How To Handle Long-Distance Relationships in Medical School

This month alone, I heard about five classmates who recently broke up with their significant other due to distance. Relationships, in general, are hard let alone maintaining a special bond with someone miles away. FaceTime just can’t replace being with the one you love in real life. And each subsequent year of school comes with its own stressors which in turn weighs heavily on the relationship, especially with someone who is not a student. But, despite the challenges, long distance relationships can absolutely last in school.

I’ve frequently heard others say that long distance relationships never work. I think this generalization is far too extreme. A relationship, after all, is between two people. And if those two people are both willing to commit and to sacrifice, then the relationship is bound to last.

For those who prefer to focus on the positive aspects of a long-distance relationship, it can a reliable source of stress relief and a much needed escape from the monotony of studying and test-taking. Knowing you can pick up the phone at the end of the day to hear a loving, supportive voice helps to make harsh faculty feedback less hurtful, to make a bad grade less important, to make endless studying more manageable.

Spending most of your 20’s as a financially dependent student can be defeating. Being in a relationship can give you a strong sense of purpose and help motivate you to get through this marathon that is dental school with a cheerleader by your side at each turn. When I get frustrated and want to throw in the towel, I talk to my other half. I am instantly reminded that my hard work will not just benefit me, but contributes to a better future for me and someone I love. That is enough to keep me going – for another day, another week, another month. And, somehow, just like that – two years have almost gone by. Planning vacations in advance for the fall, winter, and spring breaks have helped tremendously because you can look forward to a break with someone you’re longing to spend more time with.

As in any relationship, communication is the most important. It has the potential to make the bond stronger, or contribute to its demise. Open and frequent communication – including text messages throughout the day and daily phone calls – are effective. Since being in a relationship, I have actually become more self-aware. I have identified the parts of my personality that are not so positive and need improvement. And I have learned to communicate more effectively – about my needs, expectations, and opinions.

I have been with my significant other since the first day of the first year and it has been one of the most important contributors to my happiness. Being in school, unlike having a 9-5 job, transcends all boundaries and permeates into every aspect of your personal life. Studying on vacations and weekends and airports are normal and expected. Still, though, I am strongly committed to my relationship and would make every sacrifice or jump over any hurdle to make it work. Despite the challenges, long distance relationships can absolutely last.

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sonal-kumar

Sonal Kumar

Sonal Kumar is passionate about combining science and storytelling. She has vast experiences outside of healthcare including marketing and advertising, print and broadcast journalism, including TV/radio production. Sonal is an alumna of Columbia University. She tweets @sonalkumar2011.