So this article on how to date a med student showed up on my facebook feed today – and while it’s funny and true, it doesn’t really talk about how to deal with the central issue: you don’t have time for a “traditional” relationship.
That problem has led to around a 40% divorce rate and a 90% break-up rate at Boyfriend’s school, and around a 30% breakup rate at mine so far. It basically sucks. So I was surprised when I read the article and didn’t see any real suggestions. Boyfriend and I were dating before he went to med school, and now that he’s in his 3rd year and I’m in my 1st, I feel like I might as well throw out a few additions to that article:
1. It’s always better for both of you to be busy. If the girlfriend gets off work at 4pm, decides to surprise her boyfriend by making dinner, and expects him to be back at 5:30 like he said, she’s going to be pissed when he’s 3 hours late – no matter how much extra study time he needed.* Once may be okay, but this will happen all the time, and it will get old fast. Better for both of you to be busy than for one of you to be sitting at home, waiting. Nothing good can come of sitting alone, waiting.
2. Don’t schedule time together. I realize this is counter-intuitive, but Boyfriend and I both feel strongly about it – scheduling time to be together can hurt more than it helps. Med school schedules are anything but consistent – you can’t predict how much you need to study on any given day, and interest group/shadowing/research schedules change constantly. Stress kills relationships, and stress is when you’ve promised your boyfriend to go to an art gallery at 2pm, but your PI e-mails you asking if you can come in an hour earlier, or you get an e-mail announcing that the anatomy professor will drop by the lab around 3 to review a confusing topic. If you’re put in a position to choose your education or your relationship enough times, eventually you’ll have to choose for good.
3. Flexibility > Consistency. My plans with Boyfriend were usually along the lines of, “Art gallery, this weekend.” “Date night, this Friday – at some point after 6pm.” Yes, it means that we’re effectively sacrificing other people or activities at times (by keeping an entire night open for what might only be a 2 hour “date”), but you can’t have it all. Even now, we still have date night – we just use Skype, synch up a tv show on hulu, and watch it together while eating a qiuck dinner. It’s awesome. But it’s not scheduled, and it’s not consistent. This is okay with us, because of #1 – we’re both busy.
4. Cheating is not suddenly okay. I know it’s obvious, but it makes the list by being, sadly, the reason for most of the breakups. The fact is, “My girlfriend is always studying and I’m lonely” is not a good reason to cheat. “There are a lot of hot people in my class”, same deal. Just give them the decency of breaking up first.
5. Test schedule. If you are in medical school, give your partner the schedule. None of the test dates should be a surprise, and neither should the fact that you need 4-5 days away for any of them. Make sure you make it up to them when the test is over by spending the post-test night with them instead of just with your classmates.**
6. Finally, med school is not more important than the non-medical half of the relationship. This is a mistake that most medical students make. “I’m in med school – what I have going on is more important than anything that could possibly be happening to you.” Some of us act like this without even thinking about it, but it’s not okay. There are things out there in the world, as crazy as it seems, that are more stressful and more important than what we go through, and sometimes the other person has to remind us of that.
But this is just what Boyfriend and I have figured out for ourselves. Anybody else have thoughts or suggestions?