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Tips for Dating Medical Students

2012 August 8
by Aaron

Amber, who writes at The Unconventional Doctor’s Wife, was kind enough to write a guest post for The Hero Complex. She has been married to her physician husband for over 11 years, and has been by his side through the MCAT, medical school applications, residency, and two fellowships. If there was anyone qualified to write this kind of post, it was her. Make sure to hop on over to her site and/or leave comments and questions below. 

When A asked me to write a guest post on tips for dating medical students, my first thought was “dating in med school? I could give you 100 reasons not to do that!” But alas, everyone is looking for their Mr. Right…or Mrs. Right…or in this case, Dr. Right? So, I will give you my best.

Any relationship takes work. We all know that. But when you add the demands and stress of medical school it makes things a little more tricky. If you insist on dragging someone into this mess, there are four things you need to know…and when I say you, I mean the both of you, the medical student and the dating partner.

If you can understand and apply these four tips, you will eliminate a lot of unnecessary headaches and drama heartache.

1. This is not normal

Medical Student: Just to be clear and make sure you understand… this journey you are on, is so far from normal, it’s not even funny. For the next seven to eleven years, your life will look nothing like normal. You will miss out on spontaneous weekends with friends, family events, reunions, vacations and more. I’m assuming you were already aware of the fact you did not sign up for a 9-5 job, at least not yet…if ever. So adding another person to the mix? It’s anything but a normal relationship.

Dating Partner:  It is critical you understand that this relationship is not like any other. So stop comparing yours with your friends’ or anyone else for that matter. There will be much sacrificing on your end. You need to understand that med students will never feel like they have studied enough. Never. Ever. It’s ridiculous. The 3rd year is a preview of residency. The rotation schedules are not flexible.  Be prepared to be the one that bends, and then bends again and again and again throughout this entire journey…And then again.

The sooner you both understand this unfortunate unique life, the less bumpy it will be. Well, honestly, there will always be bumps… but now, at least you know what you signed up for.

2. Expectations will always disappoint

Dating Partner:  This may be the most important advice you ever receive:

Drop any and all expectations now.

“What? That’s not fair!” you say?  You’re so right. It’s not fair. And it won’t be for a long time.  That just comes with the territory of dating someone during their medical training years. They have worked incredibly hard to get where they are (and I’m sure you have too), but unfortunately, their schedules (especially 3rd year and residency) do not flex for anyone else in their life. I’m not kidding. That’s not their choice…it’s just the way it is. And yeah, it stinks. So if they tell you they will meet you for dinner at 6:30pm, do not expect that to really happen… or at least bring a friend, just in case, so you don’t end up dining alone.

Medical Student:  This may come as a shock, but do not forget what I’m about to tell you:

The world does not revolve around you.

You may have been told or feel otherwise, but that is a lie. If you have decided to involve someone on your crazy doctor journey, then you need to sacrifice a little too. That person has a life, a job, friends, family, and feelings too. Do not expect them to drop everything when you unexpectedly have a moment or day off. Yeah, it would be great to spend time with them, but respect their commitments and time away from you.

Expectations will be the root of many arguments in your relationship. Do yourself a favor, and kick them out the door now.

3. Communicate!

Medical Student: You’re in school. I’m assuming you have a calendar with your schedule on it. Use it. Tell your partner. Write it down, sync your calendars. This should include all exams, study groups, study time, rotations, interviews, study time, study time, study time.  If something should change, let your partner know ASAP.

Dating Partner: If you have any important dates (work, events, family) where you would like your loving med student to join you, then please, please, please, let them know as soon as you know. Hopefully, they can plan their study schedule around it.  But if it’s during their 3rd year, understand that they might not be able to make those important dates. And as much as they would like to be there with you, it is out of their hands.

Communicating is so simple, yet it never is that easy. Work on being open and honest with each other. Be clear. Don’t bottle up emotions. But also, dating partners, don’t drop a bomb on your med student the night before their exams. It’s not good for anyone. (I may or may not have done that multiple times.)

