“But, you’re not that spouse.”
He actually said this. Recently in a meeting with a dental entrepreneur and multiple business owner, the label of “dental spouse” came up as it often does. What I realized as we spoke for a while was his interest in my not wanting to be “labeled” like this. His curiosity of my thought process on how I earned my stripes or my place in dentistry prior to being a spouse was fascinating. Yes, working in the practice has been a blessing many times, but it’s equally a curse when it’s used to imply that you “might or might not” have a need to work. Seriously? Better yet, when someone might suggest that this role is something they understand and last time I checked they were not married to a dentist or in dentistry for that matter.
Moving past the label of the dental spouse is something I have had to work at since I became one. Despite popular belief that many dental spouses are alike, I’d suggest that this is incorrect. It’s been my experience that there are those dental spouses who appreciate this loosely used label while others cringe. More often, it is the context in which it is used that causes grief. What might not be an issue for you could be the reason someone else feels they have been insulted. The mere fact that there is even a “that spouse” mentality is intriguing to me. It’s as if we all know what that means and make no mistake; most of the time, it’s not a compliment!
It’s about earning my credibility.
I’ve been blessed to have a very diverse career in dentistry, one I’ve earned and that I’ve chosen. I’ve sold dental supplies, been a software co-owner, practice assistant, administrator, and marketing representative. I have worked with the largest seminar company in dentistry, written books, blogs, articles, and have been at podiums both big and small. Yet, the hardest position I’ve held is that of the dental spouse. Although I function as the comprehensive care coordinator when I’m in the practice now, spouse is still the most controversial title I’ve ever had. For me, it’s about earning my credibility and stripes every time I walk back in that office. You see, thanks to real-life “that spouse” syndrome, no matter how much you are liked, it still exists.
Today, more than ever before in dentistry, there are dentists who are working with their spouses. This is happening while others have a spouse waiting to bounce out of their corporate or another line of work to move over to the “family business” and assist in running it. Male and female dental spouses struggle with the “when and why” they should make the leap from their individual career to “our” business. This doesn’t take into account the number of couples that practice together. I had an interview recently, and my guest shared that this number is at just over 30% with graduating dentists. This often means more debt than ever, and little do they know that this is a built-in controversy for some team members.
The dental spouse has feelings too.
This story is just a short heads up. One that I hope you’ll take into account, the next time a
“that spouse” thought process crosses your mind. Although I can’t speak for everyone, I will share that I work as hard, if not harder, to earn my credibility and get past the label than many. It can even come up in some of my dental colleague circles. Other times it might mean me justifying my honorarium or suggesting that I’d appreciate someone refers business back my way as opposed to me being the only one referring or connecting others.
The dental spouse has feelings too, and not all are created equal. Often, I’ll share that I fell in love with dentistry before I fell in love with a dentist (who I did NOT work for) …you see, there I go again. It’s a feeling that there is some NEED to say this and get ahead of what someone might likely be thinking. No matter where you are in your journey as a dental spouse, just remember, you are not alone! If you’d like to share your story or be interviewed on the SpouseTales podcast reach out, we’re here for you, and we hear you!
See you on the road,