My wife and I have been married for two years, together for three. I am a paramedic and absolutely love my job. My wife hates the fact that I have to work every other weekend and an occasional night shift during the week. I work 40 to 50 hours a week. She wants me to change my career and go back to school to have hours that fit her liking. Doctors and nurses and other medical professionals have weird hours. We met while I was training for a paramedic degree so she knew what I was trying to obtain, and how hard I worked for it. We are on the brink of divorce. Should I stick to my guns or give up something I love to do everyday for her lack of sacrifice? Or is it my lack of sacrifice. Your opinion would greatly be appreciated.
There are lots of elements that go in to making a satisfying and successful relationship. Certainly among them is the willingness to compromise and be aware of one another’s needs. However, in the situation you describe, I do think this "rule of thumb" may have to be altered a bit.
You state that your wife knew that you were studying to be a paramedic; and so, you are correct in your thinking that you didn’t present yourself as anything different than who you are. Given this information, there are several possibilities as to why your wife might have trouble with your schedule. Perhaps she didn’t realize what the demands of the career would be since initially you were in training and now you are actually performing on the job.
Perhaps your wife was guilty of making her decisions on emotions—relationships are about our emotions and sadly many people allow their hearts to make decisions instead of thinking through what things will be like once the glow of romance has died down. Or…she may have even thought she could somehow get things to change. (Just a side note to others: Never go into a relationship expecting someone to change; that generally leads to difficulty.)
Interestingly, there was a recent study that spoke about the "Michaelangelo effect." Basically, the research found that when couples sculpted one another and helped to bring out the best in their partner, the relationship was far more successful. It went on to say that trying to make your partner be someone he or she isn’t would have a negative consequence.
Given all of this, I wouldn’t advise you to change your career. However, her needs do count also. Clearly, she is feeling a sense of loneliness or of being disconnected from you. Here are some ideas to work with:
1. Start out by telling her that though your job is very important to you, so is your marriage and that you want to work to be responsive to her needs too.
2. Validate her feelings. You can let her know that you understand that this situation is difficult for her.
3. Look at the time you spend together; is it quality time? If your time together is nourishing, then the times apart may not feel so empty.
4. When you have to leave, let her know it bothers you. Often, men feel that if they acknowledge something like this to a woman, it will make it worse. That’s not accurate; rather, it will help her feel understood and more connected to you.
5. Even when you are gone, there are little things you can do to remind her that you
are thinking of her. Send her a text or voice message. Though these
are little things, they will do a great deal to help her know that she’s not forgotten.
Hopefully, with these ideas you will not only be savings people’s lives, but your marriage as well!
Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is the author of "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice: Transform Your Life" and co-author of "Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make it Last." You can sign up for her free monthly newsletter with relationship tips at www.ChoiceRelationships.com