Dating in Medical School

Patient Centered Care
Chanpreet Mangat

Chanpreet Mangat

Medical school is a lot to handle. It can be so difficult to simply take care of yourself, let alone another human being. Therefore, dating in medical school can feel like an almost impossible task. How do you give somebody else energy and time when you barely have time and energy for yourself? Whether you go into medical school in a relationship or you start dating during medical school, it is definitely a transition. I went into medical school with my boyfriend (now fiance!) from undergrad who is not in the medical field at all, and here are some tips and tricks that I feel are valuable in making a relationship work during such a busy and stressful time.

Tip #1: Schedule time together

It might seem obvious, but just like studying requires some scheduling, so do your relationships. In order to have a successful relationship, you have to make sure that you are giving it the time and attention it requires. That said, it’s a fine balance ensuring that you’re able to keep up with school as well as give the person the attention they deserve (and you deserve)!

That’s why personally I schedule some time every night before I sleep to call my fiance! I cut myself off from studying around 930 every night so that I have 30 mins to an hour of uninterrupted time to give to him. This helps both of us immensely knowing that we have a free period of time in the day that is guilt-free where we can simply talk, and that if we are consumed by our days we always have that period to have ourselves heard. I also try to schedule a weekly date so that we both have something to look forward to, and it lets me plan my studying around it. By scheduling in the time to spend together you can guarantee that your school work gets done and that your relationship is not left neglected. 

Tip #2: Communication is key

Keep the communication line open! There isn’t time during medical school to be playing guessing games with your partner. If you enter medical school already dating somebody, make it clear that it’s going to be a huge investment and adjustment for both of you in so many different ways, including mentally, financially, and timewise. Share your schedule so that they know when you’re in class, the hospital, etc. Discuss your time constraints clearly so that there are no surprises.

If I have an exam coming up and need to spend more time studying, that is on me to make it clear to my partner. Communication is key in any relationship but completely integral to keeping your relationship healthy during medical school. Be realistic about your time, and have the means to explain to your partner what you want and need. If you only have a certain amount of time in a day or a week to talk or spend together, make sure that you are using it productively. Good communication prevents a lot of headaches later. 

Tip #3: Have honest conversations

Medical school is so selfish. You pack up your bags and go wherever it is you are accepted for medical school and residency. And that can mean leaving a lot of things behind that you may not want to, including a significant other. It’s a long road and long-distance will inevitably take a strain on a relationship. Be honest about this with your partner so that they’re aware of it from the get-go. If you think that you may have to move somewhere, let your partner know so that they can make an informed decision as to what they may do. 

Be honest about all your problems. No matter how small or big the issue, talk it out early. Medical school is stressful, and I always say that medical school is so stressful and that the only way a relationship can thrive in it is if you have a real understanding partner. But remember that any relationship is a two-way street and requires you to be understanding and honest about how you will make it work. 

Be honest about the future. When I entered medical school, my fiance and I were both honest that we likely wanted to get married after I finished medical school, and that helped the both of us have a clearer timeline and know that we were both in it for the same reasons. This helped us both pour energy into making our relationship thrive because we had the motivation and there was a point to which it would progress.  

Tip #4: Have healthy coping mechanisms

There are times you’re going to burn out in medical school. And regardless of whether your partner is in medical school or not, they will have their own things happening in their lives that affect them. Make sure that you have healthy coping mechanisms when it comes to dealing with school and that you both are able to deal with the constant daily struggles without letting it affect your relationship. 

One thing that I strongly believe in is having an external support system. I love keeping my medical school friends involved in my life because there’s nothing quite like going through things with your peers. Although my fiance hears many of my medical school complaints, I can’t expect him to have all the answers for me, as he is not going through it with me. Having that external support system keeps me sane and keeps me from putting the burden of all my complaints on my fiance. 

Tip #5: Make priorities

The studying quite literally never stops. You could study forever if you let yourself. Know when to stop yourself and when to give your attention to your partner. You have to be able to draw that line and create those priorities for that person or it will never work, and vice versa! If your relationship is a priority in your life it deserves its own time. 

For me, this comes back to scheduling time for my priorities. I treat my relationship like other facets of my life. I schedule in time every day to work out, eat healthy, and talk to my partner (guilt-free)! Life never stops, it’s up to you to carve out time for the things that matter to you. If one day you end up having to stay at the hospital longer than you anticipated, or are studying longer than you thought you’d have to, make that time up later to show your partner that they do matter to you. Show your partner that you value your relationship. 

Tip #6: Stay connected 

There will be times you may have to be away from your partner due to extensive studying, clinical rotations, residency, etc., and that means it’s more important than ever to find a way to stay connected amidst that! There likely will be some long-distance incurred at some point. It’s important to find ways to create common ground no matter your circumstances. Watch the same movies together, make a playlist for them, work out together, etc. Find those things to keep you connected. 

Tip #7: Remember that your partner is human too 

Sometimes when we’re so immersed in our lives we forget that our partners have lives too. 

Be open and honest with your partner with your expectations, needs, and the reality of your medical career. Don’t expect them to come in already knowing everything.

Remember that they have things going on and that their lives are just as important, with their daily ups and downs and their problems. Make sure that you are there for them too. Talk about their problems, their interests, their day. Medical school can be so consuming, sometimes I don’t realize how long has gone by before I’ve talked to a certain friend or family member. Give undivided time to your partner and show them that they are a priority in your life too. 

Dating in medical school can be difficult to navigate, but it’s by no means impossible. If you follow these tips and show your partner that you value the relationship and keep the communication open, there is no reason why you can’t have a thriving relationship in medical school!

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