Train Wreck

I want to go to become a physician very badly. To do so will involve giving up a lucrative career and forcing my family to accept a huge decline in the size and quality of housing, spending money, etc. Discussions with my wife hav been disastrous. I have seen a side of her that, in 9 years of marriage, I had never seen. Yelling, accusations of irresponsiblity, questioning of my judgment and devotion to our kids, all kinds of ugly stuff. At this point I am seriously considering abandoning the idea before I start investing our time and money in it. I cannot imagine forcing the issue with little support, maybe even passive-aggressive opposition to it.

I am sorry you had such a reaction to your dream. Becoming a doctor is a wonderful thing and a secure future. It’s not like you want to quit your job to draw pictures or something…

Maybe she just doesn’t realize that it is not as scary as she may perceive. You said your job was lucrative so you must have some money saved or assetts that may be sold. I don’t know how old your kids are, but most schools have excellent child care options, even education programs for school aged kids.

Plus, just think of the example you would set for your children. They grow up seeing you working so hard to achieve a goal. They will grow up admiring you! I have learned that examples, role modeling, and positive familial interaction goes a great deal farther than anything that money can buy.

I hope you find a way to pursue your dream. You have one life to live and one of the worst things is to be old and never have done what you really wanted.

Granted I don’t know you or your situation but I do not think it is irresponsible. Where there is a will there is a way, and it is only 4 years.

Thank you for your support. I think that if any line of thinking can persuade my family, it is basically that people do go to med school later in life, they do find ways to solve the financial problems, and they do reach their goals. The question is whether we as a family are willing to start that journey, or are the risks and unknowns too much to face. I, for one, thrive on risk and adventure.

  • edjohn Said:
The question is whether we as a family are willing to start that journey, or are the risks and unknowns too much to face. I, for one, thrive on risk and adventure.

Wow. I fully expected my wife to react the same way yours did. When I told her I was going to take some scuba-diving classes, she reacted as if I were embarking on a one-way trip to the moon. When she asked me if I had ever considered some other career besides EMS (the idea of me being around sick and injured people makes her really uneasy), I was really hesitant to tell her how I dreamed about being a medical doctor. Oddly enough, when I dropped the bomb about wanting to be a doctor her response was nothing but positive. Even though her brother is a doctor (or maybe, because...) she thought it was a pursuit worthy of the potential she sees in me (that I have a hard time seeing myself).

Give her a little time to warm up to the idea. She probably sees your desire to change careers as a threat to the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed. Once she sees that this is something that is really important to you, she may reconsider her attitudes... or she may not. I wish there were an easy answer for you, but I don't think that there is one. It seems unwise to set foot on this path without a good deal of soul-searching near the beginning. Hopefully you will get some responses from some other folks who have had experience with a reluctant spouse. I count myself lucky to have unconditional support from my spouse. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she doesn't change her mind when the going gets tough.

Good luck to you and I sincerely wish you the best!


Women have this tendency to over-analyze and look at the fine details, especially when it comes to big life changes. So, in telling your wife you have this dream to be a physician, and oh, by the way, I’m going to be studying long hours, can’t spend as much time with you and the kids, and we’re going to be in debt up to our eyeballs and may need to look at some financial alternatives to home onwership and the like for the next 10 years, it’s probably hard for her to also grasp that you will, after residency, be highly likely to make a $150k+ salary to repay the loans and buy her the dream house she’s always wanted.

Maybe setting it up like a business plan would look more concrete to her. Go semester-by-semester, year-by-year of your plan, the costs, and time involved, as well as your plan to continue to be a father and husband. Also, be sure to let her know you have a backup plan (a different career or back to the one you’re doing now) in case things don’t work out along the medicine route. Also let her know how much you want this dream and how it WILL benefit her.

If you are going to do this, you are going to need the FULL support of your wife. It WILL be tough and you need to know that she can help pick up slack and be there when you can’t until you can later on.

When you got married, you became responsible for her well-being. If she is vehemently opposed to you pursuing medicine, put it on hold until you can reach unified decision.


If I didn’t know better, I would think you had overheard our discussions on this. She is clearly very concerned with the specific details, down to how large a space would our son have to play in, how can we save for his college, what do we do about medical insurance, etc. Great advice.

Naw, I’m just a woman who understands women (for the most part). i pay attention when my girlfriends (from all over the world) and I talk, and there always seems to be a central theme.

Also, I meant to say this before, but if this is your one true dream, she’ll come around for you once she’s had time to absorb everything.

Letting her know that since you will be in med school and not have a job per say, will let you do more around the house so she doesn’t have to. It’s easy to study while you’re waiting for the laundry or dishwasher to finish or while at your kids’ little-league games. You can listen to lectures while you mow the lawn, and so on, depending on what your household is like. The more you keep life from going out of control, the more your wife will accept it.

