When Veterinarians Fall in Love: The Good, The Bad, and The Yucky
With the recent passing of Valentine’s Day and my upcoming 18-month wedding anniversary, I found myself in the peculiar position of evaluating my marriage in the context of my career.
You’re probably asking, “What does one have to do with the other?” I counter with the explanation that, for me, the two are so inextricably linked it’s impossible to consider one without the other.
I’m a veterinarian married to another veterinarian. Though not an uncommon scenario in our profession, the uniqueness of our particular pairing raises more complications than the “typical” vet-vet union:
- We’re both veterinary specialists, so our daily work-related stressors are different from our non-specialist counterparts.
- We work in the same hospital, which strains personal and professional interactions with each other and with colleagues.
- We've only ever known each other as veterinarians, and so the common ground for our initial pairing is now something we have a hard time escaping.
- We don’t have children (just several cats), so our careers are truly the main focus of our lives right now.
During vet school, I watched as classmates paired up romantically, and in a silent, yet judgmental fashion, made note to never date or marry another veterinarian myself. In an ironic twist of fate, turns out I wasn’t immune to Cupid’s fickle arrow. At an age where I was convinced I would remain wedded only to my career, I met another veterinarian who captured my heart and eventually convinced me to marry him, despite my previous reservations.
My initial anxieties about entering a relationship with another veterinarian have proven to be somewhat valid. Separately, we are interesting individuals with our own curiosities, hobbies, and goals, but our perspectives (and dinner table conversations) are invariably skewed towards one sole topic: our profession. It’s an inescapable part of our relationship.
On the best of days, this means we have the ability to truly connect with each other about the joys and frustrations inherent to our work. When my husband describes a particularly frustrating case, or helps save a patient’s life, or complains about never ending mounds of paperwork and phone calls, I know precisely what he’s feeling and experiencing because I really have been there myself.
On the worst days, this means we have very little to talk about because we’ve worked 12+ hours and had zero contact with anyone outside of the veterinary profession. This can sometimes linger over several workdays, stressing our patience with each other and our jobs to its maximum.
Social situations offer no reprieve, as the majority of our mutual friends are also veterinarians. Even when we spend time with non-veterinarians, once people discover what we do for a living, for reasons beyond my comprehension, the conversation tends to be monopolized with stories about their own pets.
The tensions I'm describing may seem artificial or trite, but research shows I’m not alone in my concerns. Studies evaluating my human doctor counterparts show that half the surgeons married to other doctors said they experienced career conflict with their spouse and only about a third of them thought they had enough time for their personal lives. Less than 40 percent of doctors married to non-doctors felt that way.
The disadvantages of a doctor-doctor relationship are numerous, and it’s easy to become caught up in the downsides. Yet, there are some surprisingly great things about being married to another veterinarian.
Since we both work in the same hospital, we are able to drive to work together. Not only is this a practical solution, saving money on gas and helping the environment, but it also allows us a few extra moments together in the morning to be with each other and talk (even if it’s about how little we are looking forward to our first appointment of the day).
Since we work in the same hospital, on rare occasions we’re able to escape together to grab a coffee or take a quick walk in the middle of the day. Those moments are more treasured than you might expect.
Working together means we always leave work together, so no matter if it’s 5 p.m. or 10 p.m., we are blessed with the ability to eat dinner together as a family.
Call it luck, call it romance, or chalk it up to animal magnetism (from our patients, not each other) we are two happily married veterinarians. What’s important in that sentence is that we are married first and veterinarians second. As long as we can maintain this perspective, I’m pretty sure we can handle the constant late nights, excessive hours on-call, and inappropriate dinner-table topics.
And if the new people we meet could just refrain from immediately talking about their pets and ask us about our lives outside of the hospital, we just might surprise them with how interesting we actually are!
Dr. Joanne Intile