dating a doctor

Dating A Doctor? 10 Traits You’ll Need If This Is Meant To Be

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it a thousand times more, dating a doctor is not all it’s cracked up to be. It takes a certain level of, je ne sais quoi…. stamina? to navigate this lifestyle. Knowledge is power, and if you know what’s to come and how to better navigate it, you and your partner will be giving this relationship a chance to see if it’s meant to be.

Let’s jump right in and take a look at some characteristics you’ll need when dating a doctor. Take a breath in the middle and remember, love prevails…and practicing all these traits will help, too!

1. Independence

Definition: freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.

As it relates to dating a doctor, the level of independence you’ll need to possess varies from residency to a practicing physician. 

Residents work over 80 hrs/week. Counting on a lot of time alone with your mate or going out as a couple with friends will not always be in the cards. Holidays, major life events, and sometimes even things like funerals will be attended without your loved one. Fighting about more time together when the training schedule demands their time is not a fight you will win… or that you should want to win. 

Practicing physicians also work long hours or may work a shift lifestyle. Have a conversation with your partner or do some of your own research to better understand how many hours/week they will be in the office or at the hospital. 

2. Patience

Patience isn’t your best virtue? Don’t worry. It’s not a virtue that many of us have. Even if you do believe you have great patience, get ready for it to be tried…over and over and over. 

Let’s be real. Anything that requires a list of 10 necessary traits won’t be easy and will require a lot of patience. 

3. Understanding 

Definition: sympathetically aware of other people’s feelings; tolerant and forgiving; having insight or good judgment. 

One of the first things you realize when you’re dating a doctor is that their patients will always come first. It’s absolutely meant as no offense to you, but the lovely dinner you prepared or a friend’s birthday party will come second. 

If you’ve ever been a patient in critical need of a doctor, then you appreciate this fact. However, when you’re dating a doctor, it can be a difficult pill to swallow when it happens (and it will) over and over again. To be honest, the best thing you can and should do in those circumstances is practice understanding and be thankful your loved one has the knowledge and expertise to help someone in need. 

4. Flexibility 

Want to make it a Christmas tradition to celebrate with your doctor partner on Christmas morning? You want to celebrate your birthday on your actual birthday? We don’t mean to be harsh, but go ahead and throw those expectations out the window because if you’re dating an ER doctor or a doctor on call, neither of those things can always happen. 

Your best approach is to be flexible, work around their schedule, and find another time to get together or to celebrate those events. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not the day that’s important, but who you’re with.

5. Trust 

Definition: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. 

Trust us, this trait will be tried. 

We’ve all watched those medical dramas where the doctors are struggling with some sort of tumultuous relationship with another hospital employee, right? Exaggerated? Yes. Completely false? No. Healthcare workers do form a special bond that runs deep in traumatic experiences and sometimes emotions, especially in an emergency setting. 

If you think about your relationships at the office, you may have close friends who you dish with daily. Take that and add an atmosphere where you’re dealing with emotional situations such as emergencies, critical care, and things like poor home conditions and those bonds become even deeper. Hospital employees will have their inside jokes and sometimes they’ll seem like BFFs at get-togethers. Being unnecessarily skeptical of the nature of these relationships will lead to nothing besides fear, anxiety, and an unhealthy relationship. 

We’re not saying be naive. We’re saying, if you’re dating a doctor, this person will have relationships with coworkers that others (including you) may not completely understand. Defaulting to trust that your partner knows their boundaries is the only way to survive in a medical relationship. Until they prove you wrong, feel secure in the fact that they’ve been around this environment for years and they’ve chosen you for a reason.

6. Sense of Self

There’s going to be a lot of people (coworkers, family, friends, etc) fawning over your partner, telling them how great they are. Be prepared, no one thinks they’re more amazing for being a doctor than their own mother! It’s ok. They’ve worked hard, spent a lot of money on education, and passed the most difficult exams to get where they are. 

If you’re sensitive to being cast aside when the doting is handed out, however, then you’re going to have a difficult time. With all the accolades, it’s easy to get lost in the shadows and settle into playing the support role. 

Be self-aware and prepared. When you’re dating a doctor, it’s important to stay true to yourself and secure with who you are and all you’ve accomplished. You’re no less because you’re not saving lives. You are equals, no matter who holds the higher degree or makes more money.

7. Compassion

Definition: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others; comforts others in their troubles.

If you consider a hospital or practice setting, something is always wrong. There’s always a problem to be solved or someone in need. The time will come when you need to show your partner compassion after a tough day, a poor patient outcome, or even burnout. 

Practicing compassion will be good for both of you on a hard day.

8. Positivity

What’s that saying? 

“In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double. Don’t worry. Be happy.” 

-Bobby McFerrin

There are so many ‘be positive’ quotes out there. Why? Because a positive outlook does help. When you date a doctor, you’ll face very different challenges than other couples you know. Buy a book of quotes, find that positive attitude podcast, practice smiling more, and showing gratitude (this really works!).

9. Thoughtfulness

Being thoughtful of these, and just being thoughtful in general, will go a long way to strengthen your relationship. Focus on giving rather than receiving and you will feel the reward. For example, stopping by the hospital on a holiday just to say ‘hi’ or to drop off a quick bite, all without expecting anything in return. This will make you feel happy inside and will absolutely be appreciated by your physician! Of course, we want your physician partner to be thoughtful of you, as well. This is about managing yourself in a thoughtful way, which in itself will be fulfilling for you.

10. Resiliency

All of these characteristics, especially the ones where we included definitions, are important to develop a healthy relationship when dating a doctor. Also, a proven fact is if you practice these behaviors in a loving and kind way, the recipient will be more inclined to practice them, as well. 

The better you understand the demands of this lifestyle, the easier it will be for you and your relationship. This is absolutely not to say you should do all the sacrificing when you’re dating a doctor. Going in with eyes wide open, though, will only strengthen a healthy relationship where both you and your physician partner will be happy.  

By nurturing these traits, you are investing in building a long-lasting, beautiful relationship.

Other Articles of Interest:

Medical Marriage: 6 Traits Doctors Need To Be A Great Spouse

Getting Married In Medical School: What You Need To Know

Marrying A Doctor: What’s It Really Like

What’s It Like Dating A Medical Resident Long Distance?

  • Elizabeth is a Physician family advocate, Certified Life Coach for Physician Wives, EM wife of 20+ years, mother, and founder of The MedCommons – a marriage between her tech/business dev background and passion for helping physician families.

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