And, the only time you won’t have an income is during med school. You’ll have one during residency, and if your wife works as well, you can pay the mortgage. Unless you have substantial credit card or other debt besides house/car, you should be able to get by on your wife’s income and loans for education without selling your house. Of course, that’s generally speaking - everyone’s situation is different.

My mom went back to med school when I was 10 and my brother was 7. She spent the first year home with us, then the last 3 years were 200 miles away. It was a hard adjustment at first, but my dad knew it was her dream, and we were old enough to be “latchkey” kids. We didn’t cause much trouble so life just went on for those 4 years. My mom came home for residency and now she practices in my hometown, while i follow in her footsteps (same age as she applied, but without kids).

You can do it!

I agree about medical school being a unified decision when you are married. One of our founding members gave up the dream after his wife put her foot down about uprooting her life and re-enrolled in a local nursing program. Then there is my case, of a load of "gung-ho support at the beginning with no follow through, meaning as medical student, wife, mother, etc, it ends of being ME still doing most of the household and kids things along with my studies. (I also WORKED part time this term and had the unpleasant experience of my spouse asking ME for money. Yikes!) I think medical school doesn’t make or break a relationship though. It will basically uncover the good or bad of what was already there. I wish you the best in your dream. Take care.

Well, to be honest this is a HUGE change and of course there is going to be concern. Medical school and beyond is a tremendous change of lifestyle for all involved specially if you have a secure job with good financial prospects. Have you thoroughly immersed yourself in really looking into medicine? have you shadowed/volunteered/researched all that it entails? I am assuming you did so please take no offense. Often times it looks very rosy from an outside perspective but once you get started reality hits hard. It is very rewarding and I would not change this for anything BUT my life has changed drastically and my family have lost out a lot on me being there for them. It will get worse during residency.

I think that sometimes we just expect so much from our families. We are so focused on what WE would like to accomplish that we lose sight of the big picture. Give her time and before you do anything drastic like quitting your job you may want to enroll in night school and take some classes. This will give you a taste of what lies ahead. Good luck.


Welcome to OPM! As you can see, we are all very invested in providing the best objective advice that we have garnered from our personal experiences merely for the asking.

Regarding you situation: essentially, you dropped a big bomb on her. Of course, I am far from the master at diplomacy…in fact, I suck at it - just ask my wife. However, try to view things from her perspective while you earnestly & openly communicate & work towards a compromise/solution. As exciting as it appears to you - I know as I am a massive adrenalin junky…hell, that’s why I have become an anesthesiologist - it may appear to her as a complete uprooting of all that she has come to view as stability.

When I was contemplating a return to college for eventual med school, I thought I was concealing my true aspirations by focusing my career searching on Ph.D., PA & MS options. One day, while driving down LBJ in north Dallas - at about 90mpg - Wendy just piped up & said, “Who do you think you are fooling? You know you really want to be a physician. So, why don’t we just do it?” After much serious introspection & many days & hours of discourse about whether we should take that plunge, we - keyword being “we” - decided to do it…and we have succeeded.

However, all along the way we have had to sustain & sometimes even re-establish that open line of communication to stabilize & re-stabilize our marraige. Even for the strongest of relationships, the med school/physician adventure will challenge it. BUT, if you endeavor…no, COMMIT to keeping your wife & family as priority number 1 and sustain & nurture the communication -open & HONEST communication - that fire-forge of this journey will serve to strengthen your marriage as it has mine. That is NOT to imply that we have not had problems…in fact, during my internship, I was truly concerned that my marriage was ending. Wendy & I spent a very teary, long weekend once toward the end of my internship working through issues that we had isolated from the other erroneously believing that by internalizing these issues that we were protecting the other one. No dice!

More germaine to your situation, the points provided above are most poignant & insightful. Give her time to chew on the concept…and for YOU to give the massive changes assoc with this career a chew as well. Know this for a fact - your life will forever be changed. Life does not simply return to what it was pre-physician after you comeplete your residency. You, your wife & your family must be willing to accept & maximize those changes. They are not bad changes, but life will be profoundly different. You have to be COMMITTED to maximizing the benefits & minimizing the deficits. Of course, this is not unique to medicine. You have done the exact same thing with your current career. The difference lies in the fact that you & yours are comfortable with the current scenario & you becoming a physician represents a huge & unending change that all will have to adjust to.

The pillars of any legitimate relationship, in my humble opinon are: honesty, communication, trust & respect. If any of these are lacking, your relationship is in jeopardy. However, all of them can be grown, nurtured & rekindled if both parties are committed to the cause. And, these elements, not money, fortune, luck, prestige or other external entities will assure that your relationships weather the storm -but these characteristics can & will carry you through.