4. Don’t forget about your patience {not patients}

You both are human (I hope), and humans mess up…a lot. Have patience with one another. Give each other grace. Forgive and let go of grudges. Learn from mistakes and try again. Tomorrow is a new day.

It’s probably is easier to go through these medical school years single, but knowing someone is in your corner, cheering you on, and sharing this journey with you, can be worth all the blood, sweat, and tears.

Just remember to not compare yourself to other couples, understanding your relationship is unique. Respect one another’s time and keep expectations low by communicating honestly and openly. Remember, you’re on this journey together, and are both figuring it out as you go.

Dating in medical school is a preview for what’s to come (if you decide to get married and venture into residency and fellowship).  So…if you cannot handle it now, then get the heck out while you still can. Otherwise, proceed and enjoy the ride. Good luck!

*** Bonus tip for the medical student: It will not kill you to take a 10 minute break from studying. Not. Ever. Sometimes that’s all someone needs to know you are thinking of them: a text, a call, a cup of coffee together, anything. 10 minutes. It’s doable.

*** Bonus tip for the dating partner: If this all sounds like way too much work and sacrifice, then go with Plan B: Go have a life for 7-10 years, and hook back up when they are a real, practicing doctor. You’re welcome.

{Full disclosure: My husband and I were already married when he started medical school. But we tried to make it extra challenging for him (because med school isn’t tough enough by itself), by having our first baby during the first week of medical school.  Yeah, not a smart move, but’s that’s for a whole other post. So, I checked with my friends who dated in med school and they gave me the OK on this.}

25 Responses Post a comment
  1. sophie permalink
    December 25, 2012

    Hi there. I’m 20 yo from Malaysia. Thank you so much for sharing this article. It is very helpful. I am now dating with medical student and we’ve been 2 years already. He is now in 2nd year of study. Yes he is so busy and I’m expecting too much. With this tips I hope I can look forward for much better relationship. Thank You :)

  2. Cindy permalink
    January 7, 2013

    Hi,

    I could really use some advice on the following:

    I have been dating a 4th year resident for a few months now. I nthe beginning it was awesome and then when I started to question the relationship- he fell back for a while- expressing to me that I was stressing the relationship too much. So this time around I am trying to be more understanding especially since he has a big test this month and his Boards in June. He has been studying like crazy and I must admit that I miss him and am frustrated to say the least. I understand the constant studying but wish he would give me a date or a few hours a week. He has told me that his career is very important and does not like to feel like his relationship is a chore but how do others cope- I am in school, work ful ltime and have a chidl as well. I can understand busy but I am also a female that would like a bit of time. I over analyze and know that I am taking it his absense personal- wndering if there is another of if he doesnt care -yet he will answer my texts and even reached out to me during the holidays. Please help, how do I cope, what can I do if anything- Help and thanks in advance

    • January 13, 2013

      Cindy,

      There should be compromise on both sides of the relationship. I can tell you that his free time will not be increasing anytime soon, so he will have to change his way of doing things. I don’t know your relationship well enough to offer you advice, but do what you need to do to be happy.

      Thanks for the comment,

      A

    • January 18, 2013

      Cindy-

      You sound incredibly busy… a working mom and student?! Wow, I’m impressed! A, is right with what he said – relationships are a compromise. If this guy is not making the relationship a priority now, then he probably won’t later on.

      You have a little one depending on you. I don’t need to tell you what a huge responsibility that is. You need to keep your little one and yourself a priority first…put your needs and your child’s before anyone else or relationship.

      If this relationship is taking a toll on you emotionally and causing anxiety, you may want to step back.

      If you have any other questions or want to talk shoot me an email
      ambertheudw (at) gmail (dot) com

  3. Elise permalink
    January 15, 2013

    Hey, this was a great article. I’m dating a med student right now in addition to being long distance, so I guess patience is the key. I just have to remember that! This was helpful, thanks!

