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It’s 10:39 p.m., and I’ve seen my boyfriend Kevin for a total of two hours over the last week. We live less than 2 miles from each other and attend the same university, but he wouldn’t say that. You see, I’m about to graduate from the University of Missouri, but he is a 2L (second year for those of you outside the club) at Mizzou Law. We’re both Tigers, but we live in two completely different worlds.
When I walked into the Law School this afternoon to drop off a care package for my boyfriend, I felt an energy shift from a happy, sunny afternoon outside to a dark, tense environment within the depths of legalese and textbooks. The energy and stress placed on professional students of all schools at MU’s campus — Medical School, Veterinary Medicine, Law School and the dozens of PhD and graduate programs — during finals week can be overwhelming. Most finals account for 100% of the student’s entire grade for the course, which can be maddening not only for the students themselves, but their significant others. So if you’re like me, one of the lucky ones who is dating someone very intelligent but very dedicated to his or her education, here’s 5 things I’ve learned as to how to deal with this next week of crazy.
- It’s not you, it’s them. When Kevin and I began dating in early January, he made it extremely clear that school would always be more important than any relationship we have. He didn’t apologize, he didn’t make excuses, he was extremely clear with me that law school > Ren, and that is what you as a significant other must understand. Your partner/girlfriend/boyfriend prepared for years to be at the point where they are now, and to fight their success by not supporting him or her completely is not fruitful but only brings resentment.
- Cherish the small things. When Kevin comes over after a long night of studying and brings me my favorite beverage (Dr Pepper, this is a PG-rated blog, y’all), I savor that moment and genuinely appreciate it. Your professional-student significant other is probably not going to have time to plan romantic dinners or grand gestures, so notes with a smiley face or a hug at the end of the day might have to do for a while … until the next Spring/Summer/Winter break comes, and then I’d demand some kind of hey-I-still-like-you-and-you’re-cute-really-though-I-mean-it large, romantic gesture.
- Keep your communication up, but reasonable. I’m going to be real with you, VoxTalk readers — I’m a needy, needy girlfriend. The largest challenge for me in dating a law student during finals week is that he asked me, gently and respectfully, to not text or talk to him for about a week. Did I accomplish that? Not so much, but I know that every hour I don’t text him “Hey how are you? ” I’m supporting him by not distracting him. By respecting his study time, I’m also respecting his and emotional state, and who wants to text someone whose got their grumpy pants on? #notsocute
- Don’t talk about Law&Order. Or anything related to what he or she is studying. When you get those precious moments when your professional student partner steps away from the textbooks and spends time with you, steer clear from anything in their field or might relate to it. Dating a med student? Don’t bring up your biology homework or something you saw on the Discovery channel, or your boyfriend or girlfriend will switch their studying brain back on and ramble about something completely over your head for two minutes. Kevin knows my I-really-don’t-care face-about-the-law face pretty well, and he usually follows up when I get a glazed over look with, “you don’t care, do you?” And because honesty is important, I usually nod.
- Celebrate in your partner’s accomplishments. When your professional student is done with the semester, week, month or school all together, take a night and focus completely on how awesome it was that they actually did it. Finals week is horrific, but getting through it something that I am very proud of my boyfriend for being able to do … in two days. I’ve already planned a date night at his favorite restaurant for when he’s done sometime this week to cheers his being done, and then it’s back to being about us as a couple and not him surviving being a professional student. Celebrate together so that the next time that a paper is due or a project must be completed or a long night in the library is required, you have a renewed foundation of romance. Cheers, professional student couples. I wish you all the best.
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