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Tips for successful healthy marriage in med school?

toffeecoffee

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Jan 27, 2014
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  1. Medical Student
    Thread title says it all. Looking for words of wisdom from those who have been through it. I'm getting married and also starting med school this summer. Any tips or advice for the adjustment period, maintaining a balance between school and personal life, etc would be greatly appreciated!

    We've been together >5 years, lived together most of that time and are in our mid-late 20's.
     

    windog

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    May 14, 2012
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      My husband is in his 4th yr of med school and we've been married for 5.5 yrs, together for 6.5 yrs. my advice is for your SO to keep busy with work, hobbies, etc. understand that much of your quality time together will involve you studying while you both watch a movie on the couch or something. Try to involve your spouse by taking him to the med school get togethers that occur after every major test. Since you all have been together for awhile now, it seems like you're out of the "let's go on a date to a fancy restaurant" phase and can be yourselves together. I see a happy marriage in the future. :)
       

      metalgirl14

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        It agree that your significant other needs to have other hobbies to keep him/her busy. They generally need to be an independent person that doesn't need attention from you at all time.

        Also, it's extremely important to make time for your SO. You will always have studying to do, so try to find a balance between that and spending time with your SO. My husband and I make a point to eat dinner together while watching a TV show. We get to talk about our day and spend time together, but it's not wasted time (since we both have to eat dinner anyway). Another tip is to make sure you carve out a "date night" once every 1-2 weeks. It really helps keep things fresh and gives you both something to work towards/look forward to.
         
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        Armadillos

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          I posted my 2 cents in the divorce thread earlier, will give it in list form here also seeing as this is more of an uplifting thread.

          0) Don't make "medschool is going to suck and Im going to be busy every moment of the day" a self fulfilling prophecy
          1) Life will be much easier if you wait to have kids (if that is an option w/ your age and/or length of residency your looking at).
          2) Decide where you go to medschool as a couple, closer to existing social support is probably going to be easier.
          3) Don't be super neurotic, if you don't have significant free time as a MS1 and MS2 your doing something wrong, so figure out what it is your doing wrong before you waste your life in the library.
          4) Minimize the commute of the busier person (presumably the medstudent).
          5) Don't be afraid to spend money within reason to do fun things together. Even if you spend an extra 5k over the course of medschool on going out to eat, going to concerts/sporting events, cheap vacations, etc. and have to pay an extra 15k or something over course of career on loans, I think its definitely worth it. Really, really, really helps to get rid of the "missed the best years of my life" mentality some people get.
          6) Exercise together, your going to need it for stress management, so might at well be another way to spend time together
          7) Don't assume your always the busiest one or always the one with the most on their plate, there have been pretty big swatches of medschool where I was the one sitting around with extra time needing to help support my wife's endeavors.
          8) If you get home from a long day and end up in an argument, just assume that your the one who is being unreasonable due to tiredness/hunger because its most likely the case.
          9) Get enough sleep (even at the expense of extra studying) so that your not grumpy.
          10) Enjoy medschool, its really not so bad
           
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          Oct 29, 2012
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          1. Medical Student
            Good communication and realistic expectations about what the lifestyle will be like.

            I've been with DGF nearly 9 years and it's still a struggle. She has my back but learning takes so much of my energy that it's tough to balance things out.

            TBH, I fail every time at balancing things out. Pretty much every minute spent doing something else takes away from studying or recovering from it. Single people probably have a much easier time in medical school.
             

            toffeecoffee

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            Jan 27, 2014
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            1. Medical Student
              Good communication and realistic expectations about what the lifestyle will be like.

              I've been with DGF nearly 9 years and it's still a struggle. She has my back but learning takes so much of my energy that it's tough to balance things out.

              TBH, I fail every time at balancing things out. Pretty much every minute spent doing something else takes away from studying or recovering from it. Single people probably have a much easier time in medical school.
              Yeah, finding an ideal balance is a big concern/priority of mine. I want to do well in school and give myself the best opportunity to be successful (though the specialties I'm currently interested in are less competitive and more family friendly) but not at the expense of my relationship/marriage failing.
               
              Oct 29, 2012
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              1. Medical Student
                Yeah, finding an ideal balance is a big concern/priority of mine. I want to do well in school and give myself the best opportunity to be successful (though the specialties I'm currently interested in are less competitive and more family friendly) but not at the expense of my relationship/marriage failing.

                Best of luck!

