Being a husband, wife, or significant other in vet school

Introduction

Vet school often comes at a time when students are starting or considering starting life-long relationships. Or, some veterinary students have been married for many years prior to matriculating. The stresses and strains of vet school life have been known to adversely affect new and long-standing relationships.

Signs That A Relationship may be Suffering

  • I’m always feeling angry or hostile.
  • I don’t communicate as well with my partner.
  • We’re not speaking.
  • My school work is suffering.
  • I never study at home anymore.
  • I never ask my partner about his/her day because I’m too preoccupied with my own stresses and challenges.

Strategies

How to keep relationships healthy and vital during the period when so much effort will be devoted to learning medicine:

  • Find ways to involve your partner in your vet school experience. Make your success a shared goal and not an individual one. Let the important person in your life know that though you will be busy as a student, their role in your life will not change. Let your relationship and respect for one another become a motivator for your academic success.
  • Bring your partner to school to become familiar with your environment and experience. Show them the rooms, labs, etc.
  • Share an academic calendar to share your schedule, especially busy times.
  • Share your successes (and disappointments) to encourage celebration with you, and to offer comfort when needed.
  • Schedule time with your partner that is protected from school responsibilities. Use a calendar, write it in, and keep the commitment.
  • Consider designating an evening each week to be the time you spend together (e.g. every Sunday evening).
  • If finding study time is still difficult, considering doing work together (i.e., you could study and he/she could read or do work at the coffee house together,  do the grocery shopping together, etc).
  • Talk often, share experiences and concerns.
  • Find ways to continue to nurture the relationship (e.g., share your feelings in writing or by special demonstrations of affection and attention). While important in any relationship, it may be even more important during vet school.
  • Try to maintain phone contact when able. Even if only for a short call, it’s refreshing and healthy to share a few words, especially if you can’t be together as much as you’d like to.
  • If you’ve made a commitment, when stress or conflict arises, try not to resort to ending the relationship as a solution; focus on finding other ways to problem-solve that are grounded in the special aspects of your relationship.
    • “I’m sharing this with you because I love you and want us to live happily together for the rest of our lives.”
    • “First of all, let me say that you’re the best thing in my life and I can’t imagine being without you…I have been worried however…”
  • Get together with other married students; let the spouses share their experiences and maybe even free time.
  • Try out this app : Lasting

People to Talk to About Relationships

  • Student counseling services: (612) 624-3323
  • Dr. Erin Malone: (612) 625-4762, malon001@umn.edu
  • GOALe mentor(s)
  • Any faculty you feel you can approach
  • Classmates, friends, and family

Final thoughts

Contrary to what many think, having a meaningful relationship can help and NOT hinder school performance because it provides an additional support person and gives one purpose. No one gets through vet school alone. Think of your spouse or significant other as a precious source of love, support, and inspiration. Keep your relationships healthy and strong.

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“I actually think being married is better than not being married. Sure, [med] school is stressful, but your partner can be a very stabilizing force in your life. My wife has helped me keep things in perspective, while supporting me when times get tough. I make sure I set aside time for her just like I set aside time for school.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2000

“I couldn’t imagine going through [med] school without my fiancé. He not only supported me through the best and the worst of times, but he also reminded me that there is a world outside of medicine—the one that my patients live in. For example, I used to joke that if I didn’t have someone in my life to remind me of current events, the world could end and I wouldn’t even know it. Having that perspective has been invaluable in relating to my patients.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2006

“Some ways that my fiancé and I vitalized our relationship while I was in [med] school were to take ½ to 1 day off per week to do something unrelated to either of our chosen professions so we could both relax, and to give him a short phone call to say good night when I was on overnight call and I had some downtime.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2006

“Try to make time for a “date” with your significant other/spouse…it doesn’t have to be anything too fancy. It’s not that meaningful if you just see them when you’re eating, sleeping, or cleaning house. Just take a little time to enjoy each other’s company without worrying about school. This definitely helps the relationship.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2006

“It has been helpful for us to sit down on the weekend and discuss my schedule for the week. Then we write it on the calendar. This way [my spouse] knows what to expect and can see how busy I am in ‘black and white.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2008

License

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Well-being Handbook by Erin Malone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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