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Long-Distance Relationship in Residency

Discussion in 'General Residency Issues' started by BuffStampede, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. BuffStampede

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    Hi-

    Third-year orthopod here. My girlfriend, a 4th-year med student, is likely going to a program about 6 hours away for residency. We both want the relationship to continue when she moves away in June.

    Are we doomed to failure?
     
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  3. BlondeDocteur

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    I was in a long-distance relationship for three years, and I wouldn't inflict that upon anyone. Luckily we'd only been dating for three months before he moved back to the States, but the first year trans-atlantic was pretty bad. We saw each other three times, I believe. I think the schedule of residency would be almost like having an ocean between you, instead of 6 hours.

    You've been dating her for a while, I presume? So you've already started to build a relationship, and now you're considering this distance. I think at best being apart puts you in a 'holding pattern.' Circling and circling the tarmac, waiting to be reunited so your lives, and the relationship, can move forward. IMHO it would be much more difficult to already have a close, intimate, this-person-is-intricately-bound-up-in-my-daily-life kind of bond and then impose the distance.

    SO.. does she *have* to go to that hospital 6 hours away? Really? Could you transfer to her program (i.e. swap spots with an upcoming ortho PGY-4)?
     
  4. Bruingirl6

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    I'll be honest. It'll be very very tough. I barely see my husband, and we live in the same house. If your relationship is strong enough, it will probably be do-able....but definitely not easy.
     
  5. PeepshowJohnny

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    It depends.

    If your concern is infidelity: It's not like college, where you combine long distance with ample time off, a buffet of peers to choose from, and alcohol. Basically, a powder-keg. I mean, it can absolutely happen (senior resident and intern enjoy a tryst in the call room?) but it's not super likely. Odds are, as residents, you're both too busy to bother cheating.

    However, you maybe should be worried about (*WARNING* SEXIST COMMENT COMING UP *WARNING*) your girlfriend's emotional state, starting an intern year AND being hours away from her main squeeze. You're going to have to be the judge of this. Was she the kind of girl who the trials and tribulations of medical school left in an emotional wreck Were you constantly playing her cheerleader and shoulder to cry on during medical school? If so, yes, I'd be very worried this relationship is going to crash and burn. If she's made of hardier stuff, you *MIGHT* be okay, but it's going to be damn hard.
     
  6. Winged Scapula

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    I'd surmise that all of the above information is correct and I'd add, it depends also on what specialty your GF is doing, the hours and your schedule.

    A mostly outpatient residency with lots of weekends off coupled with living in an inexpensive city may mean you could see her twice a month or more (presuming there are some low cost air fares between your two cities, as driving 6 hrs each way would be a major drain after awhile).
     
  7. Yeah, 6 hours is enough that it's going to be tough to see each other during even the moderately-busy months. It's tough enough for two residents at the same program to date successfully.
     
  8. dragonfly99

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    <However, you maybe should be worried about (*WARNING* SEXIST COMMENT COMING UP *WARNING*) your girlfriend's emotional state, starting an intern year AND being hours away from her main squeeze. You're going to have to be the judge of this. Was she the kind of girl who the trials and tribulations of medical school left in an emotional wreck Were you constantly playing her cheerleader and shoulder to cry on during medical school? If so, yes, I'd be very worried this relationship is going to crash and burn. If she's made of hardier stuff, you *MIGHT* be okay, but it's going to be damn hard.>

    *WARNING SEXIST COMMENT COMING UP*
    Maybe he's worried about HIS emotional state being left neglected without his girlfriend's emotional support...and/or ability to last without certain physical attentions for several weeks at a time...LOL.
     
  9. Doctor Grim

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    No matter what happens later, as there are always surprises in life, you always have to believe that your LDR will work. Just think positive.

    I was in a LDR, >10K miles apart, and only saw my SO 1-2x per year, 2 wks maximum each time, for 7 years, and it worked out fine.

    We've met when I was doing research before medical school and I actually thought about breaking up with my SO during medical school, especially when I started 3rd year rotations. Not that my SO or our relationship had any issues but it was because I felt bad that I didn't have time for my SO and was holding back my SO from having fun or other outing opportunities.

    There was never fidelity issues.

    So if you think it will work, then it will work. You'd never know if you don't try.

    Just my 0.02.
     
  10. Danbo1957

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    Probably.

    It's a perfectly normal result of a couple separating due to residency... it's even harder on a married couple.
     
  11. LadyGrey

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    It all depends on the individuals involved more than their genders. That goes for fidelity, ability to deal with the lack of emotional support, or whether it feels pointless to be in a relationship when there's little to no actual contact.

