To honor the month of love, I thought I’d offer a few perspectives on surviving law school with your relationship intact. Being a law student is tough enough; add in your significant other and things can get a bit crazy. As in sleep-deprived, stress-eating, all-nighters-at-the-library crazy.
My boyfriend and I were dating before I started law school, so we had a pretty firm foundation before the madness of 1L started. We moved in together just before I started school and the first two months were absolute bliss. He worked long hours and I love cooking, so I would always have a hot pipping dinner ready for him by the time he got home. We spent our weekends surfing in New Hampshire and exploring our new city. Life was great! Then reality hit the fan and things went downhill…fast. I realized I was way behind on studying – people had already starting “outlining” and reading “horn books” before I even knew what those words meant. As I scrambled to catch up, my stress level ratcheted up and, honestly, I don’t think it ever came back down. Homecooked dinners became rare, weekend trips non-existent, and our free time mostly consisted of him watching TV while I poured over torts and civ pro. How romantic.
Sadly, this is a common tale. I polled some of my classmates and many of them shared the same experience. From the law student perspective, many expressed additional stress, frustration, and even guilt about not being able to spend quality time with their significant others. Almost all mentioned the TV watching/studying combo. (Tip: Hone your ability to study with TV as background noise, at least you’ll both be in the same room.)
Other common gripes were dealing the financial woes of being a student and dating someone who can afford to eat at real restaurants (no, Dominos does not count) and learning how to manage the stress of law school without taking it out on loved ones. (Tip: Dog walking can earn extra cash AND help to burn off stress.)
Let’s be honest, the non-law school half of this relationship is going to suffer. It’s about sticking together and figuring out how to mitigate the trauma. It’s really hard for non-law students to understand the strange quirks of law school culture. My boyfriend and his compatriots have a hard time comprehending why/how we could be so stressed out about school…it’s just school! And the grades! Oh my, don’t even get them started about our strange obsession with grades – we can’t stop talking about them, yet we can’t talk about who got what.
It may be hard to believe, but there are perks about having a non-law student significant other. The number one response I got was that “we don’t talk about law school”. All your friends are law students; you eat, drink, study, live with all law students and all you talk about is ‘that case about the railroad’ or ‘the Professor’s crazy outfits’. When you finally get that one-on-one time with your honey, you get to leave the law behind and be a normal human again.
So, prepare yourselves! This will be a challenge, but you can make it. Just remember, it’s not their fault (this goes both ways), maximize your study breaks, and by 3L you’ll have it all figured out.