Going the Distance: Tips on Long Distance Relationships in Medical School

Have you every wondered what it would be like to fall in love with a fellow classmate? What if you were already married before medical school – how did you handle the balance between a relationship and medical school? Today we have Daily Medicine Guest Blogger Valerie who blogs at:  https://tobeacountrydoc.blogspot.com. She has been in a long distance relationship during medical school & gives readers great tips about balancing both! Her blog centers around her journey through medical school and everything that entails! 

Hello everybody! I want to thank Roxy for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with her lovely readers!

Long-distance relationships. You see them on TV, in movies and in books. They always seem so romantic and quirky.


However, for many med students they are a not so romantic or quirky reality. Like all relationships, they are hard and require a lot of work. So. Much. Work. I could say that a billion times and it would still not emphasize it enough. They are not just the fun meetings and weekend getaways of those movies we just talked about. They are all too frequent good-byes when it seems like you just said hello. They are nights spent alone wishing the other person was there. They are times when you just need a hug and a text will have to do. They are trying to get in some much needed study time on buses, trains or planes. They are definitely not always pretty. But then, what relationship is always pretty?

I started dating my boyfriend, let’s call him B, during my sophomore year of undergrad. When I graduated he had one year left of undergrad and then moved about 6 hours away to work and complete his masters. So far we’ve been doing this distance thing for almost two years and as celebration of our recent four year anniversary, I thought I’d share with you all some of the things I’ve learned along the way.


1. Make sure that the relationship is worth it. I’ve already emphasized that long-distance  relationships are hard, so you had best make sure that you really, truly want to be with this person. If you can’t see yourself being with the person forever then perhaps you should reconsider your decision. Knowing that the person is someone who you want to be with is something you can hold onto when the going gets tough.


2. Have some sort of a time frame when you will no longer need to be long distance. This has been really important to me. As I’ve said before, distance is hard. I could never do it forever. Knowing when it will end has been a life saver for me. It gives me a goal to work towards in a very similar way to number 3.


3. Try to always have a next visit planned when the current one ends. This may seem like excessive type A planning, but it really is helpful. During times when being apart feels extra hard, knowing exactly when you will see your significant other next is like a beacon in the dark. It gives you something concrete to hold onto. For me, whenever I felt like I couldn’t handle it anymore I would count down the days in my head until I saw B again.


4. Know your needs and acknowledge them. You need to have a good amount of self awareness for this type of relationship. Everybody requires different things in a relationship and once you know what are yours, tell your partner and try to work with them. For example, I very much receive and give love through touch. When B puts his hand on the small of my back when we’re out and about, I feel loved. When B is sad or stressed, I hold his hand or rub his back to try to comfort him. Unfortunately for me, touch does not work well with long distance. So I had to be inventive. B always leaves at least one hoodie here for me to wear and usually a t-shirt. That helps me to feel close to him.


5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. This is without a doubt the most important part of this list and it ties in with number 4 extensively. I have seen many long distance relationships go down the drain because one or both members were unable to communicate. You need to tell your partner when something isn’t working, or when they do something that hurts you or makes you mad. In person your partner could read your nonverbal cues to pick up on this, but it can be much harder via text or phone. Bottling these things up just builds resentment. This is extra true when you and your partner have different expectations for parts of your relationship. For example, I really need to talk to B at least via text for a little bit everyday. Without that, I feel totally disconnected. B does not feel this way at all. This became a problem early on in our distance. B felt that a phone call a week was enough with occasional texting thrown in and I just needed more than that. We talked about it and now try to have 15 minutes of undistracted and uninterrupted conversation (whether it be Facebook, phone, text or Skype) a night.


One of the greatest positives of distance is that you two will learn skills that can help you overcome future difficulties. Remember that when it gets hard.


6. Make each other a priority. I found that for both of us it was easy to make the other feel as though they’re not a priority in our lives. Basically, you should try to make the person as much of a priority in your life as you would if they were actually present. I think that this can be a hard concept to explain, but if you are in a long distance relationship, I’m pretty sure you can relate. It can be hard to turn down plans with friends or family, or even to stop studying just to talk on Facebook. Saying “Sorry I have to call my boyfriend that night.” can seem like blowing people off. It isn’t. It is giving someone you love the time they deserve and making them the priority they should be. I know that this is extra hard in med school when your time is so limited, but it is still super important.


7. Find different ways to connect. B and I try to do pretty regular date nights just like a regular couple. These can take many forms. One that we do a lot is we both watch the same TV show or movie (or lately the presidential debates) at the same time and talk during on Facebook messenger. We also will both order Thai food and then Skype while eating. We have even both gone to the movie theater to see the same movie on the same night and then called each other to talk about it. Be creative; you’ll find ways to stay connected.


8. Find ways to keep yourself busy. This one can actually be pretty fun. Instead of sitting inside on a Friday or Saturday night (when you’re not studying of course!) try something new. Take that ballet barre class you have always wanted to try. Take a spin class. Gather up some friends and go for a hike. Learn to knit. Read a book. Start writing a blog. Just do something! Please don’t sit around moping; it doesn’t help and actually can make you feel worse.


Remember that if this relationship lasts and develops into a marriage, distance won’t be the hardest thing you two have to face together. Life is hard. If your relationship lasts it will face the death of parents and friends. You two may face money problems, big moves and many other hard things. If you can’t handle distance, how do you expect to handle the harder things to come? One of the greatest positives of distance is that you two will learn skills that can help you overcome future difficulties. Remember that when it gets hard.

I hope that some of these are helpful to you, but always remember that your relationship is unique. What works for you may be something totally different than what worked for me. And remember, a relationship failing is not a personal failing. If something isn’t working or is becoming toxic, love yourself enough to end it. You deserve to be happy.


If you have any tips let me know below – I’m always looking for something new to try!


I want to thank Valerie for her great article and advice – she really helped me as I will soon be in a long distance relationship also. I hope you all also gained a lot from her story!

Check out Valerie’s blog!  https://tobeacountrydoc.blogspot.com.


Valerie grew up in rural Upstate New York. From her time surrounded by rural poverty she developed a passion for helping the underserved community. She followed this passion while attending University at Buffalo by volunteering at an inner city hospice and at a South American Fair trade shop. After graduating in 2014 with a major in Biomedical Sciences and minors in Latin Language/Literature and Pharmacology/Toxicology, she began at an Upstate New York Medical School. In addition to her normal course work she participates in the Rural Medicine Scholars Program, which provides elective coursework to learn more about issues facing rural communities and provides the opportunity to spend nine months at a rural hospital during third year rotations. On her own, she speaks at area high schools to encourage rural students into the medical field. In her spare time, Valerie likes cooking, baking, reading and hiking.

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