by Bob Blumm, MA, PA-C, DFAAPA

There are basically two types of humans: those who are married and those who are not. Years ago, when our parents were kids, marriage was an institution that was entered into for all the right reasons: love; warm fuzzies; it was honorable and respectable; everyone else was doing it; movies were extremely romantic; it was expected after a moderate time of dating and engagement. When WW ll occurred, many more entered into this sacred covenant because they feared they might never see their soldier boy again as he was going to foreign soil to fight for our country. Strangely enough, these marriages seemed to work and the divorce rate was low. There were less expectations and the family unit was supported by the myth that “father knows best.” Submission and a lack of independence became the script for many an American girl and it was embraced with a sense of duty.

Along came the sixties with its new philosophies, with equality in marriage, burn the bra, higher education for females. The eighties saw the job world suddenly open to women from every sector and America discovered that women did, indeed, have a mind of their own as well as an intuitiveness as great as Davy Crockett. Women surfaced as CEOs and COOs of large companies, were discovered in important positions on Wall Street, entered careers such as medicine in droves and not to be nurses, but physicians. They were equal in every way and many would argue that they were superior. Take my wife, for example: every day as we sit at the breakfast table she asks me to repeat the mantra, “my wife is always right.” My wife still admits that I am the head of the house, but adds that she is the neck that turns the head. This new relationship of marriage created a need for Marriage Encounters, as many of us men became disillusioned by the state of affairs and wondered what happened to the days of our Mom and Dad. I went to one of the marriage encounters and I have never forgotten the quote, “Marriages are not made in heaven but come in do it yourself kits.” Yes, this institution requires work and lots of it, or we will see ourselves as part of a statistic that says the divorce rate is 53%.

In this age, we have also discovered that marriage can be good for your health and add longevity… or, it can create hypertension, elevated cholesterol, psychological disillusionment and heart attacks that lead to death. So, the question remains: should I say, “I Do”? You might be surprised by some of the available data on marriage. To some in the medical world, it gets the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.” Many will tell the geriatric generation to get a pet such as a lap dog or a kitten so they will have something to bestow their love upon and to spoil. Doesn’t that sound a bit like marriage? What does a pet owner do for the puppy or kitten? An astute parent of a pet will provide a warm home; give “Skippy” fresh water and wet food in the morning and dry food at night. They will make sure that the little guy gets his exercise, goes for walks, has a clean place to relieve himself, gets vitamins or food that has plenty already and annual check-ups. They will be the recipient of much love, cuddling, pats on the head and the rump. They will have leashes when they are going for a walk. Oh, my goodness, did I just describe a perfect long term marriage without adding the interchange of ideas, concerns, hopes and plans for the future and the mutual respect that grows through the years?

So, marriage is very much like owning a puppy or kitten; marriage is a stress reliever and serves to bestow more social support at anytime of the day or night. Marriage provides warmth on cold winter nights, provides protection from foolish errors (my wife does this really well), protects the spouse by kicking or punching them at night because of snoring and ultimately proving that they are always right by looking at the results of the sleep study and getting as a reward, a C-Pap machine so that their spouse sounds like Darth Vader when he/she speaks with a mask on. When my wife took me out for a walk, she realized that I had lost stamina and was suffering from SOB after every walk. She marched me to a cardiologist who discovered that I had HCM without the outlet syndrome and later A-Fib for which she sent me to another cardiologist who placed me on Tikosyn and cured me. My wife, Celia, has been my guardian angel, and the research states that married people have less strokes and heart attacks and have support when they are sick, depressed or have a severe problem. Ready to say, “I Do?”

There’s always a flip side to life, so let’s look at a bad marriage. Unhappy and stressful marriages have been associated with a host of medical illnesses such as emotional turmoil, stress, anger, hypertension, heart attacks, suicide, depression and TBI if you have been hit with a frying pan. Cardiac patients who are negative about their spouses are almost twice as likely to die four years s/p heart attack. Anger that is uncontrolled can cause personal harm, harm to your spouse, a jail term, tachycardia, and a release of stress hormones (i.e., epinephrine and cortisol.) Complicated marriages have a greater burden in terms of after effects on women over men. Women, in general, are more sensitive and have read the story of Cinderella and realize that, in certain marriages, they are not married to Prince Charming but are almost slaves of the mean stepmother. Wives who have equal power within a marriage and have husbands who are warm, compassionate, caring and supportive live much longer than those who are married to a heavy-handed and heavy-hearted ignoramus.

Now that you are aware of the sequale of marriage, you can make the important decision as to whether you wish to say, “I Do!” Sometimes love is the best medicine, and everyone should have a strong dose of it to sail through life. There are smooth waters and storms at sea but working together as a true crew makes the difference between crashing against the rocks or smooth sailing as the sun comes out and we say that “this too shall pass.” Marriage is somewhat like your profession: it should be something that you love and something that you have given deep thought to prior to saying those sacred words, “I Do.” And, of course, every PA should marry an NP to share wonderful conversations with without breaking HIPPA rules.

Robert M. Blumm has received national recognition as a distinguished fellow of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). He is the past president of the Association of Plastic Surgery Physician Assistants, and was past-president of the American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants, past president of the American College of Clinicians and NYSSPA, as well as Chairman of the Surgical Congress of the AAPA. In addition, Bob received the John Kirklin MD Award for Professional Excellence from the American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants. Along with his associate, Dr. Acker, Bob was the first recipient of the AAPA PAragon Physician-PA Partnership Award. He has been a contributing author of three textbooks, written 150 plus articles and is a sought out conference speaker throughout the United States.