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January 18, 2017

Marriage and Medical School

By Reese Imhof

by Reese Imhof

Being married in medical school has its challenges along with its advantages. My wife Nicole and I had our wedding less than a year before I entered Mayo Clinic School of Medicine. We’ve known each other since our senior year of high school and we lived together in New York, where we are both from, before making the move out to Rochester, Minnesota.  Nicole works at Mayo Clinic as a licensed clinical social worker, specializing in mental health and psychotherapy. Sharing the experience of being a part of the Mayo Clinic family has brought us closer during a time when being in a relationship sometimes feels quite difficult due to the demands of studying, class schedules, and other responsibilities that come along with medical school.

Living with your spouse or partner in medical school is great because your support system is right there in the same household. I’m very fortunate that I have a spouse who works more regular hours and is able to take care of many of the household chores and responsibilities that I sometimes don’t have time to do. Besides practical support such as cooking meals or making sure I have clean clothes on weeks when I have a very hectic schedule, the emotional support Nicole provides is a lifesaver during high stress periods of medical school.

Successfully managing stress during my first year of medical school has been an ongoing process. Having a supportive spouse, who is there for me to talk to and always encourages me to keep doing my best, has been very important to me. I also find that having the commitment and bond of marriage has helped me and my wife get through times when I may not see her as often as I’d like to. That being said, it can also be challenging to focus on studying when we haven’t spent time together in a while.

Supporting each other in our educational and professional goals has always been a part of our relationship. Nicole has 2 Master's degrees and while pursuing her graduate studies, she worked full-time in the mental health field along with a 12-hour a week clinical internship, so we are both used to having one member of the relationship supporting the other in both practical and emotional ways. I remember cooking dinner for her or making sure she had clean clothes for work during the weeks when she wouldn’t get home until 11:00 at night after a long day of work, internship, and classes. I also remember being there for her in times of high stress. I’m grateful that I have a relationship where we have both helped each other succeed in our separate educational pursuits.

Overall, having the support of a spouse or partner during medical school can be amazing so long as you and your partner understand that there will also be difficult times and long days to get through. I look forward to seeing what the next few years of medical school will yield and how my relationship with my wife will continue to grow and be strengthened.

To end this post, I’ll share the top 5 things that have been helpful for maintaining the strength of our relationship during medical school.

  1. Protected date nights – I look at my schedule and we plan a night when things aren’t too busy, so we can go out on a date without me having to be preoccupied with med school responsibilities.
  2. Talk to each other about things other than medicine/medical school – Nicole loves hearing about what I’m doing and learning in med school and I also love talking to her about her field of healthcare. That said, it’s important to also have other interests and different things to talk about outside of medicine! I also always make sure to ask Nicole about things that are important to her, such as how her day went, what new book she’s reading, how her friends are, etc. Medical school is really exciting and it’s easy to let it consume a conversation because there will be times when all you want to do is talk about everything you’re learning and doing. It’s important to make sure you have balance and are also taking an interest in hearing what your partner wants to talk about.
  3. Try new things together – Do something different to break out of your routine. Be open to doing something completely new. Nicole even got me to try dancing lessons with her. I was skeptical at first (I didn’t really know how to dance), but we actually had a lot of fun. I got her to try camping (she had never gone before) and an “escape room challenge”.
  4. Be thankful and appreciate all the little things – Be sure to notice your partner’s efforts, appreciate all that they do to make life easier for you and remember to thank them. When we were in our Anatomy block, I would always stay in the lab or in the library until late at night. Nicole would drive to the school after she was done with work to bring me dinner she cooked, or she would just stop by with our dog in the car so I could take a short break with them. I was so grateful to her for this and I wanted to make sure she always knew how much these little moments we had together meant to me.
  5. Do something for your partner/surprise them when you can – It’s not easy being married or partnered to a medical student! There are some real sacrifices that your partner will have to make. For example, I didn’t get to celebrate Nicole’s birthday this year because it was during final exams. I had exams on her birthday and the day after her birthday, so we barely saw each other. She was so understanding as she always is, but I wanted to make it up to her. I surprised her with tickets to a concert I knew she really wanted to see and I planned a weekend getaway. In med school there will be times when you are completely swamped with work, but there will also be periods when you have more free time. Take advantage of the free time and plan something fun for your partner.

Reese is a first year medical student and a member of the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine Social Media Committee. He is a native New Yorker who worked as a designer and entrepreneur before coming to medical school. He loves living in Rochester with his wife, and their dog and two cats. His hobbies include biking, running, hiking, photography, and writing.

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