Today I am once again a Law School Widow.
Yes, that is the technical term for us women married to adult law students. Ryan heads back to Law School tonight and I go back to seeing him only on the weekends (except for Tuesday nights, which he has off!). I wrote about my experience being married to a law student back when I first started blogging. But after another semester under my belt, I’m ready to share more of the gritty details.
I knew exactly what I was signing up for. Ryan has been in law school the entire time we have been dating. To save money and to gain work experience, he works full-time at a DA’s office and then heads to classes at night. When we first started dating our life ALS (after law school) seemed so far ahead.
Now, we only have 3 more semesters (out of 8 total) left. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. We still have a lot of work ahead of ourselves after graduation though. There is studying for the bar exam, taking the bar exam (and hopefully passing), finding a job, and settling yourself in at the new position. We will probably be experiencing long hours for a long while yet.
Yes, I say “we” because when I married Ryan I vowed to make his dreams my own. We are in this together.
There are a lot of statistics out there that show how hard law school is on relationships. A large number of marriages end and spouses are left feeling compromised. They say to imagine the normal growing pains one goes through in the first year of marriage and times that by 2. I try to ignore that hype. And if I’m being honest, yes things can be very hard. There are fights, there are tears, there is confusion, and there is sacrifice.
I decided to pull together a con and pro list to share what life as a law school widow is truly like. I’m sure others can relate, whether you spouse or significant other is a student, in the armed forces, works long hours, or work away from home. Of course our love will always be stronger than these cons. I shouldn’t have to tell you that I admire all his dedication, passion, and work. But there are negative and this is an honest account.
If I was going to give only one warning, this would be it. The disconnect is huge. Ryan and I can go 1-2 days only talking via text. Sure, texting is fast and easy but you can’t pick up on any emotional cues via text. You can’t make someone feel better after a tough day at work. You can’t share proper anger over a professor. You can’t hug or kiss or cuddle or give a look that can make the other feel instantly better.
It’s common for us to not share our daily happenings with each other. The big things, yes. But we miss out on each others daily stories about funny events or articles we may have read. Ryan doesn’t know what is happening around the house or what bills have been paid or what groceries were purchased, much less than I know what happened during his commute or how is head cold is doing.
His mistress that is law school could tell you more about his week than I can. And sometimes I simply feel ignored and he feels the same. The words, “you just can’t understand” are said frequently regarding his work load and schedule. And it is the truth.
We miss out on any connection. After a week of not sharing our lives with each other it’s hard to open up again. It’s hard to remember that funny anecdote you wanted to share on Wednesday. It’s hard to remember that this is my team-mate, that he needs me just as much as I need him. There is so much to catch up on and yet you don’t know where to begin. Life goes on whether or not you are together. It takes work to close the gap.
2. Re adjusting your social life
After a long week, we like to devote quality time on the weekends together. This gets hard because our lives are also busy with family and friends. We don’t want to turn down every invitation from others, but we do have to make time for our relationship as well. This time comes first for me because our relationship would suffer if I didn’t. It takes works and commitment. We plan special dates and weekends away and try to make our time together count. However, there are weekends where I’ll travel to see girlfriends or that he is locked up in the office all day studying. Things happen. You have to have enough faith in each other to know that we both want the best for each other.
3. High levels of stress and anxiety
Oh boy does this get bad! Like someone just threw a grenade into my living room and all hell has broken loose bad. Ryan is under a huge amount of stress at all times. And who could blame him? He worries about work, he worries about school, he worries about his TA positions, he worries about bills, he worries about the future, he worries about me and how I am with all of this. The worry spreads over to me and the gritty truth is that it’s exhausting. It gets tiring assuring that the right choice was made, that we are going to be okay, that I am dealing, that life IS good. And it is. This is a minor part of our lives. We will endure and things will continue to get better. But there are days where it feels like nothing is going your way, that you just can’t catch a break, that you just want to quit.
4. Being apart during the week
Of course this goes hand in hand with the disconnect, but on a much more minor level, I get selfish and wish Ryan was there to help with house hold chores. When he is home he’s a big help. He’s the one that always washes the dishes. He’s the one who takes out the trash. He loves to clean and I miss that oh so much during the week. I save our favorite TV shows to watch together on the weekends or a night off. I cook large meals (his lunch and dinners for the week) and get sad having to eat them alone and pack up the rest for him. Ok, enough pity party.
1. Endless “me time”
Earlier this week, I wrote about how much I need quality “Me Time” and I do get a lot of that while school is in session. I can make as many friend dates as I want, spend time with my parents, go shopping, work out, or binge watch all my favorite girly TV shows and movies. I can take a 30 minute bath without guilt. I can wear my ugliest sweats and eat ice cream while watching Pretty Little Liars all week with no one to suggest other wise. I plan on making the most of this time this semester.
2. Easier to Budget
We are big in the saving mode right now – trying to pay down our credit card debt and add as much to savings. I work hard on our budget and honestly like having control of it. As the manager of our household I can be sure that we are staying in line with our financial goals and take that worry off of Ryan.
3. Ryan is following his dream
And what more could a wife wish for? I’m so happy that he doing everything he can to complete his goal. Last night he reminded me that, “no one actually ENJOYS law school”. But he’s pulling through, putting in his time. He worked full-time to put himself through undergrad and now is doing the same for law school. I’m beyond proud of him and am happy he has found a calling. Much rather have him working hard towards his dream than floundering about at home with me at a loss at what to do with his future.
I have two tips for couples:
1. Communicate your expectations. Make sure you share your concerns and fears. Decide how time together will be spent. Delegate household chores and set up a communication schedule for when you are apart. Don’t hold any bitterness or grudges or they will escalate quickly. Compromises will have to be made, adjust as you learn.
2. Schedule dates This is a number one priority for us. If we don’t schedule dates we fall back onto watching TV and venting about money, bills, schedules, and time spent together. I try to support Ryan as much as I can by making life at home a vacation from Law School (when he can take it). We plan fun. Yes, money is tight, but I’d personally rather save up for a weekend trip rather than go out to eat once a week. Our marriage is not defined by law school.
Please share your own experiences!