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This applies for everyone really. A relationship is about two people supporting each other, not one supporting the other exclusively. If your third year girlfriend has a random weekend off with no call and no assignments due then maybe plan a fun trip somewhere or at least an adventurous outing.
Or a romantic dinner, or an interesting bike ride. Whatever floats your boat! Hold hands, kiss often, and remember that strong relationships require lots of work, but they are so worth it. Chantal Mendes is a writer who loves science. She graduated with a journalism degree from Boston University go Terriers! So consciously making times for them to Skype with each other was vital. They had to prioritize it, even if they were both tired or it was first thing in the morning.
He had to miss an event or something like that. They had to put enough face time.
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And things changed considerably. He came to Thailand over winter break and Sarah claims it saved their relationship. Sarah describes the first year of living in Miami was harder on her than Bryan. At least they had set expectations when they were apart. They created routines to make sure they were talking to each other. But when she moved to Miami with a new job and in a new apartment, he had his friends, his routine, his support system.
And he had an exceptionally busy schedule. The second year was difficult since Bryan had to start studying for Step 1. Once again, they had to re-negotiate what their time together would look like. And finding other ways to feel connected. Basically, Sarah ended up being the third wheel to medical school. What Bryan did for his part to make things work were a few things which Sarah considered as really vital.
Brian was good at keeping her aware of what his schedule would look like. Or he had to go to an extra lab. Additionally small gestures became a lot more important like taking the time to take a study break and go out for coffee. Sarah describes medical school as being very busy but there are points in the schedule that are less busy than other points.
Or save up some time in bank. He would leave her post-it notes around the house telling her he missed her. Being in Miami, Sarah says she was able to hang out with groups and medical students and describes it as quite an experience in terms of feeling a sense of alienation.
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That would be how she would meet other SOs going through the same thing. She texted her and said her boyfriend was going to bed at eight. And she was setting his schedule to meet his so she asked if they could do wine at five.
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Sarah agreed of course because she gets it. So it makes a big difference to have other people who get that. In terms of having a support system, Sarah says that anyone dating a medical student really needs to tap into an emotional support system. And that you might need a night out when your partner is studying. Find those specific people in your network. Not everyone is equally good to vent to. So have one or two people that you can all up and say you just need to talk for a few minutes. Find those people who get it.
Moreover, Sarah is also a big fan of therapy as a support system. In terms of study periods, Sarah considers Step 1 as by far the hardest. She recalls after Step 1 was over, she was just talking to Bryan and broke down crying. There were so many conversations they had to put on hold. And both people had to go into long-term thinking mode. Rotations are also difficult at the beginning in third year.
First and second are difficult but predictable. But third year is incredibly unpredictable. Not only is your partner doing a different rotation every month, but they also have a different schedule. They have different attending physicians to make the experience easier or more difficult. That said, it was important for them to have the schedule in advance or have Brian talk to classmates about what this rotation was like, so they can prepare themselves. So this became a very important part of their preparation.
Obviously, surgery was really tough since he was working very long days. They had an unusually difficult time with his pediatrics rotation. All because they both expected it to be a very light rotation.
So the feeling that they had prepared and then getting the rug pulled up from under them was difficult. When Sarah got to talk to other significant others while she was writing her book, there were themes that came up again and again. The lack of time together was one of the biggest ones.
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Another one is that sense of waiting. Almost everyone talked about how they would avoid feeling like they were waiting for their partner. There is this feeling of powerlessness in the face of all of that waiting. Another theme that came up was that sense of loneliness. It could come up when you feel like your partner is just not available. And you feel like a medical school widow or orphan. One woman even described the feeling as being married to the shadow of the person. She felt she was married to the idea of this person because in reality, they were never there.
Also one of the other things that came up is navigating social circles that involved a ton of medical people. When a bunch of medical students or doctors or residents get in the same room, that becomes the topic of conversation. So dealing with the feelings around that was one of the things that all of them talked about. Personally, even when I would get together with Allison, my wife, and her fellow neurology residents, they would niche down and talk about neurology stuff and I felt I was an outsider even though I was a physician myself.
But he knows there are twenty other people in his life who are happy to hear about. But she will hear about other things. The joke in the family was that all the girlfriends who came over dinner had to pass the test of sitting through his surgery stories. Her mom told her of one particular dinner when she was dating her dad. So it can be an incredibly alienating experience. So talk to your partner in advance and set up signal so they become aware of it too.
If it comes from your partner who changes the subject then great. Also, sometimes look at changing the conversation to another aspect of the topic. For example, Sarah finds certain things about the hospital that are interesting like the relationships between attending physicians and the medical students and residents. But that can be a way to pivot the conversation away from the technical details.
Sarah says there are three keys that lead this kind of relationship to survive and thrive.