Post # 1
I am hoping someone can offer some perspective to shed some light on this or help me view the situation in a different way.
My fiance and I just celebrated our 5 year anniversary and lived together for most of that time. I truly feel like I’m the lucky one in our relationship – we spend most of our time hanging out with our dogs, he always makes time to listen when I am stressed about something, he is affectione, and normally we only bicker like normal relationships, but if he ever does something to hurt me or make me cry he himself will tear up for being the reason I am upset, and not let it go until we resolve it. He is kind, emotionally available, and thoughtful. Until he started medical school this week.
I have never doubted our relationship, but this one is throwing me for a loop. I helped him move in last week and things were pretty much normal.. but then I moved home, and he began studying for his first big test tomorrow. I don’t want to sound dramatic – but I am honestly starting to regret encouraging this whole medical school thing if it means I am losing the person I love. The last day I was there, he cried more than I have ever seen him cry and said how much he would miss me. A week later, when I talk to him, his eyes totally glaze over and he is dismissive, and when I send a message along the lines of ‘I know this is a busy time for you and I want to support you, but I think we should refrain from being rude or dismissive of each other so our relationship can be a source of support instead of stress’, we talk 2 hrs later and when I express that I feel like he acts distant now that we are long distance, he says ‘I don’t have time for this you should be more understanding’ and hangs up on me and doesn’t talk to me for 2 days.
I am honestly starting to have doubts about our relationship and am just seeking some comfort that the long distance and/or dating a medical student DOES (please) improve, and that this is some twisted normal part of adjusting to the demands of both. For clarity, I have my own career (work full time) and also attend night class, and for me the issue is not more time or physical proximity – we FaceTimed very quickly only twice this week, and I was totally fine with giving him space to study, I have done a professional degree and 100% get the commitment required – it is the emotional distance and compartmentalization that I find jarring compared to how he was before, and am really struggling to come to terms with. I don’t want to let it be swept under the rug and become our go-to way of dealing with stress and conflict, especially with boards and residency around the corner.
Any words of wisdom are sincerely appreciated.
Post # 2
My initial thoughts are – it’s only been a week, this is hardly a pattern of behaviour you have seen for a long time. Give the guy a break! I would assume medical school is one of the most difficult programs you could embark upon, it makes sense his head is spinning. My second thought was – do you think perhaps this 1st week has scared this guy to the point he may be thinking of quitting? Feeling an immense amount of pressure/stress not to let everyone down? I wouldn’t be surprised if he is anxious and it’s finally hit him how difficult the next few years might be for him. And maybe his defence mechanism is to shut down emotionally. I’d ask him about it in an incredibly sensitive, non-judgemental way. And let him know if he wants to quit, it’s not the end of the world.
And in all honesty, given what you’ve described, I don’t think this is about you.
Post # 3
WillowBee33 : Thanks a lot for your considered response. I acknowledge I am coming across as a bit anxious and I hope I haven’t made this about me when he is under a lot of pressure – but maybe I did. It’s tough because this is the first time I don’t know how he feels – I assumed he was under a ton of stress; but he told me he did extremely well on his study prep. (And I expect that he will. He is very talented, just extremely hard on himself.) He was under stress in the beginning of the week but not when we talked last – but he always gets very stressed leading up to anything big, like a test or travel. It’s just the behavioural change that is really tough for me. I don’t know how to be there for him anymore – I try, and there is just distance. It’s almost like he can’t even admit anything beyond sterile, clinical conversation right now.
I think you’re right about it being a defence mechanism and likely realizing how much pressure he will be facing these next few years, he has never done anything like this before. It’s just the abrupt personality change (along with holding down the fort and living alone now on top of school and work) that has me really stressed out, but I am just trying to get used to the ‘shutting down emotionally’ part. It’s so hard to be miles away from someone and have this happen, at least I find it really hard. It will take time. I really appreciate your thoughts on the situation – thank you for sharing them.
Post # 4
My husband and I got married 2 weeks before he started his PHD program. The first probably year and half was HARD! It consumed pretty much all his time. He had classes, lab rotations, grant proposals. He was super stressed a lot of the time. Thankfully, he’s gotten past some of the most stressful elements of the program and completed the majority of his course work so now we are back to a more normal place.
Honestly, I agree with him that you should be more understanding. He’s making a huge life adjustment right now. Cut the guy some slack. I just can’t imagine that the middle of him studying for his first med school exam is a good time to talk about your relationship. You’ve got to learn to pick your moments, and yeah sometimes that means waiting for a better time to bring something up.
My husband and I also did long distance at two different times in our relationship. It takes time to adjust and that adjustment is probably going to be harder/take more time given how much stress he’s dealing with. But it does get better.
Post # 5
hikingbride : Thanks, I know you guys are right and I need to cut him some slack. I knew going into the call that maybe we should wait until after the test, but then it just came out – it’s hard to go from living together and handling issues as they come up to this more compartmentalized situation, and I obviously have my own issues I am bringing to the table that make the situation scary to me. This thread is helping me see things from his perspective and gain some clarity – thanks for that.
Post # 6
graces7 : My apologies! I didn’t mean ‘this isn’t about you’ as in stop being selfish. I truly and sincerely meant I don’t think it’s something you have done, or that he’s ‘gone off’ you! I don’t think his emotional state has to do with you as a couple, but rather more he sounds scared and it’s most likely this new chapter.
Just curious – how long is medical school typically, how far are you apart and why couldn’t you move with him?
Post # 7
WillowBee33 : Hi, thanks so much for clarifying 🙂 I am just overthinking everything right now. Although I do feel a little bit self-absorbed for not having realized he is probably scared. Just a new side of him I wasn’t used to, I guess.
