Significant Others in Medical School

My name is Colin Danko and I am an MS4 going into Emergency Medicine. Before I started medical school, all anyone told me was how difficult it was going to be. Then, when I told them that my girlfriend (now wife) and I were going to move in together right before school started, they told me that would make it sooo much harder. I can certainly see why having a relationship during such a stressful time could be difficult, and it definitely took work and sacrifice from both my wife and I to have such a successful marriage. But I can honestly say that I would not have been able to get through medical school without the support of my wife. Having a SO during med school can be a huge asset. They are for you in the stressful times and make it easy to have fun when you aren’t studying. However, if you don’t take into account what med school is like for them they can easily feel unimportant and neglected, and your relationship will suffer for it. Below I’ve listed a few tips that helped me and wife get through med school and I think they will help you too.

  1. Always remember your SO is making sacrifices: I think this is probably the most important thing to keep in mind when in a relationship during med school. It is easy to have the old “woe is me” outlook during medical school. You will be very stressed and busy at times, and it’s easy to feel like life is more difficult for you than anyone else. But keep in mind that you being in medical school isn’t easy for your SO either and they are making a lot of sacrifices, even if you don’t ask them too. They may have to do more than their fair share of chores and errands. They won’t be able to do all the fun things they want to do with you because you will be busy. They may feel lonely and frustrated while waiting for you to be done studying so you can hang out. Perhaps the most difficult thing for SO’s is knowing that, although they may be the most important thing in your life, medical school can’t always come second, and their needs will sometimes be trumped by the demands of school. Remember that although it may be tough for you, your SO is making many sacrifices to support you. So make sure you show them and tell them how appreciative you are.
  2. Be efficient with your time: Med school is a busy time, with long days and lots of different responsibilities of which to keep track. Between lectures, labs, studying, and having fun days can seem very short. My goal every day was to maximize my time with my wife, and since I am a very organized person I scheduled out every day to the hour so that I could stay on track and take care of all my medical school obligations as quickly as possible. I realize scheduling your day so strictly may not work for everyone, but I think that the sentiment should be on all med students’ minds if they are serious about their SO. Keep in mind that you are asking a lot of them to let you study all day with as little interruption as possible, so the least you can do is be as efficient as possible with the time they are sacrificing. This will also prevent you from getting behind in school.
  3. When it’s time to study, you better really study: You’ve probably heard by now, but there is a lot of studying to be done in medical school. You could easily spend 12 hours each day going over the material, and if you keep getting interrupted by the internet or going to get coffee or whatever else distracts you, studying will take up way more time than it needs to. It may be tough and at boring at times, but keep in mind that if you aren’t efficient with your studying then the time you have to spend with your SO will diminish quickly. The days of trying to watch TV and study simultaneously are over. When it’s time to study, focus on what you’re doing to make more time with your SO.
  4. When it’s not time to study, you better really not study: After spending a long day of studying, it’s way too easy to want to just on the couch and binge watch Netflix. My wife and I definitely do this, but we make sure to do lots of other things we enjoy. If you spend all your free time doing nothing your SO will probably start feeling neglected. Remember, they probably aren’t getting to do all the fun things they want to do with you because you’re studying so much. So when you’re not studying don’t forget to take what they want into consideration and have some fun with them. Making sure you have enough fun time is what gets you through the long hours of studying, and one of the benefits of having a SO is that there is always someone there to hang out with. Make sure you utilize this valuable asset for both your sakes.
  5. Set a “stop studying” time: This was a small rule that my wife and I made, but I think it really helped a lot. Every night (aside from nights before tests and other special situations) at 7 p.m. my wife and I both knew I was done studying for the day. This helped because she didn’t have to worry about always having to ask when I was going to be done for the day and potentially make me feel rushed and irritated, and I didn’t have to worry about how long I was taking and whether she was wishing I would hurry up and finish. We both knew that every night after 7 was “us time”, and this definitely motivated me to stay on schedule so I could get all my studying done that day (reference tip #s 2 and 3). However, in order to make this work you have to be willing to stick to it. There may be days when you feel like you need to study more, and it may cause anxiety to stop at the decided upon time, but sometimes it’s important to put your SO first and show them how important they are.
  6. Always remember your SO is making sacrifices: Seriously, don’t forget this. It’s important.