Doctor's wife out of patience with demands of his profession


June 12, 1994|By From Ladies' Home Journal

Thirty-seven-year-old Jenny, the mother of 6-year-old twins, can no longer pretend that her 10-year marriage to Jim, a dedicated family physician, is just fine. And she's tired of hearing from everyone else in town how terrific and understanding he is. "Jim is hardly ever home. And he gets calls at all hours of the day or night. In the middle of dinner, if his partner phones, he's out the door to help," Jenny complains angrily.

On the rare evenings when Jim is not on call, he heads for the study and buries himself in medical journals as soon as the boys are in bed.

Jenny feels lonely, ignored and unimportant: The part-time job she found in the school library hardly fills the void. "I know I shouldn't feel this way. I don't know why I'm so unhappy in a marriage that other women envy," she says sadly.

Jim, 40, doesn't know why she is, either. "Do you think I enjoy being called away from my family in the middle of the night?" he asks. "It's my job. And if the senior partner in my practice calls to ask me to do something, I can't say no. It's not only rude, it's professional suicide."

Jim is tired of being yelled at by a wife who, he feels, should know how demanding his work really is: "Jenny stores up her hurts, then explodes. She thinks picking on me clears the air," Jim reports. But half the time, he can barely remember what transgression he's being accused of.

Just a few months ago, Jim notes, she chewed him out for being inattentive to her during her labor with the twins. "How can I defend myself for doing something that happened years ago, something I don't even remember?" he wonders.

"Jenny, like many women whose husbands are in demanding jobs, has trouble honoring her own needs," notes James W. Walkup Jr., former director of the Counseling Center of Southern Westchester, N.Y. She thinks she's not entitled to feel the way she does because, after all, Jim isn't out drinking with the guys or loafing on the couch -- he's saving lives. However, even though her frustrations are justified, Jenny has to learn to keep them from consuming her. The trouble is, like many of us, she doesn't even realize she is angry until she reaches the kindling point.

Do you or your spouse, like Jenny, have difficulty recognizing when you're angry? Try these approaches:

* Monitor your behavior for one week. Keep a chart or jot notes on a calendar. Whom did you get angry at -- your husband, your kids, your boss, your mother -- and why? Can you determine any patterns in what made you so upset? Are any situations or topics guaranteed to set you off? Write them down.

* Concentrate on what your body feels like at these times: Does your stomach churn or your heart race? Do you feel a tightening in your temples, neck or back? Learn to recognize your body's reactions to anger. Don't ignore these messages and pray they'll go away. Jenny is often unaware that she is being hostile to Jim. Getting in touch with her anger will help her short-circuit sarcastic remarks and even defuse arguments before they rage out of control.

* State to your partner what you feel when you feel it. Without being defensive, demeaning or blaming, talk to your partner so he not only hears you but is motivated to change.

, Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

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