  4. FutureRN002 permalink
    February 23, 2013

    Hello! I have a pretty lengthy story, but I could really use some advice. None of my friends are able to relate and I’m not really sure how to handle things!

    About 2 years ago when I had started taking pre-requisites for nursing school (I hold a bachelor’s degree in another field, but I am currently back in school to become an RN), there was a med student doing his Labor & Delivery rotation on my mom’s unit (she is a nurse-midwife). For the sake of this story, we will call him “Sam.” My mom and some of the nurses thought Sam seemed like a really sweet guy, and that he could be a good match for me. I reached out to Sam through e-mail, who was very polite, but we eventually lost touch.

    About 3-4 months ago, I was feeling extremely frustrated with the dating scene, and decided to reach out to Sam again. I told him that if he was still single, we should get together and (finally) meet some time, and I gave him my number. He told me he was very happy to hear from me and that he would love to meet up, but that he had just started his first year of medical residency 2 hours away from where I live, and that he has a very busy schedule. Nonetheless, his family lives close to me, so we figured we would eventually be able to meet up when he was home. We’ve continued texting back and forth for the past few months, with a few instances where I wouldn’t hear from him for 2-3 weeks and I thought he had lost interest… then I’d hear from him out of the blue as if nothing had changed.

    Then, last weekend, my friend invited me out to visit and I realized that Sam only lived about 10 minutes away from her. Sam told me he was going to try his best to meet up with us one night, but wasn’t entirely sure of his work schedule yet. We ended up having a double date (with me & Sam, and my friend & her boyfriend), and had a BLAST! I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, but I really enjoyed the night out and thought there was a lot of potential… we got along really well and had a lot to talk about. I mentioned to Sam that there were a few times when I wasn’t expecting to hear back from him due to his long absences, and he looked at my like I was crazy. He seemed very into me during the date, and was a total gentleman. He also told me that when he had his two weeks of vacation time at the end of April, he wanted to be able to see me. After the date, he sent me a text as soon as he got home to thank me for inviting him out, told me he had a great time, and he hoped it wasn’t another 2 years before we saw each other again.

    Since that night, I have barely heard from him other than a friendly response to a text I sent the other day. While I am a very busy person myself, I’m starting to realize that I may not be fully aware of just how busy he is.

    Should I just be grateful that our first meeting went so well, and not worry that I haven’t heard much from him? Is this what it’s like to date a resident? I would hope that if our relationship were to progress, I’d be able to hear from him at least every other day… Even just a text to let me know he is alive! haha

    Also, his birthday is next week. I am really into baking and crafts (haha) so I was thinking about making him a homemade birthday card, baking him some cookies, and sending them in the mail.

    Any thoughts? Any advice? Thanks!

    • February 24, 2013

      FutureRN,

      I have no idea how busy a resident is (yet), or what it is like to date one. However, I hope you visited Amber’s website which I linked at the beginning of the story for more first-hand experience and advice. I don’t think expecting a text a day is unrealistic though. I can’t imagine not being able to find a few seconds to send a quick note to my SO.

      As far as his birthday goes, I would be careful. It doesn’t really sound like you two are much more than acquaintances at this point? I don’t advocate playing games or being hard to get, but if he wants a relationship than he will at least have to meet you half way on some things. I think a homemade card and cookies is a bit much, but that’s just me. Would he send you anything like that if your birthday was next week?

      good luck!

      -A

    • Whimsy permalink
      March 16, 2013

      I am a medical student, not a resident yet, but I can say…If he is interested in you he will show it, even if he doesn’t have a lot of free time, he can find time to send a quick text to say he’s thinking of you (I’m not sure how long it’s been since you’ve heard from him). It is possible that he’s interested but does not want to move too quickly in fear that your expectations will quickly grow and he won’t be able to meet them.

