What It’s Like Dating a Medical Resident Long Distance

Long-distance can be tough. So can dating a medical resident. If you’re having to deal with both of those things, it’s probably a pretty daunting prospect. 

Don’t be worried—it’s definitely possible to make it work! 

A Couple of Things to Understand

The first thing to understand about residency is that it takes up a. lot. of. time. 

Medical residents work 80+ hours each week with very few days off. They sometimes work long shifts that can last up to 48 hours at a time. Add time to catch up on sleep and you might not hear from them for a few days. They don’t have time for much else outside of the hospital—not because they want to exclude other things, but because they’re both physically and mentally exhausted during the time they have left in the week. 

Secondly, you’ll need to have a good understanding of yourself and what you’re willing to handle before you tackle a medical relationship. If you wouldn’t describe yourself as ‘independent’ or have the potential to be independent, then (we’re so sorry because we hate to say this..) a medical relationship probably isn’t for you. 

Whether you’re in a long-distance relationship or you’re in the same town, dating a resident is hard work. It can feel like you’re left to navigate life alone… and in many cases, you are. It’s helpful to have your own hobbies, friends, and interests to fill your time and your soul. Don’t wait for someone to do it for you because sometimes the logistics of medical life just won’t let that happen! 

Can We Talk?

Long-distance can make it easy to feel neglected if you aren’t seeing your significant other all the time, particularly in long distance residency relationships. This is why consistent communication and clear expectations are important. You’ll need to be very flexible with your schedules as you try to find time for each other. 

Here are some ideas to help keep the spark alive… even over the internet! 

  • To coordinate times to catch up, it might be helpful to share calendars or at the very least, have them share their schedule when it’s created. This way you can plan a good time that works for both of you to talk. 
  • Do simple things like saying ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’ each day. It can help make your relationship feel secure and real.
  • If you each have a free evening, get creative and find a way to make it into a date rather than just a phone call. Many streaming services have a watch party setting that allows people in different locations to watch something together. Make a virtual meal together or go on a virtual walk. Play a game together. It’s good to get creative with it—a phone call is always nice, but it’s also good to find activities to liven (and lighten) things up!

It’s important not to get too hung up on hearing from them every second of the day. Being flexible and understanding about that is important. 

This is SO Stressful! 

Being a physician is a stressful job – even for doctors who’ve completed their training. Resident physicians will be dealing with the added stress of learning the ins and outs of the hospital, frequently changing rotations and focus, and long hours. Mentors will vary with each rotation and each will have their own ways of working with trainees. What works to understand one, may not work to understand the other, and trainees must navigate and adjust. 

You, too, will likely have to take time and learn to navigate and adjust how your relationship works as your significant other goes through residency. 

At times you’ll feel like you haven’t had a chance to talk about all the things you want to talk about. You’ll feel like you aren’t truly connecting with them. Maybe they aren’t hearing you.

You’ll feel like you just can’t give them the support they need after a long day at the hospital. 

Sometimes communication will be consistent. There will be short times of inconsistency. 

One day they just won’t have the energy to talk, the next they’ll need to offload what they’re doing and what they know.  

Because of all of these things, you’ll be stressed in a different way than they are. You’ll feel like there’s never any consistency and you won’t be able to anticipate what’s going to happen next. 

Set clear expectations on how both of you will handle these situations as they arise. There is no ‘right’ way besides mutual respect and understanding for the other’s position. 

Expectations and Red Flags

Make sure you both have clear expectations for each other for your relationship. In any long-distance relationship, it’s very important to have an end goal in mind. 

  • Are you planning on long-distance for a significant amount of time, or will one of you be moving in the near future? 
  • Are you both okay with that situation? 
  • Do you know how much you’re planning on visiting each other? 
  • What forms of communication are best for each of you? 
  • How often will you communicate?
  • With your limited time, what are some things the other can do to make you feel appreciated? 

Answering questions like this will help both of you make sure that the relationship is working for the other. 

If you find that you and your significant other have agreed on relationship expectations, they’re not meeting them and they’re using the excuse of ‘being busy’ or ‘tired’ all. the. time., it’s time to have a major heart-to-heart and reestablish expectations – or run! A resident’s job is an important one, but it doesn’t give them an excuse to not put effort in your relationship or treat you poorly.

Dating a medical resident long-distance can be a big undertaking. In the end, though, don’t stress too much about it and do your best. It’s possible to make it work, but it will take effort from BOTH of you. Just be sure both of you are keeping lines of communication open and being flexible with your significant other, and you’ll be fine. 

  • 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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