To date or not to date in med school. That’s the question. It’s a bigger question than it might seem at the outset, but people who understand the rigors of medical school also understand that distraction of any kind can be extremely detrimental to success.
While there are certainly several reasons why dating in medical school might seem like a bad idea, there are also a good number of positives that can’t be ignored. In fact, some people might argue that the positives greatly outweigh the negatives because having a support system during one of the most challenging points in an educational career is much more important.
The Pros of Dating in Med School
A med student spends her entire day around her peers in an incredibly competitive environment. Being able to go home to a partner who isn’t part of the system helps to alleviate the stress of the day and decompress ahead of the next day’s challenges. Even talking on the phone with one’s partner is nice. It’s an opportunity to relax and focus on other things, which is important during a time when it’s easy to get lost in one’s studies.
Having someone who can offer support and encouragement is really healthy for a medical student as it helps maintain balance.
There’s no question that some medical students will become lifelong friends, but there’s nothing like having a partner to come home to at the end of the day, or someone to talk to who isn’t connected to school. Companionship is a huge benefit to dating in medical school, and without it it’s possible for a medical student to become a hermit in the library if there’s nothing else to do. Having someone there to help connect to the world outside of school is invaluable.
Another side to the companionship aspect is that after spending time in college dating people or hooking up with people on occasion, it’s hard to imagine not having physical contact with anyone during medical school. While it works for some people, it’s actually detrimental for others and the time needed to go out and find potential partners isn’t always available. Having someone to be with can take away that issue entirely and satisfy the physical and emotional need for companionship at the same time.
Both the support system and companionship aspects help to achieve balance while in medical school. Fellow med students are great companions, but no one will ever be completely relaxed fraternizing with the competition.
The most successful doctors are those that have connections with their patients, and in order to have connections they have to understand what life is like outside of school and hospitals and libraries during medical school. There has to be balance, because residency is right around the corner following graduation and if ever there was a time for burnout it’s there.
The Cons of Dating in Med School
A relationship should never cause stress, and if a relationship is causing stress then it probably isn’t worth it. Given that medical school by design is stressful it’s hard to imagine taking on more stress.
Whether it’s a fight about not spending enough time together, or having to miss a special event or holiday celebration due to the busy medical school schedule, these things will cause undue tension and make the relationship anything but enjoyable.
Let’s face it: A med student won’t have a lot of time for anything while in medical school. She might have the weekends off if you study hard during the week, but considering that everything is a competition with her peers she won’t want to lose your edge by taking time off.
Having a relationship in medical school is just one more thing to add to an already packed schedule. The busy med school schedule is also a prime reason why couples fight, and those fights cause distraction and stress.
There is no question that a medical student’s number one priority will always be medical school. While having the ability to decompress with someone outside the system is always nice, it’s possible that each member of the relationship might have different expectations. A medical student might not be looking for long term romance knowing that residency is ahead, while his partner might be ready to settle down.
A relationship in medical school helps to manage physical urges to be close to someone, and not having to worry about finding sex partners is always a benefit, but if the med student isn’t looking to get married then she needs to make that clear from the start. Mismanaged expectations will inevitably lead to arguments and more stress.
Successful Dating in Medical School
Advice for Med Students
In order to achieve success while dating in medical school, it’s important for med students to be very open about expectations. Talk to your partner about what you need to be successful in school and how that might impact your relationship.
For example, you might not be able to respond to texts until the end of the day if you’re in class or taking a big exam. Some partners don’t like waiting for responses, but given the nature of medical school you might not be able to help it. Be clear that there will be times when you can’t respond, but at the same time be sure to take the time to send messages when you’re able. Reciprocity, and taking time to enjoy the moments you have, are key to making things work in a relationship in medical school.
It’s also important to establish when you’ll need to be focused on studies. If you tend to be in class and in the library all day during the week, take time on the weekends to be with your significant other. You’ll start to look forward to the down time, and it will make it clear to your partner that you aren’t able to hang out during the week.
Oddly enough, having a long distance relationship while in medical school can be the best of both worlds. The distance helps to manage expectations of spending time together during the week, and having the ability to plan when to see each other allows you to look forward to your time together. It also makes the little texts and phone calls even more valuable without feeling like you could or should be doing more.
The biggest key to finding success with dating in medical school is finding someone who understands the nature of your limitations and is willing to work with you to find balance. That’s why setting expectations is absolutely critical, and it’s also what makes the relationship so much more rewarding.
Advice for a Significant Other
Dating a med student can be a very rewarding experience while at the same time it can be one of the most stressful periods in a relationship. (Until he begins his residency, of course) It takes a special kind of person to be able to manage his expectations in a relationship in order to meet the parameters of the med student’s needs.
Understand that when dating a med student the med student’s education is always going to come first. Their career depends on their performance and that can mean missed birthdays and holidays, and not being home when you need someone to hang out with. If this isn’t something you’re prepared for, then dating a med student probably isn’t right for you.
The most successful relationships in med school are between two people who are equally busy. While it’s nice to do things like washing a load of laundry for your partner when he’s busy, it helps when your schedule demands that you’re gone most of the time as well. That way you can both enjoy the time you have together without having one partner at home waiting for the next text.
Communication – open and honest communication – about expectations is what will make or break your relationship. If you aren’t happy or satisfied with the parameters of the relationship, make that clear from the start, but be aware that it might not be something that is fixable. Be ready to have difficult conversations, but know that if you can make it work it can be very rewarding.
As with most things in life, what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. Some med students thrive the most when they have a positive support system that allows them to escape the rigors of medical school, while other med students struggle to balance multiple obligations.
Some med students will choose to forego relationships to keep their eyes on the prize, and that’s fine. But that doesn’t work for everyone and it’s important for the rest of the medical students to know that dating and med school can work. It’s all about great communication, making the most of little moments and having a very understanding partner.