Law School Widow

confessions of a law school widow

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.

cons

1. Disconnect

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.

pros

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.

tips

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.

law school widow

Please share your own experiences!

  xoxo Katie

 

 

 

  • Pat (Mom)

    I like the way you and Ryan plan together and I also like the way you celebrate the times you are able to be together. I know you both can make it through the next year and a half. Love you both.

  • girl i hear you. my husband travels about 50% of the time for work, so that weekend dilemma is all too real for us. and sometimes texts and phone calls only get you so far. you can make it the rest of the way, you clearly have the right attitude for it!

    • kwalshmac

      Thanks for your support, Erin. Somedays the days go by SO slowly but then I look back and think, “damn, where did the time go?”. That’s hard that your husband travels half of the time. Life sometimes seems to pause when they are away…

  • I completely understand where you’re coming from! My husband was in law school when we met, and even after graduating, taking and passing the bar, he (actually WE) decided that he’d continue going to school part time 2.5 hours away two nights a week to get his LLM. Once all of this is behind you (only three more semesters and a bar exam left, girl!), you’ll both be so thankful that you stuck it out. It’ll make your relationship stronger (cliche, yes, but true!) and you’ll be so proud of his (and your) accomplishments. It’s worth it – good luck!

    • kwalshmac

      Oh girl, thank you so much for you support. It’s so great to connect with people that have gone through similar things. And you’re right, these hard times are building us up and making us stronger for whatever obstacles our future holds. I hope you and your husband have time together now. 🙂

  • Big hugs. I know it’s hard being away from a partner — while we were in undergrad, my now-husband and I went to schools six hours apart from each other, and while I liked being able to have my own life separate from him, it’s hard and I’m glad that part is over. But I expect things to be tough again over the next few months, since he is getting ready to defend his Ph.D. dissertation. Grad school widows unite. 🙂 P.S. I do our budget too, and even though I am math-challenged, I love being in control!

    • kwalshmac

      Hi Allie! Thank you for the hugs, somedays you just need that support and knowing that there are others out there like you! And good luck to you and your husband as he finishes up his Ph.D. Being in control of the budget is awesome, I’m terrible at math too, but I’m the one who knows what is needed at home while he’s barely ever here!

  • I’m a med school wife, so I’m with you! Communication is so, so important. Great tips!

    • kwalshmac

      Gosh, Med School! You guys have a lot more time and commitment than we do with Law School! How far along is he? And yes, without communication, what is the point?

  • Great post! I plan the graduations for the law school I work for and every student who I have heard speak on the stage thanks their significant other for doing the work with them and says they see their classmates more than their families. It is so hard but YAY for being almost done!

    • kwalshmac

      Thanks for your support Lauren, and how fun that you get to plan and witness all those happy moments for students! (although I’m sure it’s a lot of work) I can’t WAIT for that day to come. Next May 15!!

  • My boyfriends brother is a lawyer now, but I have heard quite a few stories over the years from my “sister-in-law” over the years, so this definitely rang a bell!

    • kwalshmac

      Ha, yes! We law school widows sure can connect with our stories of loneliness, stress, and anxiety. I hope your boyfriends brother is living a better life now and enjoys his career!

  • Rachel G

    My husband is in a different career, but when he was working full-time as a nurse (weekends, holidays, weird schedules) while doing grad school while I was in my own school 40 hours a week–we definitely had to get creative about communicating. We left each other a lot of post it notes during that time, I think! 🙂

    • kwalshmac

      Oh post it notes! That sounds fun, like a little surprise to wake up to in the morning, a mini version of the long departed Love Note. I’m going to do that! Thanks!

  • eHa

    I was on the other side! I went through law school engaged to my now husband. And then we got married a few weeks after the bar exam. My then husband was so wonderful and supportive during the whole bar exam experience! I couldn’t have done it without him. I’m sure your husband really appreciates how much you do to help him focus on getting through law school.

    • kwalshmac

      Thank you, and congrats to you for getting through it! What helped you get through the most?

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  • Bryce Perkins

    I’m a law school graduate who is currently studying for the bar exam, and my fiancé and I have been dating long distance the entire 2 years we’ve been together. All I wanted to say is major props to you and my fiancé for being awesome and supportive and understanding (at least as much as you can be) throughout the entire process.

    Despite the difficulties that law school puts on a relationship, as well as distance, my fiancé and I both believe that it has made our relationship even stronger and our bond even closer. Just know that your husband Ryan appreciates you more than anything for sticking by him through all this, because I couldn’t be more proud and appreciative of my fiancé Trisha who has done the same for me. 2 weeks til the bar exam! Cheers, Katie!

    • kwalshmac

      Hi Bryce, thanks for all your comments. It can be hard, as a partner of a law school student, because you aren’t doing all of the work but sometimes it sure feels like you are! It’s great to hear how much you appreciate your fiance, I’m sure that means a lot to Trisha. Wow…two weeks until the bar exam!! Are you ready? Ryan graduates this May and will then be quitting work to study for the bar. It will be a scary (one income family!) and stressful time but we are so close to the end! Good luck!! Let me know how it goes.

  • Jen

    I googled law school widow and this blog came up. It connects with me. Any updates on how your relationship is doing now?

    • kwalshmac

      Hi Jen, I’m glad you stumbled upon my blog. We are doing great. But I won’t lie, those law school years were so very very tough. My husband is in a clerkship now and is so happy to have passed the bar and be done with the going to school and working full time schedule. My advice is to schedule time together where you don’t talk about law school. Make it a priority. And support each other’s goals and remember it is only temporary. Feel free to shoot me an email if you want to discuss more, I’m an open book! katieamacdonald2@gmail.com