Guest Post: Your Significant Other

This is a wonderful post from Lauren, who is married to a medical student.  Her very important advice applies to medical students, residents and practicing physicians.  If you want to read more of her writing, she blogs at  http://medicalwife.wordpress.com

While you’re busy becoming a doctor, don’t forget the person who is holding your hand.

I am not a doctor. I am not a medical student. I am not in any way a medical professional. But I have everything to do with the medical profession. I am the wife of a medical student.

My own “medical” career began in 2007 when my husband entered medical school. We dated long distance for two years, got married, and have spent the past year and half more or less living in the same city, same house, finishing out his medical school career. If you as a doctor in training could take any lesson from my experience it would be this: Don’t forget the person who is willing to go through all this with you- your wife, your husband, whatever. Don’t forget, or neglect, that person.

Being your spouse or significant other is hard. You work long hours, study all the hours you are at home, and often spend days and weeks away on rotations or on-call. Your career dictates where we live and when we get to have a family bigger than our dogs and us. Your job makes you tired and stressed out, all too often leaving us to clean up after you even though we too are tired and stressed out from working at our own job. We sometimes snap at you in frustration because we want our weariness and sacrifice to be acknowledged too. It’s not easy being married to you, a medical student.

I say this not to complain, but to remind you of the sacrifices made on your spouse’s (or significant other’s) part. We make these sacrifices willingly. We married you (hopefully) knowing what our life would be like for a long, long time while you learn and train and build a career. To be clear, this is NOT a complaint, only a gentle reminder.

Wellness doesn’t only refer to your physical and mental well-being, but to the state of your relationships as well.  The last thing a stressed out medical student or resident needs is a failing marriage or relationship. Take time to cultivate your marriage. Take time out of your busy life to enjoy your significant other, and appreciate them and their role in your career. This can be done in any number of ways, some more time consuming than others, some more costly than others, but all are ways in which you can help your spouse know that they are appreciated, cared for, and loved. Below is a list of ways my medical student husband has gone above and beyond to make sure I feel valued and our marriage is secure. As the wife of a medical student, I can assure you that these work.

–       Exercise together, if that’s your thing. My husband and I, when he’s not away on rotations, run/walk together with our dog on Saturday and Sunday mornings. He is far more capable than I (far, far more), but he takes the time to do my measly walk/run workout with me every weekend. When he IS away, he makes sure to ask how my workout went and chat with me about my most recent small achievement. He always reminds me that he’s proud of me.

–       Commit an act of service. Big or small. When my husband does the dishes. Or runs a load of laundry. Or vacuums (which I hate to do), I know he is doing his best to help out in spite of his busy work and study schedule. I see that he cares, even if it is just a chore or two, and I see that he doesn’t expect me to be his maid. It doesn’t take much to make your spouse feel their housework is noticed and appreciated, and one of the best ways to do that is by giving them a break from it.

–       Go on a date, even if it’s just for coffee. Yes. I know. Cliché, but so true. We like to go on dates on weeknights when he isn’t working. It breaks up the monotony of life and is a bright light in the middle of a long week.

–       Read together. Sometimes, when my husband has a ton of reading, he’ll suggest we lie in bed together and read. Me on my Kindle, him his latest textbook for a rotation. We play footsy and simply BE together in happy contemplative silence.

–       Make them a part of what you do. My husband shares what he’s learning with me. He has me ask him practice questions when studying for exams. By making me a part of what he does every day I never feel put off by it.

–       Surprise them! Flowers! A small present! A tasty treat! Any unexpected surprise is reaffirming and welcomed.

Most importantly, tell your spouse/significant other thank you. Tell them that you appreciate all the sacrifices they make to be with you while you go though this. Tell them you know it must be hard for them to get shafted out of time with you because you have to go to the hospital, again, but that you will make up for it soon (and follow through with that promise!).

Remember that (hopefully) your spouse/significant other makes this whole process a little bit easier by being the warm arms you come home to after a long night, by being your number one fan and constant encouragement, by allowing your career to come first sometimes. Remember the person holding your hand through all this, and take time to care for that relationship properly.

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