I’m currently a third year in medical school and my boyfriend and I have been together for a little over a year and a half now. We met during the summer after first year, and it’s funny because I was pretty keen on not starting a relationship back then. My focus was on school and doing well in my second year. Long story short, it obviously all worked out :)
Medical school is a huge thing to take on by itself, with all of the material that needs to be mastered and then regurgitated for exams. Add a relationship and that’s more time you need to carve out, because it wouldn’t be a great relationship if you didn’t spend time together. If your significant other is not supportive or asks for more time than you can (or are willing) to give, then it makes it so much harder. On the flip side, most people our age have much more time than medical students so it can be lonely for the partner who isn’t in school.
Here are some tips for what has really worked in my relationship. My boyfriend has a career in software development and we have been doing long distance since last summer.
Set aside dedicated time for one another.
My boyfriend is big on planning and it really worked well for us to have a deadline. Aside from exam weeks, we would agree on a time that was good for the both of us to just put our work down and be together. Sometimes it would be a proper date night and other times it was just catching up on the latest episode. It was great because it forced me to focus and maximize my study time instead of “studying” with Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat open. If I was more stressed than usual, we would set a start and end time. It seemed silly to me when he first suggested it but having the break was refreshing and I wouldn’t feel guilty about taking too much time. Even a 15-minute break just chatting on the couch about our days helped so much!
Prioritize your partner when you can.
Time will be limited and a good chunk of it will be dedicated to studying. Even though they didn’t have a huge exam to worry about, it was still time you took for yourself that you didn’t have together. After each exam block, I always made it a point to spend that day with my boyfriend. He was the one who would bring me food at the library when I studied late, so it was a clear choice for me to be with him instead of going to the class social, for example. Even if he didn’t, I would still choose to spend the evening with him because he patiently gave me the time I needed when I was cramming. This doesn’t mean that I spent all my free time with him but a good portion of it includes him because it’s important to me to share the time I have with him.
Don’t compromise when it comes to your schoolwork.
This is an absolute must. I entered medical school with an ex-boyfriend who didn’t understand how much studying needed to be done. I really struggled with balancing schoolwork and the relationship, and ultimately my grades suffered and we broke up. Your partner should understand when you need to study and not pressure you to pick schoolwork over them or make you feel guilty. Yes, it sucks that you can’t take the night off because of pharmacology but both of you need to understand that it was your decision that landed you in this position, and both of you have to be okay with it in order for it to work.
Remember that your partner is just that - your partner, and he/she also has needs.
I’m getting ready to apply for residency soon and my list of things to get done seems never-ending. My boyfriend has been incredibly supportive and listens to all of my frustrations and worries, until one day I unloaded a huge list of stressors and he stayed silent. We had barely talked all week because I was on my Surgery rotation and the first thing I did on the phone was fret about paperwork for audition rotations. I felt like a terrible, selfish girlfriend when I heard him describe his rough week and realized I knew nothing about what he was dealing with. It can be easy to get caught up in the bubble that is school but try not to forget about everything else. Even when they’re not stressed out, there are still parts of their lives and stories about their day that they want to share with you!
How to support a significant other who is in medical school (boyfriend’s POV)
Supporting a significant other who is in medical requires understanding, flexibility and support. I was amazed at the sheer amount of information my girlfriend had to consume on a daily basis and the vast amount of time she had to commit to studies without distraction. It’s a completely different lifestyle than I have ever encountered from someone who was in a project oriented major going into a 8-5 job. There were many times in her second year where she would wake up at 6AM to review lectures and study, come home at 5PM, eat a quick dinner, and head right back to the library. I knew I had to be understanding and supportive of her studies because they were important to her. So I would try to plan date nights around her study schedule to create nice interludes and help her pace herself so she wouldn’t burn out. She and I both enjoyed doing work at coffee shops so we would often have study dates and buy each other lattes or the occasional pastry. She would have her laptop and all of her notes out while I would do some coding or online coursework. Come exam time, the stress was palpable.
Though we lived in the same apartment, I would almost never see her the week prior because the amount of studying I described above just got a huge exam multiplier. Sometimes I would go to bed and say goodnight to her while she was still studying, and wake up for work to her already on her third cup of coffee and still going strong.As you can tell from my little anecdotes, having a significant other in medical school requires much emotional support and encouragement. Here’s a list of things that my girlfriend said she appreciated:
Lend an ear, let them rant a little about their exams, teachers, or grades.
Take them out to fun & spontaneous, yet time-sensitive dates to create an intermission between the books.
Double check with their workload before hanging out with them. Most of the time they will prefer to hang out rather than study and the temptation is quite the time killer.
Feed them. Sometimes they forget to eat.