      I think if you show him your interest and don’t hold him to specific wait and see time lines it will become obvious. If you are asking for more than he can offer or he’s not interested he will definitely let you know. He doesn’t have time to nurse a relationship he doesn’t think is going anywhere or he has no interest in.

      Without making it seem like you are making long-term plans, I would discuss the free time issue and what goals you each have as far as relationships. He may not be looking for anything other than friends who casually date, again due to fear of not having the time required for a serious relationship. If expectations are clear and communication is open disappointment should be avoided.

      As far as the birthday, the cookies and hand made card seem like a little too much. As much as I’m sure he may enjoy them, I think you might be setting yourself up for disappointment.

  5. mari permalink
    March 2, 2013

    Thanks so much for your article. Recently started seeing a med student. Often get irritated that with him. But like everyone has said: patience. I’m studying vet and I guess I just expect him to drop everything every time I have a break but I guess we both busy which can be a good thing or a bad thing. And as much as the world doesn’t revolve around him, it doesn’t revolve around me and my dreams either. Just a good reminder how much stress they are under and that when they drop us or suddenly change schedules, its out of their hands and nagging isn’t doing anything but pile on more stress for the both of us.

    • March 9, 2013

      Hi Mari,

      Thanks for the comments. I think you are right. There is a lot of stress in medicine, but it is manageable, and shouldn’t be taken out on you. I definitely think it is possible to have the needs met for both parties in a relationship involving a medical student.

      -A

  6. PGHgirl permalink
    April 12, 2013

    Hey there!

    I’m sitting here, writing this on a Friday night – obviously I am slightly frustrated and started to search for “dating medical students” and came across your post. Thank you SOO much for this. I’ve been dating a med student for a year now. We began dating about a month into his 3rd year – I wasn’t aware of the fact that the 3rd year is one of the hardest.
    I’m going to share this article with him as well. I think you hit some major points – We don’t live together yet, but he usually is at my place (I live a block away) to stay the night after studying. This rotation is very demanding, so he hasn’t been doing that lately – I’ve been trying to get through to him that he honestly just needs to send a quick text basically to let me know he’s alright. It makes me feel needy and like a burden, but your post made me see that It is normal to feel this way. I love this man… A LOT. I want to be here for him, but it’s really taking it’s toll on me.
    Anyways, I don’t really have any questions, but I did want you to know that I appreciate your post – gives me hope that this relationship CAN work. :)
    Thank you!!!

  7. May 21, 2013

    Hi! I am a lesbian dating a med student long distance. We dated for a couple months and broke up fot a couple months but are back together again. I am so happy to have her back in my life again. She makes me so happy. Well she is taking her exams now before residency and I hardly hear from her at all. I miss her so much. I make sure I send her and email everyday just to let her know I am thinking about him. Do you think that is ok to do? I don’t want to overwhelm her with telling her I miss her and think about her all the time. She has told me that she doesn’t mind me emailing but can’t email back right away. I understand that. Bur when she doesn’t write back I am starting to not know what to talk about. How do I keep her interested in me? She means the world to me.

    • May 21, 2013

      I don’t think a little email everyday is a bad thing. I don’t know your individual situation, but you can’t really make anyone stay interested in you. Its got to be a two way street. Medical school is rough, and residency is probably even tougher. However she should be making time for you as that is possible.

  8. Evelyn Mabote permalink
    June 24, 2013

    I am also in relationship with a 4th year medical student, I sometime feel so dicouraged , worried , missing him but to no avail. The worse thing he sometimes do not communicate , it is really giving me a headache. Please help me. I sometimes feel like I can another relationship but this also makes me feel bad . However the above tips have to greater extent lessened my anxiety .

