Keeping a new relationship with med school residency?
November 25, 2011 1:15 PM   Subscribe

How do I attempt to make a new relationship into a long-distance one when there is a medical school residency involved? Only the snowflakiest of details inside.

I originally met "Jane" a few years ago in State A through several common friends, though we were never really more than acquaintances. Towards the middle of this year, we wound up hanging out more often and establishing an actual friendship, but seeing as I planned to move to State B (on the other side of the country), decided not to pursue any sort of relationship with her.

Jane is a medical student in her final year, and knew for quite a while that she also wanted to live in the same city in State B as I did--she wound up taking an externship in same city, State B shortly after I moved. All four of her top programs she chose for residency (family practice) are in or near the area.

Since we've been new to the area, we've spent a lot of time together and it seems everything about us just works, from humor to attitudes to money to physical attraction. Basically, she checks off on all the mental boxes I have, and she feels likewise. The only problem? She's soon leaving to do more interviews for residency and then off to another continent for another externship. I really would like to pursue a continuation of the relationship in some form (even if it winds up being long-distance), but she is afraid of possibly getting placed outside of her top four choices and thus having to kill the relationship after more time develops. Admittedly, I am also scared of this potential option, but I don't see it as likely--she is well-qualified and can pretty much go wherever she pleases.

Since this is uncharted territory for both of us (never been in a long-distance relationship), how do I bring up the subject in a more complex and solid way? We've briefly discussed the possibility, but never seriously. How do I explain that I'd be OK with potentially moving out of my career path or something similar without seeming overbearing? After all, we've really only known each other for a few months. How exactly do we handle the wrinkle of residency in all of this?

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posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are a lot of "if's" in your post, but realistically you have no way of knowing exactly what will happen, what sacrifices each of you would have to make, or what options/resources will eventually be available to you.

If you will not be comfortable unless you discuss this with her, then you may want to try something along the lines of "I am very happy with you and will do my very best to be supportive of you and our relationship in the future." Save the "I will leave my career and follow you to the ends of the earth!" speech for when it is a serious possibility and the planing and implementation is about to begin.
posted by Shouraku at 1:39 PM on November 25, 2011

If I were you I'd worry about building the relationship first, and then figure out the all the geographical what-ifs afterward. You won't know what's possible unless you first decide to try to really be a couple, and that requires a leap of faith.

In my experience it's a *WHOLE* lot easier to find a new job/place to live than true love. However, not everyone feels this way-- I was dating a medical student and we broke up because he was more dedicated to school than to being with me (later/till this day he regrets it, though, so maybe his priorities changed over time).
posted by devymetal at 2:01 PM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Well, I say this as someone eventually hoping to do family practice, NOT as a hater--of all the residencies, FP is known to be less competitive, so unless the city of interest is Boston or some such, she does have a non-zero chance of being accepted at one of those four desired programs. If I were you, I would take a deep breath and see what unfolds. God forbid, you could break up for other reasons before the residency decision happens, anyway.
posted by skbw at 2:02 PM on November 25, 2011

How do I explain that I'd be OK with potentially moving out of my career path or something similar without seeming overbearing?

Well you don't right now. I'd go with "I'm going to assume that everything will work out as well as it can, and that if it doesn't we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. I'd hate to give up on something that has every chance of working out."
posted by DarlingBri at 2:48 PM on November 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

I am currently falling out of a long distance relationship so my apologies if there is any bias.
It'll be extremely hard to make it work because you need the both of you to be willing to work on this. That doesn't mean "I love you" once a day and things will be fine. You both have to actually make time for each other on your busy schedules. This means that you both have to know your priorities and make sure you know each others' boundaries. If one person is committing too much or feels like he/she is, then you're both already on different pages. A compromise has to be reached and the willingness to work on is determined by how strong the feelings are. That being said, you two could be deeply in love or extremely compatible, but long distance is a whole nother story, it distracts and changes people and sometimes the best you can do is just be patient and be a friend for them and wait and hope for the best.
posted by Trinergy at 4:43 PM on November 25, 2011

Nthing what DarlingBri said, along with a dose of:

"I think you're marvelous, and you know, other people - your fellow medical students/ residents - have figured this out, and we can too."

And a cherry on top of:

"I think you're great, and want what is best for you. So I hope you will rank your match choices where you really, really think will be a good fit for who you are and what you want to do professionally. Even if that means not in state B. Whatever happens, we'll figure it out. tonight?"

The issue might not be whether or not she gets in, but whether or not it's a good fit for her, which she won't know til she interviews. Because while family medicine is usually undersubscribed, and she might have a great shot at all four, a residency that doesn't really fit her style and needs (but is in state B) can be hellish 3-4 years of unpleasantness.

Since you already know that you are considering moving to be with her, just keep repeating that you support her in her decision to really find a match that suits her, and talk to her about what she like/dislikes about each of the places as she interviews. Help her process it candidly. I think that's the residency version of , 'giving a person space'. That way she won't feel unconscious pressure to pick one of those four places, even if another place - say in state C - really is a better fit.
posted by anitanita at 5:54 PM on November 25, 2011

Based on what you say, she's a competitive candidate for an uncompetitive job. A lot of family practice residencies are hurting for U.S. grads right now. And match day is still 4 months away.

Med students, of course, have worrying in their bones. That is why they are medical students. But they like statistics. Here are some stats for you from the National Residency Match Program (NRMP). Table 15 describes how many U.S. senior medical students matched below their fourth choice on their ROL (rank order list) for the past 15 years or so. In 2011, that number was 17% (about 12% matched at a choice below 4th, and about 5% did not match at all). Keep in mind that these numbers include all residency programs, most of which are more competitive than family medicine, but they do not break it down to the specialty level to see how many FM applicants matched below 4th choice. Also, the NRMP usually identifies that a significant number of the people who didn't match at all ranked too few programs (some people are silly enough to only rank one or two).

So my guess is that Jane has a less than 10% (maybe way less than 10%) chance of needing to deal with a situation in which she matches below her 4th choice on her list. With that knowledge, I think that if she is still hesitant to get more involved with you, she's just hesitant to get more involved with you, and it's not about the long distance thing.

p.s. tell her to stop sweating the future and enjoy what may be the best year of her life, 4th year of med school, by making the most of her relationship with you however long it may end up lasting!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:30 AM on November 26, 2011

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