In the spirit of Valentine’s day, I want to talk to you guys about being in a relationship during college as a pre-med. For most of us, dating is usually in the back of our minds since our focus is always on academics, extracurricular, and building up that medical school application. In this blog, I particularly want to talk about dating someone who is not a pre-med or even remotely close to the healthcare field! It can be 10 times harder, and require 10 times more work than those couples who share the same career aspirations. I have been with my boyfriend for almost 5 years. We started dating during my senior year of high school, and then I joined him at the same college the following year. I was into science and he was into computer networking. Needless to say, there were some aspects of our relationship that we just couldn’t share with one another. There were times when it seemed like we didn’t fit together and it became hard, especially for me, to balance my time between spending it with him or with my books.
For those of you in my shoes, I understand the frustration that comes along with relationships and I want to highlight some key points my relationship (or just me) struggled with and how we overcame those obstacles and made it through those 3.5 years of college. Amidst all the struggles, there are a few things I came to appreciate about being in a relationship with someone who was not a pre-med. I hope I can bring insight and help those of you who are in this situation to appreciate your relationships and learn to balance the pressures of the pre-med world with your loved one.
1) You study totally different things, but you can always count on him/her to bring some perspective in your life and learn things you would never think about.
Okay so you’re studying biochemistry and you just get to a point where you absolutely cannot understand glycolysis. You look to your right and there is your friend calling up her boyfriend to ask for help and you look to your left and your boyfriend is doing some sort of coding or cryptic language you can’t understand. It can feel pretty lonely when you’ve got no one to turn to during any time of the day for free tutoring or just science discussions. You may feel like you’ve put yourself at a disadvantage but STOP RIGHT THERE! Even though you can’t have a ten minute conversation with your significant other (SO) about the citric acid cycle or thermodynamics, you gain the skill of working hard for yourself by yourself. Even if your SO looks at you blankly when you’re going on and on about the nervous system, you have someone you can pretend to be “teaching,” and we all know that you learn best when you can teach the material to someone. Study groups and office hours aside, people like us have an edge in our work ethics because we have to be 10x harder on ourselves to learn independently. Although it’s nice and helpful to be dating someone with similar interests, it’s also very eye opening to date someone who sees the world through different lenses. Without my boyfriend, I wouldn’t be so quick to learn about all the modern day technology, how to deal with technical issues, and random shenanigans that he does at his work. He brings to my life things I would not usually seek out or explore and for that I’m truly appreciative of our relationship.
2) They don’t understand all the stress you’re under, but they try their best to make everything feel okay.
It’s exam week and you’re at peak stress levels. On top of it all, your ochem lab experiment didn’t work out so now you have to go ask your lab mates for their results so you can do BS your lab write-up in addition to writing your secondary medical school applications, planning an event for your honor society, and working at your part-time job. Your sweet SO sees you’re on the verge of a mental break down so he asks you to go get some froyo and take your mind off of things for an hour or so. You think you could use a break so you guys go and get to talking. Then one thing leads to another and you’re sitting there venting to him about all the stuff you need to do and have yet done and omg why are you getting froyo instead of studying?! You thought you were taking a break to avoid a mental breakdown, but low and behold you end up sobbing while your froyo slowly turns into a sad sad puddle. Then you look up and your dear SO says those irritating words “it will be okay,” “you will be fine,” “just calm down.” UH NO. I WILL NOT BE OK. I WILL NEVER BE A DOCTOR. EVERYTHING IS WRONG. HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT. WHY DID I LET YOU CONVINCE ME TO “TAKE A BREAK?”- Or at least something similar goes through your mind. So here’s this guy/girl just trying to make you feel better and they themselves get attacked by this hot mess of a pre-med. Moving on, you don’t see them for a few days and next thing you know, exam week is over, you’re free, and everything is right again. Then you think back to that horrific incident with your SO and come to appreciate how caring they were even though they could not relate to what you were going through. In these relationships, your SO has seen you at your worst and in the moments when you are the most unlovable, but yet they still stick around. These people are so hard to come by so hold onto them while you can. It’s incredibly easy for another pre-med to understand all the pressures going on in your life because they feel it too, but imagine the difficulty a non pre-med SO has to go through to find ways to make you feel better even though they can’t give you insight on that lab write-up, or tutor you for that upcoming exam. As hard as it is on us, it is harder for them. My boyfriend has since learned to keep his distance during my peak stress-levels, but he has also managed to step in at the right times when I’m about to become a total mess. I’ve also learned not to take things out on him or blame him when we take froyo breaks. Nowadays, he’s trying to get some sort of certification so we go to Starbucks where we can spend time together while studying. Him with his network stuff, and me with my MCAT. We sit together in silence, but I enjoy every minute of it. Understanding and communication is key, and you and your SO are golden if you can master this.
4) You get away step away from all the science and pre-med pressures
How many times do you get SO fed up with all your pre-med friends about who is getting an internship, who is making a 4.0 science GPA, who is shadowing this and that doctor? Sometimes you get home from a healthcare networking event and you just need to clear your mind about anything healthcare related. In comes the SO. With your SO, you can talk about anything non pre-med related. You get to have long conversations about the randomest things without worries that pre-medical stuff will come up (unless you make it). You get to hear about his interesting work days and the things he has to do even though you understand almost none of the terms he uses. You can forget all the pressure and expectations placed upon you and enjoy being a “normal” person who does “normal” things for once. I’m not saying pre-med couples can’t do this, I’m just saying that it somehow feels nicer for us who are dating non pre-meds. After a long exam week, you get to see their face and catch up on all the cat videos they sent you that you neglected to watch during exam week. In that moment everything balances out, and you know that you’re going to be okay, that your relationship is going to survive all the storms, and that you have strong support system behind you every step of the way.