Good Faith Advice

Dear Socrates & Gertrude,

I could really use your advice! I’m stuck in a common relationship predicament – I’m dating someone who goes to a different professional school in a different city, and we’re both incredibly busy all the time. Any advice for keeping our relationship strong while we both are dealing with the stress of pursuing our individual goals?

Best,
Feeling Like Katrina with no FEMA
Like Martin with no Gina
Like a Flight with no Visa

 

Gertrude’s Response:

School is stressful! This much I’m sure we all know.  Even during down time you can always be doing something productive – maybe start outlining for your torts class! But law school isn’t the only type of school that brings stress.  Graduate school in general brings about copious amounts of stress.  The feeling of losing sleep, gaining 10 pounds, getting constant stomach aches, losing 10 pounds, or having heart palpitations are all the uncomfortable symptoms of stress (except maybe for the losing 10 pounds part).  These things cause other unpleasantries and then you find yourself yelling at breakfast one morning for no good reason (as if there was ever a good reason to yell at breakfast).  This type of behavior is generally frowned upon and can take a toll on your partner and the relationship.  This is why stress management is key!

Now that the obvious has been stated, the next issue is how are you supposed to manage your stress?  Is it even possible?

Yes my friend, anything is possible!  …remember that if you are ever being cross-examined on the witness stand.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind when the going gets tough:

(1) Nutrition and exercise are a great way to lower your stress level.  Taking care of your body helps you take care of your mind.  Cheesy, I know, but true nonetheless.

(2) Don’t forget to do the things you love to do.  I know time is of the essence and that much of your stress is because you don’t have the time to do all the work you’ve been assigned anyway. But trust me, you’ll be a lot more productive if you are not (as) stressed out.  Plus, you’ll feel better too! Remember, life doesn’t stop for a few years because you’re in graduate school.  If it’s not one thing distracting you, it’ll be another!

(3) Tone down your complaining about how stressful school is, especially to your significant other.  Communication is great and you should be able to share everything with your snuggle buddy.  However, if you keep complaining about the same things, it’ll only get annoying and it will force you to keep thinking about how stressful school is.  Stop complaining!

(4) Make time for people that you care about.  It may sound like having more time is the real key to all your problems, but it’s not.  Life gets busy; that’s life! But don’t forget what is most important in your life: the people you love.  Spending time with them will help you feel more at ease and ensure that the bonds you have with them don’t wither.  This one is especially true when it comes to your special someone.

So, what I’m really saying is, chill out homes.  It’s not easy, but keeping it in mind helps.  Two stressful people together is a recipe for disaster, so try to do things to lower your stress levels.  Maybe even do some fun physical activity together to make sure you get exercise, spend time with each other, and are focused on something else besides how stressed out your clinic is making you.  The possibilities are endless here in SoCal.  We live in paradise, enjoy it!

 

Socrates’ Response:

I’m about to say something really groundbreaking, I know, but it’s really difficult to maintain a relationship in law school. We all joke about the first semester curse, where relationships are made or broken in the first semester of law school, but I think there’s some truth to it. Big life changes are accelerants for relationships that were never meant to be, but they can also become an excuse for neglecting your partner.

The fact that you’re asking about how to keep your relationship going is a great sign. It means that you are committed to your partner, and you want to take time to make them feel valued and a part of your life. It’s all too easy to forget that everything that was so straightforward and simple before law school – making plans with friends, dating, and reserving time to socialize – becomes another annoying thing on your   to-do list in law school. But just because it’s harder does not mean it should be less important. Look, you’re stressed out. Why? Because law school. So don’t self-medicate with more law school. It’s imperative that you reserve time for the people that are most important to you, and I’m betting that’s your SigO.

I know you think it’s impossible to put stress aside, but trust me, you can do it. One way to avoid being distracted when your SigO is around is to work harder during the times you know you won’t be seeing your partner, in order to prevent the work from creeping into the times you do spend together. Don’t let your time with your partner become a study session! You may want to convince yourself that studying together equals spending time together, but that’s just not true, especially if you don’t see each other most days. In fact, I think it can create more stress because you both aren’t taking the time to focus on each other and really value your time together.

I also think it’s really important to stay connected in little ways. Instead of texting (which is impersonal and easy to neglect) a phone call once a day can make all the difference when you don’t see each other. You may think it’s cutting into your time studying, but if you talk every single day, you never have to have a major catch-up sesh. You’ll also feel like you didn’t miss out on your partner’s daily life.

Also, taking care of yourself, using the methods Gertrude recommends above or in a way you know will help you to relax, is incredibly important. It’s only when you’ve attended to your own needs that you can put those aside in order to pay attention to what others need. Good luck!