Marriage + Medical School: Creating a Strong Support System

Authors: Rachel and Davis Szymanski

Rachel and Davis Szymanski are one of the many married couples that are part of the AUC community. Davis is currently a student, and here is an article co-authored by the two of them about what it takes to be married in medical school.

We have had many trade-offs during our marriage and career paths. We have each taken the back seat to become the supportive role, so the other could finish their lifelong dreams and goals. It hasn’t always been easy. In fact, most of the time it was burdened with financial hardships, unmet needs, sickness, and uncertainty. Looking back now on how we made it this far, it is evident that we only got to this point because of the strong support system we developed.

Medical school is a marathon. It is a grueling lifestyle that takes endurance and the best people who will help carry you over the finish line. For most medical students, especially ones who are married or in a relationship, it takes time to find that balance with studies, family, hobbies, and rest. I believe the students who can create robust support systems come to that balance quicker.

Early on in this medical school journey, we learned quickly that sometimes we will need to turn to other people for guidance and not each other, which can feel very isolating at first in your marriage or partnership. As a spouse who has not been through medical school, there is this wall of misunderstanding and mystery. As a spouse, I do my best to assist in everyday tasks to lower the stress of medical school. However, it is beneficial for the medical student to have peers who can share each others’ burdens. For spouses, it is helpful to find other medical school spouses who know what you are going through as well.

Another factor involved in creating a support system is to cut out selfishness. While as humans we all have needs, selfishness will make the journey unbearable and difficult. While in medical school, the attention and services will be more focused on the student. You must remember the end goal. If I wanted my husband to spend more time with me, it had to be on his time. This shift in the dynamic took some learning and adjusting because I was used to doing things on my time. However, with a change in mindset, we are better able to enjoy doing things together. We balance family life without taking away from his studies.

Lastly, the most crucial part of creating an excellent support system in medical school is communication. We have all heard familiar sayings such as communication is the key to success, but it is such an important life skill to have and to be able to apply it to your life. Your partner doesn’t know what you are thinking or what your expectations are. You need to tell them. Every morning, we discuss what our plans and expectations are for the day. I found out early on that medical students do not like surprises and quick changes in plans. Effective communication will be vital in medical school and in marriage.

Key Points to creating a strong support system in couples during medical school:

  • Turn to other people who are in similar situations to you. Find a support team such as other medical students or spouses who you can lean on and learn from.
  • Cut out selfishness. Put the needs of your spouse/partner ahead of your own.
  • Communicate with each other. Do not expect your partner to read your mind. Share your concerns, goals, and issues with them.

While we do still have our bad days and let stress affect our abilities to properly communicate, it is nice to have a system in place to fall back on. If you and your spouse can work as a team during this marathon known as medical school, we fully believe that a strong support system will create a better experience and marriage.

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