When famed fictional TV doctor Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) had a one-night stand before the start of her surgical internship at Seattle Grace Hospital, she had no idea that this one night would last 11 years.
She also had no idea that the man she’d slept with was the new head of neurosurgery, Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey). But when Cupid — or in this case “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes — gets involved, wondrous things can happen.
Certainly Meredith and McDreamy had their ups and downs. There were love triangles, breakups, and miscarriages, as well as bombs, shootings, and plane crashes. Yet, season after season, the medical power couple always seemed to find their way back to each other.
When news came that Dempsey would exit the show in Season 11, fans wondered how Rhimes and her creative team would handle his character’s departure. In true “Grey’s” fashion, Derek died in a horrific car accident … shortly after he and Meredith had re-committed to their struggling marriage. So, why did Dempsey choose to leave the series?
Like Derek, Patrick Dempsey struggled to maintain a work-life balance
As it turns out, Dempsey and Derek Shepherd were more alike than one might think. Prior to his death, Derek had accepted a position in Washington, DC, working on a brain-mapping project initiated by the President.
The work, and the distance, put a severe strain on Derek and Meredith’s relationship. In the end, Derek decided that his wife and family were what mattered most. When faced with a similar situation, Dempsey made the same choice.
Working on a hit primetime show for 11 years can be incredibly taxing. His commitment to the series caused him to be absent from his wife, Jillian Fink, and their three children for long stretches of time. Similar to Derek and Meredith, Dempsey and Fink both had thriving careers: Fink is a successful celebrity makeup artist.
The work-life balance eventually became unmanageable, and Fink filed for divorce in 2015. As Dempsey told People in 2016, he was grateful for all that “Grey’s” brought him, but “there was a cost. I think after a certain period of time, no matter how much money you make, you want control out of your own schedule.”
Like the character he played, Dempsey realized that he had to make a choice. He wanted more time with his family and the freedom to explore other projects, ones that would not monopolize such great amounts of his time. So, he talked with Rhimes, who understood his decision, and the two began crafting Derek’s exit from the show.
Shortly after leaving “Grey’s Anatomy,” Dempsey and his wife reconciled and ended divorce proceedings (via ET). The two will celebrate 22 years of marriage this summer. Meredith and Derek may not have had their happen ending, but it looks like Dempsey and Fink are working towards theirs.