How's Your Marriage, Doctor?

Physician's Money Digest, June15 2003, Volume 10, Issue 11

"Money, money, money. That's allyou think about! I've had it. Idon't want to live like this anymore,"Mrs. Wall screamed at her husband. Thusbegan my first visit with Dr. and Mrs.Wall. Her words were precipitated by herhusband's wish to spend thousands ofdollars on a luxury sports car. Dr. Wallwas stunned at the intensity of his wife'soutburst. He argued that they could easilyafford the car, and she agreed. "Thenwhy are you so upset?" he inquired. Mrs.Wall was upset for a number of reasons.

EMOTIONAL ABSENCE

Dr. Wall was a specialist in a lucrativebranch of medicine. He worked extremelyhard and was very successful in hisfield. But he was also very interested inmoney management. This interest inspiredhim to read widely on the subject,study, take courses, golf with knowledgeableindividuals, find a mentor, andinvest wisely. Unfortunately, this interestalso caused a problem for Mrs. Wall.Eventually she began to perceive herhusband as "obsessed" with money and"tuned out of family life."

Although her husband was homemost evenings at a reasonable hour, hedidn't seem to remember what wasgoing on in the everyday lives of herand the children. "He forgets to askhow an exam was, or who won the basketballgame, or what happened at thevisit with the orthodontist," Mrs. Wallexplained. He was also online a lot inthe evenings. "I've accepted that hefinds my life terribly boring and mundane,but not to show interest, even ifhe has to fake it, in the daily events ofour kids is unforgivable."

WALL FAMILY HISTORY

Dr. Wall was the son of a physician.Although he followed in his father'sfootsteps and became a physician, Dr.Wall's relationship with his father wasnot good. He was always trying toprove himself to his father, but despitehis financial success (Dr. Wall was muchwealthier than his father), his fatheralways seemed to find fault with him.

Mrs. Wall came from quite modestbeginnings. She initially appreciatedthe economic security marrying a doctorprovided, but that appreciation hadturned to resentment. "Now I'm embarrassed,"Mrs. Wall admitted, "thematerialism is grotesque, our house istoo big, and I'm not comfortable in soritzy a neighborhood. I worry aboutour kids and the values they're developing.I don't fit in despite my appearances(she dressed beautifully) andmanners. If he buys that car I will never,ever ride in it."

STRENGTHENED UNION

Fortunately, Dr. Wall did not buy thesports car. He eventually came tounderstand the reasoning behind Mrs.Wall's objection. Once she felt heardand listened to, Mrs. Wall could thenlet go of most of her rage. She was ableto express her great admiration for herhusband (eg, his many talents, his workethic, and sense of responsibility forfamily), the things that she originallyfell in love with. He had not heard herspeak with such affection in a longtime, and this meant a lot to him.

In turn, Dr. Wall was able to see hispreoccupation with his finances. Hethen delegated much of it to a consultant,whom he trusted and respected.He was also able to recognize how outof touch he was with his kids, andbegan to spend much more 1-on-1time with them during the week andon weekends. He restricted his nighttimeuse of the computer, and relaxedin the evenings with his wife, watchingTV or walking the dog together.And Mrs. Wall returned to part-timework. This positive undertakingimproved her sense of self-worth andreduced her anger.

Michael F. Myers, a clinical

professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British

Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, is the author of Doctors' Marriages: A Look

at the Problems and Their Solutions (Plenum

Pub Corp; 1994) and How's Your Marriage?:

A Book for Men and Women (American

Psychiatric Press; 1998). He is the past president

of the Canadian Psychiatric Association,

and welcomes questions or comments at myers@telus.net.