So, he is done the classes next December, and we hope to live together again then. I know that’s not so bad and other people have done worse. We will be a direct flight apart next January, so I am hoping I can see him more often, but right now it is every 3 months. I am completing school as well to finish next summer, and I also work, so I couldn’t go.
Post # 8
graces7 : Which is probably for the best. He would be SO sick of me right about now
Post # 9
I went to pharmacy school, not med school, but still a pretty rigorous program. The first couple of months were awful and that feeling came and went many times over the next 4 years. I definitely remember having all of the confidence in the world on the morning of day 1 and having that quickly crushed by the end of the first class, haha! You’re fiancé is obviously very smart if he got into the program and is likely used to excelling academically but professional programs are so different. I easily got A’s in undergrad and when I got my first C in pharmacy school I was like “what is this life?!?” The way you prep for lecture, take notes, study for exams, everything completely changes and it’s a shock to the system. There were times where my husband was a stranger because I never left my office. The amount of time it consumes is overwhelming, try to be understanding of that. Before we got married, my husband and I did long distance for two years so I can also understand your need for reassurance in your relationship right now. Try to have patience and give him a chance to get school figured out. I don’t think he’s actively trying to ignore you or be emotionally distant right now, he’s just overwhelmed with change and has to figure out how to keep his head above water with school and that has temporarily taken priority.
Post # 10
Former med student (now doc) here. Medical school (and then residency) is HARD. But it gets better! The first year is a lot of adjusting to new demands, including more studying than you or your Fiance ever thought possible. There are a few big make-or-break tests in that time, when your Fiance will likely become a “fun sponge” and not want to do anything that doesn’t count as studying (including things like showering and grocery shopping–the chill guilt is real). However, once you get used to the flow of things, having time for a social life IS possible.
The biggest thing you can do is be supportive in whatever way works best for your Fiance (something you’ve hopefully figured out in the past 5 years). If that means occasionally ordering pizza to the library for him and his friends, sending him encouraging texts/cards in the mail, or surprising him one weekend pre-test-week by filling his fridge with Red Bull, I’m sure you’ll figure out what works for you two.
Happy to chat more by PM if you want.
Post # 11
Med school was the most difficult experience of my life. It was FAR more stressful and time consuming than one can anticipate. My partner and I met halfway through school, and the relationship certainly suffered. Just know that your partner is going through one of the most difficult things he has gone through in his life, and he needs someone to be there and support him. People sometimes have a habit of taking their stressors out on the people they love, it is not intentional. If you can get through this period of time in both of your lives, you can make it through anything. My partner supported me unconditionally during that time, and I have never been so grateful for him in my life. Having a partner who can be there for you while understanding the requirements of the program is a lifesaver. Just know that whatever he is going through right now will pass, just do your best to be supportive and let him know that you are there no matter what. Remember that at the end of this your relationship will be stronger than it ever was before and you will be so proud of him when it is over.
Post # 12
Oof. As someone that finished law school in a long distance relationship and who’s boyfriend is currently over halfway through a four year post-graduate program I can tell you that long distance relationships in this environment go one of two ways, and very quickly.
The start art of a new program is incredibly stressful. You’re meeting new people, remembering how to study and plan for class, and everything is so new. You’re also really missing your other half. The best thing you can do is provide support, but also back off a little. Your relationship will be fine if you can’t FaceTime daily and if some days all you get is three texts.
It will be a lot harder to survive if your demands are equal to the demands of school right now. It’s an ebb and flow and right now you’re part of the ebb. Trying to compete with his schooling in the beginning probably won’t end well.
When I was a student marriages ended and long distance girlfriends and boyfriends became wives and husbands over the first year. I saw similar things with my boyfriend’s program. The first week of school is not the time to insist on alone time and a ton of attention.
I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer or anything, you two love each other and I’m sure will figure it out! But this is a time to fall back
Post # 13
Oh. Even with everything I said, you have a right to be pissed that he hung up on you and ignored you for two days. That’s not cool.
Post # 14
You have already gotten some wonderful replies. 🙂 Current fourth year med student here. I remember the first week of medical school being one of the most trying and most difficult weeks of my life. It was an onslot of information and completely overwhelming. I couldn’t imagine that I had to do this for the rest of school (and kind of my life). I wanted to cry almost every night. I felt like I was barely hanging on. It took some time to adjust and figure out how to deal with this different phase of my life. However, with time, it got a lot better. 🙂 Now, med school has been one of the best times of my life.
I would try to not take his dismissive attitude personally at this time (easier said than done). After the exam, it might be a good time to talk more. If it helps, there are a LOT of blogs about med school spouses/partners, which might be helpful? I feel like my fiance should get an hononary med school degree for what he deals with. 🙂
Feel free to PM if I can help at all!
Post # 15
I went to med school. I’m summarising, but here is what I saw happen with peoples relationships:
(1) their other half was wholly supportive, and whilst it was hard they came through it and were stronger for it. (this group is the minority). If you can support him through this then he will be forever thankful and you will reap the rewards of being married to someone who has a stable and well paid job.
(2) they break up. (Most common).
(3) the med student drops out at the insistence of their partner (very rare).
OP med school is horrible. It will take up all his time and attention for the next four years. If you can’t handle that then that’s completely up to you and that’s your right to go and seek someone more available. There’s plenty of women lining up to throw themselves at male doctors from what I’ve seen (lol it’s hilarious at work) but a man never forgets the woman who stood by him and supported him when he was a struggling student, that’s much rarer and I think they appreciate the loyalty xo