    Have either of you been in an LDR before? I'd think deeply about how successful or unsuccessful that was, and what the specific problems were, to get an idea of how likely you are to fail this time.
     
  12. maxheadroom

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    I was in a LDR for three years during residency. It was very, very difficult and we ultimately couldn't make it work.

    I know several couples who have been in LDRs. If it's for a short time (one year), it is feasible, but difficult. I can think of one couple who made it in a multi-year LDR -- there were several others who gave it a good attempt, but it just doesn't work for most people.
     
  13. peerie

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    Well, I might contribute my two cents here. People seem to be bumming big time on the LDR thing, but I read through the similar posts at the bottom of the page here and I found some good comments by other people on other forums.

    Sounds like alot of people in medicine have made it work ok. There are decent posts by many people who had long distance relationships through ugrad, med school or residency and ended up married. Or whatever. I definitely believe it can be done, but it depends on the two people involved.

    I would think it particularly depends on the ages, expectations and level of committment and intimacy/connection that exists. Basically, is it a relationship where you have to see each other and physically be near each other every day? or is it one where the connection is very deep and strong and there is a common thread of working towards a future together.

    I know couples of all sorts who have made it work, residents and students. It really depends on the shared goals and sense of 'we are in this together and we are a team.' At least, that's my feeling.
     
  14. Pilot Doc

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    If she doesn't value the relationship enough to stay close to you, then yes, you are doomed and probably better off without her. Being with someone you love is vastly more important than getting the top pick on your rank list.
     
  15. EM_Rebuilder

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    Seven year LDR here.... college, then medical school, and now residency... time wise, as she went from college to 'work' our time got a bit better as she is a bit more free to come to me. Things have went well. Go for it, if it doesn't work out, then so be it. I would not just cut it off without trying it.
     
  16. diosa428

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    Or she couldn't get an interview where he is or is unlikely to match there. Not everyone can just go wherever they want.
     
  17. dragonfly99

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    <If she doesn't value the relationship enough to stay close to you, then yes, you are doomed and probably better off without her. Being with someone you love is vastly more important than getting the top pick on your rank list.>

    Could turn this statement around to say, "If HE doesn't value the relationship enough to go to where she is going, and/or give up every free weekend so he can go see her, then yes, the relationship is doomed and she is probably better off without him". Life is not that simple. He probably can't transfer residencies very easily, and she may not be able to get a residency in the same city as him. Only time will tell if this relationship can make it - I say just go for it and see what happens. You never know what life has in store.
     
  18. Pilot Doc

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    Sure it is. She is the one changing the status quo.

    She might have a very compelling reason, but more likely she's prioritizing her career over the relationship. Outside of a perhaps a half dozen geographically isolated med schools, she could do far better than 6 hours away. And if she wants to put her career ahead of the relationship, fine. But the one staying in town should clearly understand how her choices reflect the priority she places on him.
     
  19. BuffStampede

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    Thanks for all the responses.

    I was extremely lucky to match ortho at all, so transferring residency programs is out of the question for me.

    My girlfriend's medical school does not have a good program in her field. I really can't fault her for wanting to move to greener pastures.

    We most certainly will try and make it work. I guess I was looking for some reassurance.
     
  20. PeepshowJohnny

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    Touche.

    *WARNING CONTINUED STEREOTYPING WARNING*
    But the fact he's Ortho makes me think he'd miss the physical stuff for than the emotional. They ain't exactly the sonnet writing crowd.
     
  21. Pilot Doc

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    Is it adequate?

    How far away is the closest adequate program. If it's 6 hours, then I could cut her some slack. If there's a solid B-list program an hour away and a great program 6 hours away, then ...
     
  22. firefly333

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    Here is some reassurance for you:

    I am approaching the same problem as you BuffStampede. I am trying to match into anesthesiology, while at the same time my significant other is working on a second degree (for the next 2 years) at a college 4 hours away from where I am currently. I can try to accept a weaker program that would be nearest to him (2 hours away), stay at my home program (about 4 hours away) or go to the program that is the strongest and I liked the best (6 hours away). We have always been long distance (living at least 1 hour to 2 hours from one another) and usually saw each other every 2 weeks. I was very scared about the prospect of us breaking up during my residency and so I asked a friend of mine for advice.

