Dr. David Sessford

“Most marriages don’t survive medical training.” I remember a senior resident telling me this in a crowded bar during the first social event as a first-year medical student. It was unsolicited advice provided to me when I shared that I had moved to Calgary with my wife and two children. It’s interesting how this conversation stuck with me through medical school and now into my residency.

I met my wife in high school. We married young at 19 years old, and so started our life together. This week we celebrate our 18th anniversary, and the truth is, while it’s a happily-ever-after story in the making, it certainly isn’t without hard work, dedication, and sacrifice – on my part, but even more so for my wife. She was with me through my career pre-medicine, and when I forged on to complete my Bachelor’s, a Masters, Medical School, and now residency, she was there to support me. Her support for me means helping to keep me organized. It means someone to share my challenges during a difficult rotation or a particularly hard day, and it means knowing I always have someone to talk to.

The month of May has been wellness month, and for me that means checking up with my wife and family, spending time relaxing, and enjoying company of friends. I’ve had a chance to reflect on some strengths and here’s some of the strategies I’ve used throughout my medical training to keep my relationship healthy.

  1. Prioritizing time together – We try to make our time together count. We both carve time out of our schedules to go on dates, cook and have meals together, or just to talk at home.
  2. Communicate & Plan – We have a shared google calendar where we put our commitments, so we know what’s coming up. This keeps the surprises to a minimum and helps us know what to expect. If I’m late (which she’s come to appreciate is often), I try to text her for a heads up.
  3. Similar interests – We share similar interests. She plays video games, and I watch. We have some TV shows we watch together. We walk the dog. We find new restaurants.
    It’s not all medicine – When I come home, I often want to just talk about my day, a patient experience, or difficult interaction with my preceptor. But I know that my interests are not always hers, so I dial some stuff back, share interest in her day, and realize that it’s not all about me. I think she appreciates this.

Ultimately, I think the biggest factor is mutual respect. It’s a give – give relationship that benefits both of us.

And the statement that most marriages don’t survive medical training? I don’t know if it’s true or not; all the data I could find were from studies in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, and it was mixed at best. I hope it’s not true, but I do know that as we work together to support each other we can foster strong relationships and support our partners in this arduous but vastly rewarding journey. Thank you to all the partners who keep us sane and help us along the way!

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