I have received many emails regarding this topic, so I thought it was about time I wrote a post to address my thoughts. Lots of words ahead…you’ve been warned!
While being married to a medical student is a unique experience, I honestly think the points addressed in this post apply to anyone whose spouse/significant other has a demanding career. Medicine is certainly an all-consuming field but there are so many others out there as well.
I’ll start out by saying that I received countless pieces of advice from friends and family members who are/were in my situation. And I appreciated every single one, but I’ve come to learn that every couple’s experience is different.
If I had to rate our medical school marriage experience (so far) from 1 to 10, with 1 being the absolute worst and 10 being absolutely amazing, I would give it a 7.5. Year two was definitely the hardest, year three has been good to us so far, and I hear year four is the best. Very much looking forward to that!
I’ve learned so much about myself, Vishnu, and us as a couple over the past few years. While it’s not easy sharing your spouse (I call medical school Vishnu’s mistress…haha), it’s an amazing feeling to know that you are supporting the person you love most in this world as they work to achieve their dream.
Nothing is forever
We’ve had to remind ourselves a few times that medical school is not forever. Keeping this in mind helps us enjoy the present moment and appreciate where we are. In fact, I always tell Vishnu that one day we’ll look back on med school and remember it as the good ole days!
Open Communication is a must have not a nice to have
Communication is important for any relationship, but especially when time is of the essence. For example, I used to be notorious for saying “I’m fine” when I really wasn’t. It drove Vishnu up the wall and affected his concentration while studying/working. If nothing else, the past three years have taught me to speak up when something bothers me. Nothing good comes from holding it in and pretending like I’m ok.
The unknown isn’t as scary as it seems
First comes medical school, then comes residency, then comes fellowship, then comes…
So we will most likely be moving next summer. Where you ask? We have no idea! It’s a little unnerving to know this but nothing else, but we’ve learned to take the unknown in stride. Like I always say, the past few and the next few years of our lives are a huge adventure. Approaching it this way makes it less scary and more fun.
Sometimes you have to get creative
It’s not easy juggling two very different schedules. What we do to combat this is map out all of our important dates (tests, overnight shifts at the hospital, work travel, etc) and plan around them.
For example, during this month’s rotation, Vishnu has five overnight shifts that he’s responsible for (basically he goes into work at 5 am and doesn’t come back until about 10 am the next day). So what we’ll do is plan to have breakfast together when he gets back and watch a movie later in the evening, as he sleeps for a few hours in between (note: this only works when his call falls on a weekend day).
During the weekdays when time is really of the essence, we try to fit in a few short walks in the evenings. It’s not always much, but it’s better than nothing.
Medical school life is as much about the spouse as it is the student
While Vishnu is busy taking tests, thinking about residency, etc., I am busy juggling my own career with household stuff (bills, cooking, cleaning, etc.). This is not to say that Vishnu doesn’t help around the house. He absolutely does. He’s the designated oatmeal maker, laundry folder and trash person!
Personally, I just think it’s easier when one person is in charge of certain things. And for anyone who knows me in real life, I like being in charge. Haha. Works well for us!
Independence is a great thing
I am an independent person by nature. I like having my “me time” and doing some things on my own. And Vishnu is extremely supportive of this. I honestly think that embracing this side of myself has made the past few years 10x easier. As much as I want him to, Vishnu can’t always make it out to the grocery store with me or to the beach or even out to dinners with friends. As much as it sucks, it is the name of the game. Going with the flow is not my forte but I’ve learned to be better at it and grow as a person in the process.
Involvement is key
Any married couple will tell you that it’s easy to fall into the trap of going to work, coming home, and doing it all over again. And while the question “How was your day?” is asked, most people don’t get too involved in their spouses’ non-home lives.
Vishnu and I are not those people! I bring work to him and him to work every day. He knows all about my coworkers and has met them on several occasions, and they all know about him. And when I have a work issue I’m trying to deal with, Vishnu is the first person I go to. Vishnu approaches it the same way. I’ve met a lot of his med school friends and their significant others. I even updated his resume for him and helped him write a few portions of various applications.
We’re best friends, husband and wife, and each other’s career counselors!
Every day is a blessing
The most valuable lesson we’ve learned is that every day, good or bad, is a blessing. We are so lucky to be living out our dreams together, and that is something we never let ourselves forget.