Married in Medical School: Sacrifice, Resilience, and Life!
A guest post by Jani from My Life in Med School
One of the questions I get most asked about is how I balance being married and being a medical student. The simple answer is sacrifice. To fully explain this, I need to rewind a few years back.
Being in a committed relationship during college (especially if you’ve been together since high school) is truly a challenge. More so when you are not in the same year and even more when you have different majors. There needs to be a mutual understanding of what each profession/major requires of each part. In addition to that, each part needs to have the necessary maturity to make the right decisions, and even take fault when mistakes are made. I am not going to sit here and say I never screwed up majorly. I have, but the important thing is the resilience to deal with the consequences and most importantly LEARN from mistakes.
Another important thing to go through all of this is having respect for your partner, their goals, and their needs. A relationship will truly thrive when all parties involved can understand when they need to ask and when they need to give. For us, college was the ground for all this learning and when most mistakes were made. The beauty of that journey was that during this time, we realized we wanted to fight to work to be better for ourselves and for each other.
We got engaged right after our hardest time together, towards the end of college. We then decided to move in together as Medical School began. I feel this was the best decision for us because it allowed us to get used to each other, adjust to medical school together, and truly test if we could make it work. Luckily, most of the wedding was planned before that start of medical school. This was also helpful because the stress levels were under control (if you’ve ever planned a wedding you know weddings can bring out the worst in people).
Medical school was definitely a new training ground for our relationship. We both had to learn that the primary focus was me passing all my courses, while not letting our relationship be in the back burner. For me that was especially hard. I tend to cherish family more than anything else, but it was him who taught me how to put my career first and yet still find the time for us. When I wanted to quit, go to sleep early, or even spend his free day together – he always kept me in check that I needed to pass first. If not all our sacrifices would be in vain. My husband is truly amazing and he has been the pillar of my journey in medical school.
So you see, I am not the only variable in the equation. My husband has also learned and grown in the process and he is an important part of making this med to non-med marriage work. After so many years together we know each other pretty well. I feel this has been an important aspect in overcoming all the hardships in our way. The commitment we have for each other goes above all and we constantly keep each other in check, on track, and in sync with our individual and combined goals. That last part is what I believe is the true secret, having personal and couple goals and continuously keeping the other persons’ goals in mind without overshadowing our own.
Our relationship is certainly not perfect, and it is pretty unique. But I believe we have cultivated a good foundation for many years to come in this profession. We have a doctor in our ethics department who says (very roughly translated): “Medicine is a profession which is a dimension of the sacred, thus becoming a physician entails sacrifice not only from us but from our families.” Ever since we met, my husband knew I wanted to do medicine as a career.
When medical school started, numerous orientations were given about how the odds that we’d make it through were against us. Apparently many couples who go into medical school, especially when both parties are NOT in medical school, breaks up. Many said that the transitions we had undergone were nothing compared to medical school. Looking back, I think they are wrong. The transitions are the same, but the maturity level is very, very distinct. This makes for the difference between success and failure in my opinion.
Maturity is what gives us the capacity to discern between what we want and what we need. What we want, is to be successful. What we need is to have someone/s who will be there to support us when the road to success gets tough. One cannot happen without the other. For this reason, my relationship with my spouse was my first priority and medical training was second. If I had let myself to be consumed by the first 2 years of medical school, I would’ve gone insane and probably failed courses or even the boards. Taking the time to bond and strengthen my relationship has given me the drive and skills necessary to succeed this far.
I may not be AOA or have a 268 on my USMLE Step 1. I will still get my MD and I will still be a Doctor, but I will have something greater. My family. My spouse. If something were to happen to me in the future and prevent me from continuing to practice medicine, I will have a loving husband and family that will still fulfil my life.
Throughout this journey we both have made sacrifices, and we’ve missed out. We’ve even had our difficulties balancing all the things life has thrown our way. Through communication, empathy, and understanding, I feel we have reached the final segment of this marathon with our head held high. What the future holds? No one knows. One thing I can say for sure is that we won’t give up, and if we have done it, so can you.
Jani is a 3rd year medical student. She blogs at her site – My Life in Med School – focusing on Fashion, Beauty, Lifestyle and (of course) Medical School. She can also be reached on twitter @LivingMD1.
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