He looked at me and said in a thick Southern drawl, “Don’t get your honey where you make your money.” I smiled and nodded, never to forget the advice from my friend Chris about dating classmates. It can’t be that cut-and-dry in dating, especially in the medical field. So what do you do when you finally lift your head out of the books and decide it’s time to “play the field?”
What are your standards?
I don’t mean deciding whether you’ll date only brunettes or redheads; life will teach you it’s not realistic to be that superficial. You have to take a look at what standards you have in a mate. For example, I learned quickly after re-entering the dating scene during my first year of medical school that I really valued someone with an education equal to mine. I love in-depth philosophical conversations about politics, religion, and social welfare intermixed with a shared reflection on the value of our formal American education. The idea of being with the sexy gardener is the stuff movies are made of, but I tried this in real life, and there was just a lot of awkward silence punctuated by uncommunicative sex. In contrast, I know some happily married couples where one person is a physician and the other a plumber, customer service representative, or nanny. The important thing is to be honest with yourself and the people you’re attracted to about what you’re looking for in a mate.
Are you okay dating someone in the medical field?
This goes back to my conversation with my friend Chris. Personally, I agree with him and don’t think it’s wise to date anyone in your medical school because, if it ends poorly, there’ll be nothing more stressful than going through the most difficult time in your life with an ex you don’t like and have to see every day. The same can be applied to dating a colleague in residency or as an attending physician. The experience of being a physician is something only those who are a part of it truly understand. Again, there are plenty of examples of happy couples that met while in medical school. The thing is, do you really want to risk it? Dating another medical professional (i.e. nurse, case worker, administrator) can be equally tricky, but theoretically there’s less chance of having what I call “professionalism burnout,” when you’re around physicians and end up only talking about hospitals and diagnoses, not being able to “let go.” Some of this is just built in with the type A personality most physicians have. I abhor feeling like I have to prove myself all the time, but I can’t deny that I would hate to appear “stupid” in front of colleagues and co-workers, especially in a relationship.
Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you with my soapbox speech about avoiding medical professionals like the plague, let me lighten it up a little bit. Really, the best advice I’ve found is to be yourself and guard your heart. There are still plenty of people who see doctors as a golden ticket to the land of milk and honey and see physicians as only looking for a trophy spouse to complete their collection. Do what you like, and you’ll find people with whom you have things in common and to whom you are attracted. Go to bars, clubs, museums, parks, caves etc. Unless you’re working on the cure to cancer, stay away from hospital chats while you’re on dates because, honestly, no one cares. I met my husband by chance through mutual friends while in graduate school (and peeking at each other’s online profiles on OkCupid). The reason we were able to garner a fulfilling relationship was that we both weren’t forcing magic to happen. We would casually meet up (accompanied by friends) at football games, concerts, and bar, and eventually a stable friendship grew to be a loving marriage.
As physicians, we spend most of our lives on a timeline to make ourselves the most marketable people in our field. Love is different. Take off the white coat and get out there!