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the work-life-balance TV trope

I've been re-watching "Grey's Anatomy" on netflix lately, I guess just trying to relive my late 20s because we watched a lot of that show back in the good old days of the 2000s.

Ever notice how many tv shows have that breakup scene with the angry spouse yelling at a main character all "We've been married for 15 years and I'm tired of you always putting work ahead of our marriage and never being there! You're always saving lives and doing surgeries! It's never going to be MY turn to come first is it!"

Maybe other non-doctor shows, like lawyer shows or whatever, have this scene too... I don't remember because I mostly watch doctor shows. It happens a lot on those. And every time I just totally don't understand, I mean is this a real thing? Do people marry someone in medical school and think "well she's busy now, but in a few years she'll be on vacations all the time with me! nothing better to do than stare into my eyes! let's get married!"

I thought that was sort of a marriage 101 thing. Like, if they hear you say "I just keep hoping he'll change... marriage should do the trick!" then no pastor, rabbi or justice of the peace in his or her right mind should actually conduct a marriage ceremony for you.

I'm constantly stumped about why divorces happen, they always take me by total surprise. Maybe the TV shows are written by people with more experience and more realistic than I think. Or maybe nobody understands why marriages break up, so of course the TV shows are wrong but they're scraping at something?

Oh well, for anyone wondering... grey's anatomy still has a really weak season 4. I kinda lost interest around then in the 2000s and rewatching it I just remembered again why. we never even saw bailey's husband until he showed up whining about wanting to leave her, what a jerk.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 2nd, 2014 04:18 pm (UTC)
I just wanted to say that I hear you. I hate that trope and think it's nonsensical for exactly the reasons you describe.

What does "coming first" mean anyway?
Sep. 2nd, 2014 10:08 pm (UTC)
Coming first means not having to give up your life and priorities to compromise with a spouse. For example, there are some spouses who will trail a more successful spouse. There are other spouses who won't. Sometimes people don't realize that they are in either of these situations until a time comes up when it has to happen.
Sep. 3rd, 2014 02:20 am (UTC)
In the shows, I feel like it means it doesn't matter if some poor mother is bleeding out on the operating table, if I call you about being snubbed by the grocery clerk you must let her die and answer me dammit because I'm your spouse and I want to come first! Thou shalt sacrifice for marriage!

I like to think most marriages have some gray areas. I mean I'm married... Is my husband more important than my job? In a broad sense, of course! Can I always make time for him no matter what's going on with work? Uh... not quite. But as a rational person he can go with it and wait until tomorrow or whatever.
Sep. 3rd, 2014 01:15 pm (UTC)
As somebody in the medical profession, I feel like it isnt entirely inaccurate. I don't watch Gray's anatomy though so I can't speak about that show directly. But part of the medical training process is that things change in each stage of the game. So you may have lots of time during one part of your training, like in medical school, and then in residency your partner might be shocked to find out that you no longer have any time. And of course, you have a choice as to what specialty you want to go into. You could pick something like surgery, where you will see very little of your partner, or something less time-consuming, which is more family-friendly. And even when you pick a job, there are jobs that are more family friendly or less family friendly. Obviously, when emergency comes up, you don't have a choice, but when picking the residency or job, you do have a lot of choice.
Sep. 4th, 2014 06:20 am (UTC)
I think there are relationships you can get in to where you do have a realistic expectation that things will change (for the better), and then be somewhat justifiably upset when they don't. I met my husband while we were both in grad school, and we spent our first 7 years together (2 dating, 5 married) working on our Ph.D.s. We often had no time, energy, effort, thought to spend on each other: Our lives were sustained by the fact that simply sitting in the same room as the other person while we both worked was better than NOT doing that.

But we both expected, quite reasonably I think, that things would improve after the Ph.D.s were finished. And for the most part, this expectation has been justified (we're both 5 years out), and thus there are some times when I do feel that everything but me comes first, and that I should complain about this, because it means priorities have gotten shifted and need to be shifted back. It doesn't mean we're going to divorce, only that things have gotten side-tracked at some point.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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