  9. Australia permalink
    July 13, 2013

    Hi. Im 29yo, A New Grad RN in Australia. Ive met a third year medical student at Nurses house last month while he was doing his four weeks placemence here. We hung out every night after my work and his placement. We cuddled and talked all night even though we were quite tired. His eyes were bloodshot, and i worked arvo and i had to get up early in the morning. Last week of his placement, he asked me if we could go watch movie! How exciting it was! Then …finially last day of the placement, we spent a whole night together with anywords that expressed sadness or anything.like that. I miss him. We have been texting since. Obviously, We’ve been missing each other. But he’s text me the other nifht saying” im not as strong as you. I will always have a place in my heart for you maybe oneday if i could become a resident and i dont need to go far away for so long then we could be together.” And and “now you do, but in years time you.might.change your mind..” i feel so right our feeling. But he seems he is not sure about me?!. A bit sad. Still texting and asking how our.days.and.exams gone that sort of things. Sigh. I really like him day by day. I dont know how to let him know how much i like him. Personally distance isnt matter. Right?!. All my feeling is killing me ;’( …

  10. Michelle permalink
    September 18, 2013

    Im glad I found this article ( as I was in tears) Im dating a first year. Im so used to him having all kinds of time for me. Now it seems like I only see him when we wake up and when he comes home from studying. He has come and surprised me at work a couple of time which totally made my day. He has started playing intramural soccer. Its a team made up of meds students. Im glad he is doing something that he enjoys but at the same time I wish he would spend that little bit of free time with me. By the time I had finished the article I had stopped crying and was more understanding. I know its only going to get tougher from here, but I cant imagine being with anyone else at this time. Thanks for writing.

  11. Emie permalink
    October 26, 2013

    I met my bf when he was a second year resident. We have known each other for a year and 8 months, but it feels like a lifetime. I am a graphic artist btw. He did not tell me this at first, and after we had been seeing each other awhile realized why. I think the hardest part about falling in love with a potential doctor is staying true to yourself. It is so true that people outside of the medical field have no idea how maddeningly hard it is. I only have a glimpse myself. At first we were able to see each other a bit more and he made every effort to show me how much he cares. For me, it was really frightening and I began to question his love for me.
    Ok, so then things became unbearable for me once my grandfather had a severe stroke… I helped take care of him until we got him placed in a nursing home… anyway, my bf was still really supportive, but I was unable to see him at all. I was becoming unhealthy and emotionally drained, so I decided to take a break to get healthy again. I tried to move on, but I thought of him constantly… soo October 2013 I realized that I didn’t want to have a life without him, but to have a love so deep & gentle sort of came with a burden of his career. He is now in his last year. I barely see him and that upsets me, sometimes I think he forgets all about me. But then he will call and say how miserable his schedule is… it is hard! If it wasn’t it wouldn’t be worth it I guess… so that’s my story…thank you everyone for sharing. Much luck & love!

  12. Sarah permalink
    September 10, 2014

    I could use some advise.

    I met my boyfriend be for he started medical school and we have been dating for a year. Right now we are long distance and he is very bad with communication, he got his first cell phone after he graduated from high school and hardly ever texts. So I send him inspirational texts so he knows im here cheering him on. Jealousy is the devil and it finds me when im talking with others who have been through this and tell me that he will probably develope feelings for another student or leave you for one. I trust him and dont want anything to happen to us. I know hes crazy busy but with him not being able to text or talk a lot I get in fear of asking him if we could make time for one another on the phone without sounding controlling or whining. Im here to support him and love him not make added stress but need a little more then one text a week with me always starting it.

  13. crystal permalink
    October 27, 2014

    Met him right at the beginning of residency. It was going good at first. We saw each other twice a week I spent the night once a week. We texted daily. While he was on rotation and spent hours on the phone when he was home. I demanded more time and he basically told me he would work on more time. We’ve talked about marriage, house, kids, etc.. past week? Have not heard from him besides a text once a day maybe. Yesterday nothing. Don’t know what to think. He said his schedule is forcing him to become distant. I just want a few seconds of communication to know he ok. Ate. He care….Idk What To Do OR think…He Just ceased communication..y?

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