How to Manage Significant-Other Relationships During Medical School

"A medical school acceptance is a calling card to a lifelong career and can prompt aspiring doctors to think about their future lives, including personal relationships.

The average age upon matriculation into medical school was 24 for both men and women in 2017-2018, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Per data from the U.S. Census, the median age at first marriage was 28 for women and a few months shy of 30 for men.

Medical training occurs at a time when many start to think seriously about pursuing or maintaining a long-term relationship. Med school students and graduates face different challenges and have different stories about successfully doing that, and what works for some may not work for others." …

This is exactly the topic I am on the med school pages to get info on. DS is a senior and while balancing his regular studies, studying for MCAT, volunteering and tutoring, I fear his long term relationship may be waning. She’s an absolutely lovely girl and has been his best friend for 5 years but has high emotional needs that may be wearing him out. I am very curious how other relationships have fared during this very busy and demanding season.

Medical school is a very challenging and exhausting experience. Residency is even harder on relationships than med school is because of its very, very long hours. Relationships very often take a back seat to the career during med school & residency.


Both daughters had relationships implode due to med school and the stresses imposed on them by med school, but both also found life partners during med school whom they are still married to/living with long term. (I will note that neither of their partners are physicians nor aspire to be physicians. One is a professional in a field wholly unrelated to medicine; the other is working a day job while he prepares to return to school .)

The two elements in both successful long term relationships:
a) both partners in the relationship share mutual interests and activities that have absolutely nothing to do with school and work.
b) each individual in the relationships is autonomous and has a pretty high level of emotional independence. IOW, neither partner depends on the other to fulfill their entire emotional needs.

Each individual has their own friends/hobbies/activities separate from their partner’s and they all have friends separate from “couple friends”. Each individual is Ok with engaging in leisure & recreational activities without their partner. Flexibility and a willingness to compromise is extremely important. Also a willingness to share chores (or at least agree to share the cost of hiring those chores done) is also key.

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If one has a good relationship from undergrad years going, it’s important to find time to nurture it because you can’t build that sort of bond easily and after Med school acceptance, many potential partners may be interested in you mostly because of your professional/financial value. Medical education and career is time consuming and highly stressful so having a trustworthy and supportive partner can make life easier.