                I keep telling myself there will come a time when family/friends can get more time and focused attention but it feels more like a lie each time. Sadly, I think they'll end up fighting over whatever is left after residency.
                 

                ygree001

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                  Recognize that as much as med school is a priority, so is your spouse. That means that sometimes you just may have to spend a little less time studying and accept a high pass instead of honors, or not take on an additional extracurricular, or not pursue an additional research opportunity. You can't let med school fall by the wayside or you won't succeed, but the same is true for your marriage.

                  It sounds like a cliche, but learn how to balance life with med school. There will always be other things in life. Those of us who are married/have kids have just had to learn it earlier in the process than most others.

                  Good luck
                   

                  eefen

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                    Good stuff so far. I just want to echo the bit about communication - it's important for a marriage/relationship regardless of whether or not medical school is part of the picture. Good communication doesn't just happen - it takes some effort at times to draw the other person out or to have the courage to say something that maybe would be easier to just tuck away. While you are communicating, try to figure out what you're SO's expectations are for what med school will be like, how much time you'll have to spend with him/her, how much time you'll be studying, etc. And when I say expectations, I just mean try and figure out what they think life will be like a few months from now/year from now/etc. I'm sure you guys have talked about how busy things are going to be, and if you haven't then now is a good time to start, but also make sure that your SO knows that he/she is your first priority, even though it may not seem like it at times.

                    Practically, that means deciding now that you are ok with not necessarily getting every last point that you can on an exam if it means you get to spend a little more much-needed time with your SO during a busy exam week. It also means, as someone mentioned previously, that you figure out an efficient study method and stick to it. For me, for example, that means going straight from lecture in the mornings to wherever I'm studying that day (usually at home) and getting crap done until 6 or 7 pm. Then I call it quits. Ideally, I try to be efficient during the week days so I can take most nights and weekends off to hang out with my wife.

                    I will say that being married in medical school, while perhaps making things a bit busier than they would be for a single person, is awesome. My wife and I are working together as a team to get through and enjoy this season, and are able to emotionally support and comfort each other when one of us needs it. Having someone you love to talk with about things and go through life together with is simply priceless, especially in the craziness that is medical school.
                     
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                    drcrispmd

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                      Communication. Listen to each other. Work out issues early on instead of putting them off. Make time for each other. Don't spend free time playing video games, WOW, Dungeons and Dragons, etc (unless both of you play together). Use your study time effectively so you will have some free time. Have your SO help you study (can be fun for anatomy) or asking questions (if they want to help, if not do not force it). Reserve some time each day to talk to each other (even if it is just 30 mins). When you are with each other, turn off the computers, cell phones, ipads and spend it with each other.
                       

                      Frozengrapes

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                      Feb 13, 2014
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                      1. Medical Student
                        I'm heading into the last quarter of second year and I actually found being married while in med school FAR better and more manageable than I expected it to be! I have managed to do pretty well, but not superbly. I am in the top 50% of a fairly large class, and I'm okay with that.

                        I think a lot of it depends on what your husband does jobwise or if he is also in school. My husband works at a law firm so he has long days, which takes the pressure off of me in some ways. At the same time, I've made it a habit that (unless it's the night before an exam) I will put my laptop and notes away when he gets home at around 9:30/10pm and spend the rest of the night with him. Sometimes that means I wake up crazy early to get some studying done, but that is also alright with me.

                        Like the others have said here, you have to realize that even though it's MED SCHOOL and we've all worked our asses off to get here, our spouses will and do come first. That said, my husband never makes me feel guilty for having to miss out on certain social events or nights out because he's been really supportive and proud of how hard I work. I actually love being married in med school in some ways because I know at the end of the day I can come home and have someone to take my mind off the stressful day.

                        Be willing to sacrifice a few points here and there and make time to do things your spouse enjoys too. You have to be committed to finding that school/life balance that a lot of med students refuse to do. For example, I will have movie nights with my husband on Fridays or Saturdays, and a lot of my school friends think it's crazy that I take time off to do that when we have a huge exam coming up. But it turns out, if you study effectively missing 2-3 hours in your day isn't that big of a deal! Learn to let the small stuff go and try to adopt an easygoing mentality (if you don't already have that).

                        Oh, also, being married and not living on campus meant that it took a little longer for me to make good friends in school. Don't be attached to your husband at the hip in your free time! Make friends with other married couples, but don't feel like you need to have only married friends :) Also, if your husband doesn't know many people if you're moving to a new town, then find out about intramural sports or something at your school. It's a great way for your SO to meet people on his own as well.

