Dating in med school

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Just like many other important aspects of life, there is no blueprint for a successful romance. There are simply too many personalities, cultures, opinions, and so on.

There are, however, a few things I noticed during my time as a medical student I have later found to be more prominent among medical students than others. Being aware of these might help you to have a better relationship with your significant other.

Pre-existing relationships often falter.

No matter where you come from, who you’re with, and how long you have been together, attending university is a journey that is likely to change you as an individual in many ways.

This change often causes relationships to fall apart. This is true for any field of study, but perhaps more so for medical students.

During my time in university, fellow students parted ways with their significant others, with whom they had been together before enrolling from the first week all the way up to the final year. There was even a married couple that ended up divorcing 2 or 3 years in.

There can be many reasons for this, but a big reason is that attending medical school drastically changes the life of the one attending, which can have a huge impact on a relationship.

Some of the changes that one encounters are the workload, the stress from your expectations to pass, the alien language and culture. It takes time to adjust to these changes, and most likely they will change a person. This can be very challenging to a relationship. 

Another reason is that attending med school often requires one partner to move. If the other partner is unable to follow, it brings us to the next point.

Long-distance is difficult

This one is rather universal, long-distance in challenging no matter what, however, when one partner moves away to study it can be a source for conflict.

Despite being supportive, the partner that is “left behind” might feel exactly that, especially when their significant other gets new friends and starts to change.

The challenge that long-distance depends on how far apart you are and how often one gets to see each other. If you are close and get the chance to see each other often, it will be less of a challenge.

If you have the possibility to see each other every weekend and holiday you have an easier time taking part in each other’s lives, which makes it much easier.

On the other hand, if you end up being far apart, not only do you have to cope with the distance, but also the cost of travel as well. If the distance is so significant that the best way to travel is by plane, that cost can be so significant that it will limit the time you get to see each other. 

While keeping in touch via video chats etc can help, it simply cannot make up for actually spending time together, and ultimately, you can only keep long-distance going for so long.

While it’s not impossible, long-distance relationships are hard and the odds are stacked up against you. Do what you can to even the odds.

Find someone who understands

This is something that is a lot easier if you fall for a fellow student, you are both in the same boat. But If you find someone outside of medicine (or other highly demanding fields), this becomes very important.

As with law, finance and other higher fields that require higher education, med school is demanding and requires students to be dedicated in terms of time and attention. Therefore, it is important that you give your significant other an idea of what is to come both short term and long term. 

In the beginning, when things might not be as serious, you should at least make sure they understand that you will sometimes be preoccupied with your studies.

If things work out, and your relationships start getting more serious, it is very important to extend this understanding even further. Don’t assume they will understand because, in reality, you don’t really know yourself.

Both of you have to be aware of and acknowledge the fact that you will miss out on important events and holidays due to rotations etc. The sooner both of you accept this but can agree that it is something you are doing for the both of you and for your future, the better. 

It can be a conversation that is difficult to bring up but clear this up sooner rather than later as it can become a source for conflict down the road.

Also, remember that this is Important not only during medical school but later too. Long hours, especially early in your career puts a strain on the relationship, especially when there are children involved, etc.

Acknowledge your partners’ sacrifice

Even if you have come to an understanding with your partner about not being able to present at all times, you should still acknowledge and appreciate that sacrifice that comes with this.

Even though studying can be really hard at times, and you can feel that nothing else matters, don’t think your time is more valuable than your significant others.

This can be particularly hard to do, especially when your stress level is at its peak. Nonetheless, avoid this pitfall from the beginning, as it is only going to become more relevant in the future (marriage, kids, etc).

Dating across grades can become challenging

Although dating someone who also studies medicine can be a blessing, it can create challenges of its own.

One particular issue with this can arise if you are dating someone in a different year. In such a scenario, it is inevitable that one will finish before the other.

Some internships are more sought after than others and might cause the one to finish first to take a job that is far away. In such a scenario you can end up with a period of long-distance until your significant other finishes as well, after which one has to try to find a solution where both are given a chance to pursue what they want which is a challenge in itself.

Schedule protected time for your significant other

Whether you are dating a fellow medical student or not, this is one of the most important tips in this collection.

Having periods of high stress during which you study around the clock can be challenging enough in itself for both you and your partner, but scheduling some quality time where you put the books aside and try to appreciate one’s company makes it easier for both of you.

First of all, you have a scheduled time where you have to take a break, which can encourage you to make the most out of the time you have. While for your partner, they don’t have to wonder when you will be able to spend some quality time with them next.

Think of your relationship as a break from medical school

This one might perhaps be more relevant if you are dating someone not in med school but is relevant for both. If your partner is also studying medicine, you will have a tendency to talk about it even in your spare time.

If you have someone outside the medical field it is easier to avoid this, which I think is very important.

As a medical student, you will eventually become a doctor, a title and a job that, in many ways, will define you as an individual. The average medical student graduates at age 26-27, and the average retirement age for a doctor at around 68 years.

This means that the average doctor will have over 40 years in a life-defining profession. Therefore, try not to let the fact that you are a medical student define you too much, there’s plenty of time for it later whether you want it or not.

Closing thoughts

Like I mentioned in the beginning, this is no ultimate dating guide, but rather a collection of observations and a few general tips I think most people in med school can find helpful.

Remember that there are no universal rules or ways of doing things, anyone can find someone and make it work, med student or not.