One of our stalwarts on the Editorial Board has had a unique experience in the last few years; he has been a transcontinental spouse. In one of his two lives, as he so aptly describes, he has learned how the "other half" feels to be "the spouse of...". His article has currency, not only for the experience itself and its reflection of some marriages today, but because such experience will become commonplace in the future. More and more women have entered medicine and other professional careers and are achieving hierarchical status within their chosen fields. Their male spouses will now have to cope, as our female spouses have for decades, with a quite different role than that of the stereotypic dominant male, so prominent in American conception.
My wife, Shirley, and I attended a retreat for first-year freshman medical students not too many years ago. I was privileged to be a member of the small break-out group that consisted of spouses and so-called significant others of the medical students. To my amazement and education, the majority were male (correspondingly, most of the students attending the retreat were female), and the attitudes displayed echoed what I had heard female spouses of the faculty saying for years. For example, one male businessman said, "Do you mean that if she wants to take a residency in Seattle, I'd have to give up my business and follow her?... Hell, no!" Perhaps he would be like Dr Stiehm and conduct a Los Angeles-Tucson-to-Seattle marriage. Another complained, "At every party we go to, all they talk about is medicine! Don't they have any other interests?" And on through the day.
On reflection, Shirley and I realized that medical marriages are in for some surprises in the future. Dr Stiehm's experience is just the forerunner of many like it in the future. We will have to find new ways to make relationships work and to be sustained over the years. Men will have to learn to be secondary in interest to friends and colleagues of their successful female spouses. Men will have to learn to tolerate highly technical cocktail-party and dinner-party talk outside their sphere of knowledge, and interest, and scope.
We are truly in for a brave new tomorrow. Dr Stiehm's firsthand description will be recognized by many today as pertinent and will be a blueprint for the future. May all have the wisdom and humor of Judy and Dick Stiehm!—.ED
Stiehm ER. Being Just a Husband Is No Fun. Am J Dis Child. 1989;143(12):1401–1402. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1989.02150240023010
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