It was with some weariness that I read the article by Gordon J.D. Cochrane, “Physicians and their primary relationships: How to be successful in both personal and professional realms” [BCMJ 2019;61:208-211]. I understood the author’s concern that physicians may drag their doctor-patient communication methods home, causing stress and conflict and thus interfering with the intimate level of communication needed in primary relationships. My first problem with the article was the implication that the physician should be living in two spheres: be the best when at work as a doctor and be the best when in his (or presumably in her) primary relationship. Easier said than done, and besides, perhaps the partner enjoys being a doctor’s husband or a doctor’s wife, with all the imperfections. Reading on, my second problem was that the article was based on the results of a study of long-term relationships of only 57 supposedly happy nonphysician couples. In that study the factors cited to achieve success at home included commitment, love and trust, good communication, effective problem solving, similar views and values, enthusiasm for life with a sense of humor, and sexual intimacy. All I could say was, amen. Actually, I rather liked the helpful suggestions relating to the last item, but think of the performance anxiety trying to excel in all the recommended factors. My third problem with the article was more personal: I am not a fan of generalized behavioral advice. This article had all the good intentions of providing specific assistance in the home relationships of busy doctors, but I couldn’t help but imagine Clark Kent changing out of his Superman costume (or Superwoman changing out of her costume) when arriving home after a day’s work.
—George Szasz, CM, MD
This letter was submitted in response to “Physicians and their primary relationships: How to be successful in both personal and professional realms.”