Joe Baxter worked in medical research for the majority of his life. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling abroad, working in his wood shop and freelance writing about medical news. He has written the following guest post:
One of the hardest things that a person can do in medical school is maintain a relationship—but it can be one of the most rewarding things as well. Anybody who tells you that it cannot be done, or that it is a bad idea, they are wrong. A med student is not a robot designed only to study and do well on tests; a med student is a human being, just like the rest of us, and as human beings, we need love and physical connections to other people. So here are 5 ways to maintain a healthy relationship while in med school.
#1 Communication is the key to everything in a relationship
Without communication, med school or no med school, a relationship absolutely will fail. I know that you’ve probably heard this a million times before, from a million people, but it is the absolute truth—if you were to only follow this tip, you greatly increase your chances of success in a relationship. Communication allows partners to identify needs and weak spots in your relationship, and even to talk your way to a solution. This point is especially pertinent to those that are looking to maintain a long distance relationship while in medical school. Skype will become one of your computer’s most used programs if one partner decides to make the commitment to go to med school.
#2 Making plans and sticking to them is extremely important in any relationship
You are going to be busy with classes, lab-work, and eventually residencies, so setting some time aside to spend with your partner might be difficult, but it is definitely do-able. In the case of a long-distance relationship, it is essential. As mentioned above, Skype is an extremely useful tool in a long-distance relationship, and setting aside one hour a night for a Skype date can do wonders. If you aren’t in a long distance relationship, prioritize that you spend a certain amount of time with your partner per week, even if it’s just being around them while they study.
#3 Don’t be afraid to live your own lives
Chances are that you won’t be spending every bit of free time with your partner because there are other relationships in your life as well as in theirs. Guys generally need guy-time, while girls need girl-time—and everybody needs a little “me” time now and then, regardless of gender. This is completely normal. Give your partner space when they need it and take yours when you do too. If you’re long-distance, be understanding if your partner reschedules or decides to skip out on an occasional Skype date (with due forewarning of course).
#4 Never ever underestimate the power of little things
Cards, candy, flowers, these are all horribly generic ways of saying “I love you,” but they are horribly generic for a reason: they work. Of course, you don’t need to spend money to tell your partner that you care. Tap into the things that make your relationship work, such as inside jokes between the two of you, a letter telling them how important they are to you, and maybe a meaningful gift every now and then. Even a text at the beginning of the day telling them that you are thinking about them can go a long way.
#5 Know what it’s worth
Sometimes, the best thing for both partners is to end the relationship. It ends up being healthier, and both partners will become happier for it because they are able to pursue their aspirations. This is definitely not always the case, not even the majority of the time. My opinion is that if you are willing to work through it, you can make your relationship work—the trick is figuring out whether it’s worth it or not. Your time at med school may very well expose some very ugly facets of your relationship with your partner, and it may test your patience with them as well, but I can almost guarantee it will let you know whether or not you want to continue to be with them.
As a final word I want to say that if you and your partner are meant to be, you will be. This isn’t to say that relationships don’t require work, it’s meant to say that your relationship shouldn’t affect your decision to go to or stay in med school. Study up and always remember that relationships are like the human body: they are complex, mysterious at times, and will almost always require a check-up. Don’t neglect giving your relationship the care it needs.