    She is a psychology major who got a masters in counseling and told me that she once learned in one of her classes that long distance relationships were found in a study to be the best relationships. Here is why: 1. when you talk to each other - you really listen and make sure to ask about the other person's life and how things are going more than when you are near one another 2. when you see each other it is extremely exciting and this keeps feelings alive between the two of you, also you treasure the time you have together more 3. absence does make the heart grow fonder

    There were a bunch more reasons, all of which I have forgotten.
    I do agree with the one post that says if you approach it as you guys are a team working together to achieve your eventual dreams, this really does help. This is what my boyfriend and I believe and we have been doing some kind of long distance for the past 2 years.

    Good luck to you. I hope everything works out as you would like it to.
     
  23. drbetty

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    Life is short. We only go through residency once, be it a fabulous or mediocre program, but we never get the time back to spend with the people that matter. Of course, it also depends on how serious your relationship is and whether or not your girlfriend's career goals can be accomplished at her home program or at another nearby program...

    Personally, I would give up the shot at the "Best" program if it means I can be with my S.O. as often as possible in another city. There are many great programs and cities, but for me, only one S.O. ("Turns out not where but who you're with that truly matters" - DMB)
     
  24. Ailleurs

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    Actually, I think you guys can make it. My parents were separated due to work issues. My mom worked in a hospital in London while my dad worked in a hospital in NY. I was about 8 around that time. In the several years my mother and I were in London, my father came to visit us once. And then we moved to live with him later on when my mom and I got visa's to go to the states to be with my dad. I don't recall missing my dad much. Nor has it wreaked havoc on my parent's relationship. Sure, their relationship isn't the "romantic movie" love-love relationship, but I know they love each other in a different kind of "friends, I respect her" kind of way.

    My mother's friend's family is also like this. The husband found a job in Ohio and the mother found a job in a hospital in NY (where she lives). They were fine, he came back just a few days ago as he found a job at the hospital really close to their house, here in NY.

    So, it most definitely can work. But the important thing is, I think, is to know that the two of you are GOING to last. Think of it as a "marriage," you guys want to be together, right? I think you should talk to her and ask her how much she wants it to work. I think it will only work if both of you guys have a similar end goal, something simple as, "living together in the future." It won't be easy nor will you be always happy, but if you love her enough and are willing to respect each other's career goals/desires, it can work :luck:
     
  25. sirus_virus

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    From my experience LDRs are the hardest types of relationships to pull off. You have to have boatloads of trust for each other to pull this off.
     
  26. Pilot Doc

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    Sorry. Fails the sniff test.

    If that were true then you should _try_ to live apart, even when able to live together, minimize your time together, etc.

    I disagree with the general sentiment of "don't worry, LDR's aren't that bad, you'll make it through," but that's not the issue.

    You didn't have an LDR thrust upon you - neither of you got drafted. Your girlfriend is leaving you by choice. She is valuing her career over your relationship. The issue is whether you want to be with someone who has those priorities.
     
  27. SoCuteMD

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    I know this is random, but have you ever considered using the "Quote" button? It makes separating quotes from replies a lot easier than brackets do!
     
  28. LadyGrey

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    It's not as simple as "Which is more important, partner or career?". When both people have careers that they value, both people in a relationship have to make some (carefully weighed, ultimately balanced) compromises. But if the local program really is subpar, asking/expecting her to take it is asking for a lifetime of resentment from her.
     
  29. smq123

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    While you make a good point, the problem is is that these decisions are rarely carefully weighed and balanced.

    In this case, what the OP's girlfriend is probably asking herself is, "What's the best program that I can get into?," and probably assuming that the relationship stuff will work itself out. (Granted, these are just assumptions, but that's what it sounds like his girlfriend is asking herself.)

    But there is a VERY good chance that, 9 months from now, she will realize that she ought to have been asking, "Which situation would I rather be in - an excellent program that ultimately jeopardized, or at least severely strained, my personal life, or a mediocre program that allowed me to continue my current relationship?"

    And what makes a program "sub-par"? Is it truly malignant, or just not as good of a "name" as another program? One of the things that has surprised me the most about interviewing is that there is no hard-and-fast definition of a "good" program. In the field I am interviewing for, there have been people matching into extremely difficult fellowships from no-name programs. There are people at traditionally malignant programs who have fulfilling personal lives, and seem honestly and truly happy. :confused:

    True....but the resentment flows both ways.

    If she goes to a program that is 6 hours away, expecting HIM to take it might be asking for a lifetime of resentment from HIM. There's no reason why he won't start asking, a year from now, "If you had been willing to make a sacrifice or two and go to a program that wasn't as good, but was only 2 hours away, we might actually see each other once in a while!" So, who knows?

