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Hello Dr Robert,

For many months I have been seeking someone to discuss my situation with. I am pleased to have finally come across your site to have this opportunity to ask you about a very personal issue.

I am 31, single with no children. Last year after several appointments with a gynaecologist during investigations and eventual surgery, I realised I was falling for my gynaecologist. He is a consultant in his late forties and has always been a perfect gentleman and professional. I have never had to undergo any intimate examination and have had two laparoscopic surgeries so all that needed to be done was done under general anaesthetic. I was initially concerned about developing deep feelings for this man because I was afraid it may lead nowhere and I could end up hurt or frustrated, and I tried to look within myself to understand whether I was trying to project some unmet need onto him--a transference of a sort. However, I have a good relationship with both my parents and had a happy childhood and also already have a couple of older platonic friends.

I have had to see numerous consultants and doctors in the past due to a number of health issues--many of them have been male but I have always remained on professional and or platonic terms with them, thankfully. It has become apparent, especially since my last operation by the gynaecologist that the attraction is mutual. The fourth time we met he offered to walk me along the corridor, and he has been very attentive to me (more so than he is with another female patient of his that I know who is the same age) and has taken the time and trouble to give me pictures of my surgery (which some patients of other consultants do get, but he doesn't usually do). He also asked to see me sooner than he usually does, and said "I'll see you in two week's time and we'll see how it goes". He also came to see me straight after surgery and told me he'd ring me in the morning. For months I felt on cloud nine--and on one of the most recent occasions when we talked before surgery, we sat side by side and both were perfectly content. I live with my parents and they remarked on many occasions that I seemed to be smiling a lot to myself.

The bubble burst when I was waiting for that next appointment and as circumstances had it, he was scheduled to be away. I received a very impersonal standard "due to unforeseen circumstances. . ." and had to reschedule. There were only evening appointments available, and I couldn't attend because I work evenings myself, so I had to wait extra weeks for a daytime appointment--unable to explain why or communicate in any way. My world fell apart, and it has been impossible for either of us to articulate what we feel or what's going on because of the professional boundaries which must be maintained. After the last appointment nearly 5 months ago, he was very caring about me getting home. Right after I left the room, I overheard him breaking down behind the door. It's the most desperate sobbing I have ever heard from anyone, let alone a man. I didn't know what to do--I felt so helpless. I had been feeling equally despairing about the situation, but I didn't want to let on to him that it was making me suffer.

I sent a card the next day, thanking him for doing his best for me--for having found a great consultant I viewed as a friend, No reply. I then waited a couple of months and send a letter updating him on my progress. No reply. I have sought treatment from another doctor (not a specialist, but a medically qualified holistic practitioner) for my condition, and have informed him that I have done this, so that he knows I am prepared to seek care from another doctor to make way for a relationship. I realise that the reason he may not have responded is that he cannot risk being accused of misconduct. Or he may not be interested at all.

I don't know what to do. It looks as though I've landed the ball in his court--but the rules are preventing him doing very much with the ball. I feel very on edge about seeing him professionally again--and my condition is such that I could require emergency treatment (although hopefully not for many months or years). For example, if I were to meet someone else and become pregnant (which may never happen) I don't know how I would deal with having to face him as my obstetrician now, because of the feelings I have had.

Should I just forget this altogether or is this worth waiting the requisite time to allow the professional dust to settle?

I would value your opinion.

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You may be interested in reading my reply to another woman who seems to be falling in love with her gynecologist. If you take a look at that one, you will see that the matter of transference between doctor and patient is more complex than you seem to imagine, involving, as it almost inevitably does, physical closeness and relationship details which are similar in many ways to those between parent and child. Your situation seems different from hers, however, since in her case the physician did not seem to share her feelings, but as I understand your letter, you believe that your doctor is also in love with you but somehow feels constrained from acting on his feelings.

If you now have another personal physician--if the doctor you love is not your personal physician any longer, that is-- then I am aware of no ethical impediment to a social relationship between the two of you, and so I do not quite understand why you say, having put the ball in his court, that the rules are preventing him from responding. Assuming that he really does have sexual feelings for you as you believe, then it could be that he has other reasons for not taking the initiative (a wife? an important girlfriend?), or perhaps he is just shy about approaching you.

In your shoes, feeling the way you do, I might be tempted simply to get him on the phone, invite him to have a coffee with you somewhere, and use that occasion to express your feelings for him. After all, what do you have to lose? But you may consider that kind of approach--which has, at least, the virtue of honesty, and might also get you where you want to go--indelicate, embarrassing, too forward, not feminine, or whatever, and so decide simply to keep on waiting and wondering. Only you can know that, and so only you can know how to proceed.

Be well.

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page last modified July 10, 2007

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