                        Good luck, but you'll be just fine!
                         
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                        WaylonS

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                        Feb 16, 2013
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                          I think a lot of it depends on what your husband does jobwise or if he is also in school. My husband works at a law firm so he has long days, which takes the pressure off of me in some ways. At the same time, I've made it a habit that (unless it's the night before an exam) I will put my laptop and notes away when he gets home at around 9:30/10pm and spend the rest of the night with him. Sometimes that means I wake up crazy early to get some studying done, but that is also alright with me.

                          This is huge. I'm in a LTR with someone who is a professional, and IMHO, compared to my classmates who aren't, I feel being with another professional makes things much more easy. A lawyer/engineer/architect/physician/business management person will work crazy hours and will often bring work home, too.
                           

                          HarryPlopper

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                          Feb 11, 2014
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                            Got this advice from friends who are/were married.

                            1. Establish with your SO that med school is a time-sink and there are times you need to focus on studying.
                            2. Quantity of time does not equate with quality of time. Have more quality and less quantity with your SO.
                            3. Encourage your SO to follow his/her hobbies.
                            4. Communication is key.
                            5. Do not make promises when you are happy. Do not get angry when you are frustrated.
                            6. Smile even when you don't feel like smiling.
                             

                            cbrons

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                              Thread title says it all. Looking for words of wisdom from those who have been through it. I'm getting married and also starting med school this summer. Any tips or advice for the adjustment period, maintaining a balance between school and personal life, etc would be greatly appreciated!

                              We've been together >5 years, lived together most of that time and are in our mid-late 20's.
                              It can be tough at times, but tbh just make sure ur wife has a hobby or something so they aren't waiting around all the time for you to entertain them. Other than that, try to spend time together regularly, don't forget to leave the library every night to come home, and don't let your social life revolve around other med students, make sure you always put her #1 and it should work out ok.
                               

                              Puff-of-Snow Sign

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                                My wife and I are approaching the end of my time as an MD/PhD student, so my experience is a little different. However, some of our experience may translate to yours.

                                First and foremost, med school (and pursuing a medical career) is a TREMENDOUS financial sacrifice. That cannot be overstated. The general public thinks that because doctors make sooo much money (not really as true as most think), that any sacrifice will be well compensated in the future (not really a guarantee in this healthcare economic climate). If you're SO is not in the medical field, you have to work really hard to make sure they understand what they're getting into on the front end. They need to know that you will not always be able to put them #1, though you should try to do so more often than not when you're not at work (you could call it school, but I've found it helps me psychologically and socially to call it work). Med school is a huge opportunity cost, though it is considerably less risky than some other options (law school, business school without a job lined up afterwards) - job availability and job security are higher. Many of my peers make low-six-figure salaries right now and have for the past 7 years since graduation from college. That's at least $700,000 of gross income I missed out on during my 20s. I'm fortunate to emerge with very little debt, but consider the opportunity cost if you had to pay for every cent of 4 years of medical school [$400,000 + (60,000 x 4 years + interest) = $640,000 minimum + interest]. This is not to mention that you lose valuable investment opportunities for retirement and college savings, if you're planning on ever having kids. I could go on about this for a long time, but the point is that your spouse needs to be made aware of the opportunity cost and be on-board from Day 1 of med school. And, to be fair, there are a number of ways that you can have your debt forgiven over time, but you still lose out on potential income and will almost certainly pay for some amount of our education.

                                The financial burden is often underestimated, as people don't think it will inhibit them from living their life the way they want to live. However, over time, you'll be more constrained by the costs of attending med school and it will start to affect your life planning (i.e. whether and when to have kids, vacations, etc.). My wife and I had a kid recently and we're making it work, but it's not remotely easy. We probably should have waited, but it was better for us not to let med school dictate every aspect of our lives. We're probably happier for not waiting, but it's still tough from a financial perspective.

                                As far as hours go, they need to understand that you will be working at least twice a "normal" work schedule for the next 7+ years (4 years of med school + at least 3 years of residency). Sometimes, you'll work 80+ hours in a week and still have to study for a test or boards or just to be prepared for the next day's work.