    OP: LDRs are not fun. Sure, sometimes they work. Sometimes they work very well. But, fundamentally, it is a big emotional shock to go from seeing this person every single day to seeing them once every few months. Suddenly, the person who was there for you at the end of a long and tough day isn't there anymore, may be inaccessible by phone/internet, and that just ADDS to the frustration. No one here can tell you whether or not it will work out, but it will probably not be an easy road, no matter how it ends.
     
  30. Pilot Doc

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    Sure it is. If you choose to move 6 hours away from your partner b/c of work, you career is more important. I will grant some exceptions if the program at her school is really malignant and the nearest program is 6 hours away. But that is unlikely to be the case.

    And it's not so much an issue of asking her to do this. If she has to be asked; she either doesn't the value the relationship or is too immature to understand what matters in life.
     
  31. Dr.McNinja

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    If someone goes to a worse place or doesn't work the career they want, they will always hold that against you. Residency is a short time, the rest of your life isn't.
    I worked 5 hours away from my wife while we were both in our internship. Wasn't great, surgery hours suck, but still saw her every month. You just have to choose what you want to do with it.
     
  32. gryffindor

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    The LDR will work if you want it to work and make the effort to schedule regular visits to see each other and are able to handle being alone while in residency. 6 hours by car sucks, but at least that is driveable and you don't have to depend on flights if either of you wanted to schedule a last-minute trip to visit each other. My co-resident and I have LDRs. Mine is a 2 hour direct flight (I feel lucky) while hers is 2-flight segments including an international segment over the border and it is an LDR-marriage. Believe me, we both wish we were in driving distance of the other person, it would be so much easier. We are both female and our program has a strange history of matching females who end up in LDRs by coming to our program on the rare occasions when we actually match females.

    I agree with Dr.McNinja. I wanted it all - the residency match and the relationship. I know I would regret it the rest of my life if I passed over the residency opportunity to be with him because there would never be a residency spot in this specialty for me near his location no matter what. It took time for him to accept the situation and get used to it. The traveling takes a toll and I am sick of flying so much over the past 2.5 years. However now that the end is in sight, it is easier to go longer between visits, although it's not ideal. Whatever. In 6 months I'll be near/with him for the rest of my life and a have a specialty certificate in my hands. Residency was only 3 years and it was worth it.

    We also have fun memories of my time living in this part of the country. Sure it would be nice to see him more often, but when we do see each other, our time together is really cool and different than when we used to see each other everyday. I spend all the alone time on SDN and watching TV. ;)
     
  33. peerie

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    Ouch, too harsh man! I don't agree with this thinking at all.

    My So is about 9 hours away from me right now. Is it hard? yes. Is it emotionally upsetting sometimes? yes. Do we still care deeply about each other and are willing to work it out one step and one day at a time? yes.

    His work is very specialized, he will never be able to leave where he is. At least not for about - forever, anyways. I would like to be nearer to him and want to move because I also like where he is and the community. I feel more comfortable also being the one to travel and in many ways this career will allow for that.

    We meet up periodically and we communicate in other ways. For me, it's the relationship and the two people involved. Their depth of caring and committment. I trust him and I believe he trusts me. I have no issues with waiting for him, he is definitely someone worth having waited for in my eyes. I feel lucky to have found him.

    I also agree with the healthiest relationships comment - we both work very hard to do and be our best in the times we do see each other or talk. It is sacred time. I also think the times in between help us to cement the growing changes we experience in the relationship. People have been separated through all of history, think of sailors who went to sea for several years. It is not a matter of immaturity to choose your work temporarily over your partner - men have been doing this for like, forever. I want my partner to be happy and his work is a huge part of that. Same for me.
     
  34. BlondeDocteur

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    Peerie, are you going to move to where he currently is for residency? I've found that as long as there's an end in sight (that the separation is and feels finite), you can make it through. If it just seems indefinite, though, it doesn't work.
     
  35. ineedsleep

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    LDRs are doable, but not easy. I started dated my SO after the match. Didn't really mean to fall for him, but when I left several months later, we both knew this relationship wasn't something we wanted to pass up (We'd been friends for 2 years, but one or the other not single). I'd already matched 3000 miles away before I even saw it coming, so it wasn't really me putting my career first, but just not knowing what life would hold.

    Does it suck. Yeah some days it does. I talk to him every night over skype if I'm off or a quick phone call if I'm at work. I miss him terribly, but there isn't anyone I'd trade him for. He's trying to more out here, but still minus a job. We'll see how it goes. If I have to move home after three years then thats what it is.
     

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