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Tips for Medical Students in Relationships

The medical school’s Class of 2019 began classes August 6. With their first test behind them, the rigors of a medical education are already being felt by the students --and their spouses or significant others.

An eye-opening experience for me four years ago was the annual dinner hosted by the Office of Alumni Affairs. Dr. Peggy Murphy leads a panel discussion of current medical students in relationships to offer advice and tips. Because not everyone can be on the panel--but we all have a lot to say about being on either side of a relationship involving medical school-- I sent out an informal survey. Thirty-five people responded, and some of the highlights are below.

First, the fun questions that everyone might be interested in.

Favorite Restaurant: Restaurants receiving more than one vote include Frank’s Pizza & Twisted Root (tied for first), Marilynn’s Place, Bistro Byronz, Guiseppe’s Ristorante, Wine Country, Windrush Grill and El Compadre.

Favorite Things to Do When Not Studying: Working out together was high up there, but dinner and a movie was also a popular option. The Boardwalk, Robinson Film Center and ½ off movies at Tinseltown on Tuesdays were all mentioned. Also recommended: the breweries Great Raft and Flying Heart, RW Norton Art Gallery, Red River Revel (in October), going to the farmers markets and Gators and Friends.

Meal Tips: Lots of responses involved breaking out a crockpot and making big meals and freezing leftovers. Budget Bytes, a food blog, was recommended by a few students.

Now onto the relationship advice.

When asked the favorite thing the medical student does to nurture a relationship, most of the responses centered on setting a schedule for studying and shutting the books at a certain point. Many couples value having dinner together. Planning date nights after exams was also recommended. One student had a more exact idea: “take her to Wine Country and sit on the patio.”

On the other hand, advice for the non-medical student in the relationship focused on cultivating hobbies in his or her newly found free time and spending time with good friends. One person offered, “Find something that you're passionate about to build toward--whether it be a degree that you can work on, a community project, or an interest group. Something that allows you to have your own sense of accomplishment is important.” Several people commented that having more time has been a great excuse to get in shape.

 Anything else? This open-ended question drew a lot of responses. Here they are:

  • Married with Kids? Make a schedule (like 8a-5p) and stick to it because your spouse will be expecting you. It will make you study efficiently and then have chore/down time when you are home. It is super frustrating sometimes to juggle study and family time, but do not sacrifice spending time with family. You would rather be a good doctor and have your family admire you rather than be the best divorced doctor. It sounds harsh but should be a motivator to those that are mature and take it seriously.

  • I think the biggest thing is understanding the struggle and stresses you both are going through. Don't only think about yourself because it is hard on the entire family. Make time for each other even if it's going for a walk or something simple. We try to have lunch together at the school a few times a week. Make every minute count and remember that med school is no fun without your support so thank them often for being there for you! You need them more than you may think.

  • The first two years of medical school are the most difficult. I know they give you the different analogies like "drinking out of a firehose," and you'll be tired of hearing it, but that is truly what the experience is like. However, there are many bright spots throughout those first two years that you will cherish forever. Take every opportunity to spend time together that you can. Make time for each other, talk to each other, and support each other. A lot of emphasis gets placed on the medical student in the relationship and we're often short sighted when it comes to our goals. Sometimes we need to learn to take a step back and realized that without our partner/ significant other, life would be a lot more difficult. The third year is much more enjoyable and generally more stress free, although you have to adjust to the different schedule of your rotations. I've never heard anyone say anything negative about fourth year. Each year is progressively better, and the journey goes by in the blink of an eye.

  • Although med school is hard, do not neglect your relationship because your significant other's support can make everything much easier. 

  • It's not as bad as you think it will be! You will enjoy your time in school, and so will your significant other!

  • Making an effort to communicate and understand each other overcomes any challenge med school brings. 

  • It is completely possible to make it through med school sane and with your relationship intact. You just have to realize things will be different and they have to realize that you have to put school first sometimes. Don't take your significant other for granted during this time!

  • Farmers market is fun.

  • There will be good blocks and bad blocks - good rotations and bad rotations. Take it one day at a time and try to live in the moment as much as possible. After graduation, the hard times will fade and you'll be left with some amazing memories from med school. 

  • Learn to lean on other medical spouses, they will understand you like no one else. They will make the hard times bearable and the great times even more fabulous.

  • Good luck, and remember to have some fun!

  • These years will be tough and can make or break you as a couple. It's important to have open communication and remember that even though the grass sometimes seems greener on the other side, it isn't. Make time for each other and remember that the training years will end and things will get better. However, don't live in the future 'it gets better years', focus on today and make memories today because you don't want to look back after it's all over and say you never did anything fun, that's a recipe for disaster and resentment. 

  • If you love vintage finds, Vessel Vintage on Olive Street is awesome. 

  • Be ok with being by yourself and being out of the loop with lots of medical conversations...

  • Your medical student will be hungry. He/She won't have a real place to store food so load up on quick bites that can fit in the white coat or back pack. They also have no time to grocery shop, clean, cook, etc so go ahead and mentally prepare yourself that if those things are important to you, you will be doing them or they won’t get done. The first two years are the hardest...and then it does get easier, but not in the way you think it might. You get stronger and make yourself busier and your spouse being busy or gone all the time starts to bother you less. Get a job, get a hobby (or two) and get to planning. Budgets, meal planning, time together...it all requires a plan & effective communication. It's not easy, but it's doable and will make you both stronger! Good luck & God bless!

  • Shreveport Brew, Wine and Swine, Texas Makers' Fair, Shreveport Cork Festival, Robinson Film Center, Artspace, Farmer's Market, etc. There are a lot of cool things to do in Shreveport if you keep your eyes peeled and talk to the right people or follow the right pages on Facebook. It's a growing city!

  • For the non-med student, it's so important to stay busy and have a life of your own, no matter what that looks like for you (whether that's doing things on your own or having a group of friends). When you're busy, you're less likely to be frustrated or feel neglected by a schedule your med student really has little control over. Plus, when you do have time together, you have something other than med school or being bored to talk about, which med students always like as a distraction from their grueling day to day lives.

  • Don’t look at this time as something to hurry up and get through. This is four years of your life. It will be hard but try to live in the moment when you can and find joy among the stress. If you are the non-medical student, definitely make a life for yourself here. You may be moving after graduation, but you may not…it’s always better to put down some roots. We have loved living in Shreveport a lot more than we thought we would.

 

--Meg Willett

Public Relations Coordinator (& wife of an intern)