Maintaining a relationship during nursing school takes some effort. Your time is taken up by studying, classes, clinicals and labs. Oh, did I mention studying? At the end of the day, there is just not much time left for significant others. Now, I am referring to romantic relationships here, but the same concept also applies to friendships.
I’ve put together a list of tips from my own experience to hopefully give some advice and encouragement to future, current and even past nursing students. I was dating, planned a wedding, got married, moved and had a baby all through my years of nursing school. And yes, I’m still married, so I must have done something right.
Schedule specialized time with your partner. Yes, this means scheduling your time spent together. Write it in your calendar before it fills up with exam prep and projects. If you don’t write it down, you will be so deep in your studies that days go by and you realize you haven’t seen your partner. It may seem unromantic to schedule one-on-one time, but it can carve out that special time for each other.
Outsource. No, not your research papers. I mean, outsource the mundane daily tasks of life that take up your precious time. Hire a cleaning lady, a dog walker — heck, they even have pickup laundry service now. Sign up for prepped meals or grocery delivery. I know, I know, it sounds pretty bougie. But, if you can take those chores off your plate, you will free up valuable time to spend with your partner. It’s a financial commitment, sure, but the return on your investment is invaluable.
My husband and I agreed to have a cleaning service come every month. It meant we had to trade one “fancy” dinner out for staying in. But this was something we were willing to compromise on to spend more time together.
Encourage your partner to have an independent hobby to occupy their time. That way, they aren’t waiting for you to finish studying that last chapter to start a new Netflix series. Think mountain biking, joining a softball team, learning a new language or anything else that doesn’t involve your presence. You will relish in the time alone to dive into your studies, knowing your partner is keeping themselves busy doing something fun.
Write down a reminder to thank your partner daily. During those insanely busy weeks between clinicals and exams, you may forget to thank your partner for taking out the garbage, bringing you a snack or making the bed. I would write a little heart on my agenda every day as a reminder to tell my partner that I appreciated him. He always thought I just liked to doodle hearts.
Verbalize your needs. When you have had your head crammed in a book for 12 hours, and your partner complains about having macaroni and cheese again for dinner, try not to let the steam fuming out of your ears show. Instead, request enthusiastically that you would love them to cook that one dish they know how to. Even if it’s terribly tasteless, at least you won’t have to spend time boiling noodles. If that fails, there’s always cereal.
Decrease your stress levels. Exercise, especially outdoors together, can be a perfect way to decrease stress and feel more calm and connected. The endorphins will surely help any negative energy and clear your heads, and you get to spend time together — it’s a win-win. Going for a hike, playing tennis or even a nightly walk around the neighborhood will work wonders.
Get yourself a supportive partner. When I started my RN to BSN online courses, my husband surprised me by putting together a special corner in our guest room with a desk. It was complete with highlighters, pens, sticky notes, binders and paper clips (it’s been a while since he’s been in school!).
He also made a door tag that read “Testing … Shh!” (Keep in mind, we were the only two people in the house). It was incredibly thoughtful and showed me that he supported my efforts in a way other than physically helping me study. I still have the paper clips somewhere because, well, I’m not sure what he was hoping I would use them for? It’s a perfect example of “it’s the thought that counts.”
So, there you have it. Seven tidbits of advice to maintain a healthy relationship during any stressful time in your life. If you are currently in a nursing program and reading this blog post — good for you! Take some time away from your studying for some self-care. I’m honored to be part of it. Oh, and go make some cereal. You need to eat.
Amanda Lundberg is a nurse.
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