and possibly trying to do some shadowing of nurses and doctors.

I have a long road ahead of me. Especially if I go through nursing school first…but I know I can do this, as long as my family is behind me.