At the park today, I was talking to another parent I know who is not in the medical profession (for the sake of ease, let's call him Fred). Since Fred knows I'm a doctor, he mentioned he had been watching a TV show on NOVA that followed 7 Harvard-educated doctors over 21 years.
Fred told me that he was amazed by both the hard work that these people put into their careers but also by the way their relationships were ripped apart by their professions. He said all but one of the doctors ended up divorced.
I always felt that med school brought my boyfriend (now husband) and I closer. He was actually a much better boyfriend when I was stressed out and upset--he was incredible at calming me down. If I hadn't been dating him during my surgery and ICU rotations, I might never have discovered what a perfect match he was for me. And he learned that I was willing to put my relationship before my career.
For this reason, I tell med students who are concerned about relationships that med school is actually a great test. After all, with all the stress of my 3rd year clerkships and internship, the hardest year in our marriage was probably the first year after our daughter was born. I've heard that's common. Wouldn't you rather know your relationship stands up to stress BEFORE you have a child?
Yes, a lot of long term relationships fall apart during medical training. But 50% of marriages in the general population fail anyway, so clearly a lot of people are getting married who aren't right for each other. Perhaps medical training just hastens the inevitable.