Dating in medical school is not easy. During the first two years, you are constantly studying and making sure you are passing (and hopefully acing!) all your exams. Then there’s USMLE Step 1… Then during the third year, you are in the hospital or clinic every day and THEN you come home and study. Medical school is not only time-consuming; it is mind-consuming. I am currently dating somebody and I wanted to share some mistakes I have made and also tips that I’ve picked up along the way.
Mistake #1 – Thinking my time is more valuable than others
I’m a very selfish person. I especially value my time and absolutely hate wasting time. As a medical student, I feel this constant pressure that “free time” really should be “study time”. I also frequently think because I am a medical student, my time is more valuable than others, especially those without demanding jobs. At the end of the day, I know that’s my pride talking and I need to let go of that superiority complex. My time is valuable but thinking that my time is more valuable than my partner’s is a potential fuel for a fights.
Mistake #2 – Allowing miscommunication (especially via text) to cause fights
As a medical student, it’s not practical to see my partner or go on dates multiple times a week. With that being said, I often rely on texting and other forms of electronic communication to stay up to date with my significant other. However, there is so much room for miscommunication via these methods. A text cannot detect or convey sarcasm (I’m an incredibly sarcastic person) or many other forms of emotion. I try to avoid miscommunications by trying to be as clear as possible in my texts. If a fight starts, I try to end the fight by talking on the phone or seeing each other in person.
Mistake #3 – Not reaffirming my significant other enough
I often forget that as human beings, we need to be reminded and reaffirmed that we are loved and cared for. Needing to be reminded that we are loved is not insecurity. Wanting love is a natural human desire. I’m not great at doing this for my partner but I’m working on it. This is especially important if you don’t see your partner as often.
Tip #1 – Schedule protected time for your significant other
Protected time with my significant other is probably the most important part of having a successful relationship. It’s so easy to spend time with your partner and at the same time be distracted and stressed about all the studying or work that you need to do. Protected time is called protected because you allow yourself to let go of all the thoughts and distractions that prevent you from focusing 100% on your partner. My partner and I have date nights at least once or twice a week. We only cancel if absolutely necessary. During these date nights, we forget about all our responsibilities and just enjoy each other’s company.
Tip #2 – Do not go to sleep angry
Whenever my partner and I get into a fight, it’s so tempting for me to angrily walk away or hang up. It’s so easy to say, “Forget it, let’s just leave each other alone and study/work/etc.” Sweeping problems under the rug or walking away from unresolved problems are great ways to end your relationship and also your productivity as a medical student. I have a policy of never allowing myself to go to sleep angry at my partner. That doesn’t mean our problems are always fixed by the end of the night, but we at least work things out to the point where we are not angry at each other any more.
Dating in medical school is not impossible. Whether it is looking for that special someone or being in a thriving long-term relationship, you can always find ways to make work. However, medical school is not easy, so you will have to prioritize and sacrifice for the people that really matter to you. Build good habits in medical school because residency is just around the corner and it only gets harder!