If you’re in a long-term relationship and getting ready to enter law school you may have noticed by now that every ‘what to expect during the first year of law school’ advice books warn you that you’re almost certainly going to break up. I am in a long-distance, long-term relationship myself, so I thought I would share my perspective on the matter.
Part 1: Our Story
I have been dating my boyfriend, Rob, for almost two years at this point. We lived together for about a year until I moved to Boston to attend BU. While it was a hard decision to move out (and to go all the way to Boston instead of the much closer Vermont Law School or UNH Law,) Rob has been incredibly supportive. I don’t regret the decision to move here for school at all. This semester, Rob and I have seen each other almost every weekend.
The general pattern has been that we switch off taking the Dartmouth Coach between South Station in Boston and Lebanon, New Hampshire where Rob lives and works. The bus ride takes about two hours, and it takes about 45 minutes to get from my apartment to South Station or vice versa. We talk on the phone or video chat every night, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
While it has been wonderful to see Rob every weekend, we have recently been reflecting together on whether the ‘every weekend’ arrangement is going to be sustainable. For one thing, it’s hard for Rob to travel here to meet me because he has to arrange for someone to take of our dogs, which can be tricky and expensive. He also needs to be doing work on his house and our schedule has made that difficult. On my part, I love going home and I love having Rob here, but I also sometimes feel that I’m missing out on opportunities to make friends here in Boston because I am never available on the weekend. For these reasons, Rob and I have decided to take a more flexible approach to seeing each other next semester; we will aim to meet up 2-3 weekends per month instead of every week.
That said Rob and I are as close as we ever have been. I love every weekend I spend at home, I love our house, our mutual friends, our dogs, and all the time we spend together hiking, skiing, watching football, working on the house or pretty much anything else.
Part 2: My Tips
It is not necessarily true that the rigors and stresses of law school will cause you to break up. In my experience, there have been a few things that have been necessary for us to avoid that unhappy outcome.
(1) Commit to working on your relationship during law school; make it part of your list of ‘goals for a successful law school experience’. (See my last blog).
(2) Talk about the transition before it happens. If you’re moving out, if you’re moving cities, or even if you’re just going from working or undergrad to law school – talk together about how you’ll deal with the transition. You may want to talk about how you’ll deal with being busier, any changes in income, and changes in the distance between you. Talk about how you will make time for each other.
(3) Set yourselves up for success: make goals about how often you’ll talk, see each other, go on a date night or whatever it is that will mean for you as a couple that you are spending enough quality time together. Make your goals reasonable.
(4) Reevaluate your goals once school has started. Continue to reevaluate from semester to semester. Communicate with each other about what is and isn’t working. Negotiate (in good faith!) arrangements that will work for both of you.
Be patient with each other, communicate, and commit to the work it will take to keep your relationship strong. If you do this, it will be time and effort well spent. Rob has been my rock throughout the application process, choosing a school, and adjusting once school started. I am so grateful to have him by my side (even if figuratively) in life and in law school.