an OPM newbie w/an unsupportive spouse

Hi everyone,

I’m new to OPM, but not to the idea of going to medical school. But I’ll come back to that.

First, a little bit about me: I’m 28, married (but no kids), and live in the Chicago 'burbs with my husband. Mom’s a hospice nurse and Dad’s a family physician, so I grew up with medical talk and such all around me. Although my father actually discouraged me from going to med school (due to his hatred of HMOs and the whole managed care scene, and how it messes with a doctor’s ability to practice), I entered college as a pre-med bio major.

However … during my freshman year, in order to fulfill a university writing requirement, I took a journalism course, and was suddenly thrown into confusion. I discovered, to my surprise, that I loved writing. And I was pretty good at it, too. After a lot of soul searching, I changed my major to journalism and graduated in '03.

Since then, I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter, a magazine editor, a freelance editor, and a textbook editor (high school literature books). While I have enjoyed certain aspects of all of these jobs, medicine was always at the back of my mind. But I kept it back there, assuming that it was impossible, or near so.

When I was laid off in March, though, that changed. I realized I needed something different in my life, something more fulfilling. I recalled the thrill I got, back in AP biology, of understanding how muscles functioned. The amazement of watching, the summer I worked in the ICU of a local hospital, physicians literally bring patients back from the brink of death. And also the gravity of having to tell a patient’s family when death could not be overcome. And then the wonder I felt when a nurse let me help her with the mundane task of drawing a tube of blood - realizing that this would help determine what was wrong with the patient, and how to help him.

I realized I wanted back in that world.

But because I changed my major to journalism, I lack most of the pre-med requirements. So my plan is to do a (formal) post baccalaureate program at a nearby university, with a start date of fall 2010, and then hopefully proceed to med school from there.

Of course, I’m horribly nervous like everyone else. Fortunately, I have academics on my side: I finished my undergrad with a 3.9-something GPA (one B, in “History of South America”). While I only took one bio class in college, I focused heavily on math and science in high school, and always did extremely well, so I’m not too worried about the post bac coursework. I also test extremely well, so although I know I know I will need to study my behind off for the MCAT, I believe I can handle it, too. (Trying to stay positive, here!)

My problem right now is my husband. While he has agreed, in theory, to financially support us while I go to school (i.e., he will continue to work), his emotional support is seriously lacking. I feel like I am embarking on this journey alone, which is terrifying. Both because it is a lot to go through on my own, and because it could potentially drive a wedge between my husband and myself. I don’t want to compromise my marriage; neither do I want to sacrifice my dream.

I’ve been contemplating going back to school (for the post bac, with the hope of then going to med school) for about a year now, and have just decided in the last couple of weeks that I am sure of myself - I want this. I am ecstatic; a little enthusiasm from my partner would be nice. sigh

We’ve been fighting like cats and dogs since I told him what I really want to do, both about med school and about everything else, which is completely abnormal for us. We’ve been married five years, together nearly nine, and in all that time never this much discord.

Sorry to vent so much on my first post … I just feel like I’ve found a place where some people might be able to relate, at least a little, or hopefully offer some advice and encouragement. Or just a hello.

Thanks so much for listening, and I look forward to getting to know others on the board.


I’m sorry to hear your spouse is unsupportive. Have you asked him why? Is it his … own insecurity coming up?

From everyone that has written on here, it sounds like the spousal EMOTIONAL support is tantamount to success. I’m single and so I can’t comment on that, other than, my son and my parents who are elderly are extremely supportive.

Hope things get better for you soon!

Having your spouses support will not just be a luxury, but a necessity. When I was in optometry school I WAS married to a very unsupportive spouse, we ended up divorced as did 6 of my classmates out of a class size of 64. My current spouse could not be more supportive of me going back to medical school. There are days I just don’t feel like sitting down to review for the MCAT, but she is the one that “pushes” me to do it because she knows it is what I really want.

I am by no stretch of the imagination qualified to give marital advice, but from those I know that went back to professional school later in life, and those I asked council of before I decided to attempt to go back to med school the first question they always asked was “how does your wife feel about this? You will absolutely need her support”. Hopefully you can work it out with your spouse as to his why he is so against you going back and if it is something you can work out. Good luck.

Thanks so much for the welcome, and for the advice. I do know that it is crucial to have my husband’s support … the question is, how do I get it? Is it possible for him to come around? I don’t really expect any answers, those are just things I’m mulling around in my head at the moment.

Thanks again, and good luck on the MCAT!

I want to believe that if your husband is willing to provide the concrete support while you go back to school, then it is indeed possible for him to come around.

I’ve been extremely fortunate that my wife has supported the idea all along. She has certainly faced the uncertainty and risk with scrutiny, and I would actually be concerned if she didn’t. In fact we had several sit-downs prior to my coming here just so I could say, again, “Now, are you sure you can handle this? It’s such a huge comittment. These are some of the changes I am anticipating…”

But, it has all turned out well. I think much of it has to do with her understanding that I truly always believed I should go to medical school. I’ve tried to help her understand that when I went into my first career, I compromised my dream. I made sure she understood that I don’t think I could be professionally fulfilled unless I came back and studied to be a physician.

I also let her know that while she is unquestionably first in my life, I chose medicine for the same reason I chose her - providence, a calling.

I can’t promise you will restore peace in your relationship; but if you really communicate your need for support, and you really have the passion for both your marriage and medicine, then you’ll have made a real effort.

I don’t know how I could possibly do this job without the encouragement of my wife.

Thanks again for the support … I had a long talk with my husband this evening, and he has indeed come around (thank heavens!). We’ve had a rough last couple of years, in terms of some health issues I’d been dealing with (I’ve got a clean bill of health now, though) and some other things, and I honestly think he’s pretty worn out at his job. I think the idea of a new venture - even one as exciting as this, at least to me - was a little overwhelming to him at first. Which is understandable.

Now all I’ve got to do is figure out how to ace my post bac program (hoping to start next fall) and get into med school.

You sound extremely grounded and determined, and I admire you for that. The plain truth is that if med school is what you want, you have to approach your goal head-on. If your husband is against it and you don’t address it, you’re not going to get through it, unless you basically ignore him and do it anyway. I gave up a relationship years ago because I realized that if I stayed with him, he would work against me (albeit unintentionally) through med school because he simply did not understand what it meant to me.

My fiance now is completely supportive, and willing to move wherever I need to move for medical school and residency. He understands the reality that despite having the “right package,” I might still have to move to pursue my dream. He’s ready to make that sacrifice along with me.

From your last post, it sounds like you have worked things out, and I hope you do. Just bear in mind that you really need support to get through medical school and residency.