                                Another important thing to consider is that you're already asking your spouse to sacrifice a lot just by going to med school. You need to decide for yourself how much you want to make them sacrifice beyond that. You'll see single med students and married couples who are both in med school (or in the medical field) who do every extracurricular activity they can and who study for 16+ hours per day. It probably won't be wise for you to try to do that. You'll need to pick and choose what is important to you and your career goals, but understand that you shouldn't try to do everything if you're hoping to maintain your relationships. It is also important to consider your residency choice carefully. I thought hard about a surgical subspecialty for a long time, but in the end, I decided it wasn't for me. A big part of that decision was deciding how much more I wanted to ask my family to sacrifice. It was also that I just didn't love the work enough to spend as much time as would be necessary at work (and, thus, away from my family and hobbies) for that field.

                                Finally, I think it's helpful to try to make friends with other married couples, particularly if you can find a few where only one spouse is in med school or the medical field. It helps to have people who share similar difficulties and experiences. And it'll help your spouse to have other "outsiders" to help him/her navigate and cope with the process.

                                Bottom line: med school is a sacrifice that you have to make together. The more you remember that your spouse is sacrificing, too, the better off you'll be in navigating arguments and other bumps in the marriage road. It's equally important that you give your spouse a detailed roadmap, because the more prepared they are, the better off you'll be as a couple.

                                I know this was a long post, but I feel like I could write a novel about this. If you have specific questions for me, feel free to PM.
                                 
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                                bulldogmed

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                                  Good stuff so far. I just want to echo the bit about communication - it's important for a marriage/relationship regardless of whether or not medical school is part of the picture. Good communication doesn't just happen - it takes some effort at times to draw the other person out or to have the courage to say something that maybe would be easier to just tuck away. While you are communicating, try to figure out what you're SO's expectations are for what med school will be like, how much time you'll have to spend with him/her, how much time you'll be studying, etc. And when I say expectations, I just mean try and figure out what they think life will be like a few months from now/year from now/etc. I'm sure you guys have talked about how busy things are going to be, and if you haven't then now is a good time to start, but also make sure that your SO knows that he/she is your first priority, even though it may not seem like it at times.

                                  Practically, that means deciding now that you are ok with not necessarily getting every last point that you can on an exam if it means you get to spend a little more much-needed time with your SO during a busy exam week. It also means, as someone mentioned previously, that you figure out an efficient study method and stick to it. For me, for example, that means going straight from lecture in the mornings to wherever I'm studying that day (usually at home) and getting crap done until 6 or 7 pm. Then I call it quits. Ideally, I try to be efficient during the week days so I can take most nights and weekends off to hang out with my wife.

                                  I will say that being married in medical school, while perhaps making things a bit busier than they would be for a single person, is awesome. My wife and I are working together as a team to get through and enjoy this season, and are able to emotionally support and comfort each other when one of us needs it. Having someone you love to talk with about things and go through life together with is simply priceless, especially in the craziness that is medical school.

                                  This is great advise. Communication is key. It's all about priorities, and deciding that time spent with your spouse is more important than scrolling through facebook or ESPN 7 times a day. Becoming more efficient with studying so that you can spend some time with your spouse is hard work, but very rewarding.

                                  Someone should do a proper study on this but I suspect this would solve at least 95% of small, trivial marital conflicts. Unless you married a cold fish...in that case, go out and get them a golf club or a gold bracelet or something.

                                  Sexy time doesn't solve 95% of problems. It happens when 95% of your problem can be addressed with honest, humble communication and forgiveness.

                                  Moral of the story... Don't get married until you finish residency.

                                  Marriage doesn't have to wait for anytime in your life. If you wait to get married until you're done with x, you may very well miss out on many of the happiest times in your life. Personally, I got married in between M1 and M2, and it was one of the best decisions of my life.
                                   
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                                  toffeecoffee

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                                  Jan 27, 2014
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                                    Marriage doesn't have to wait for anytime in your life. If you wait to get married until you're done with x, you may very well miss out on many of the happiest times in your life. Personally, I got married in between M1 and M2, and it was one of the best decisions of my life.
                                    Exactly, I couldn't imagine taking on this crazy journey without my fiancé.

                                    Thanks so much to everyone who's shared their stories!
                                     

                                    physicsnerd42

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                                      Marry someone is who is as busy as you are and understands why you have to work and study crazy hours.

                                      Seriously. The relationship will be difficult to maintain if one spouse is bored and can't understand why we have a special term for the rare normal-person weekend off (a "golden" weekend.)

                                      Failing that, it helps if your school has a network of spouses/significant others who can help support your spouse.
                                       
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