By Clayton Sorrells
Being married while in dental school definitely has its benefits, and, since my wife is reading this, I will not say disadvantages — merely challenges. Many try to avoid committing until after graduating, but, for me, tying the knot while in school was one of the greatest decisions of my life.
My wife, Emily, and I met when we were in nursing orientation together at the Arkansas Heart Hospital in July 2018. We made small talk about the weather, especially about the scorching summer we were having. In February 2020, I proposed during my first year of dental school, and we got married in January 2021 at the end of my second year. Our marriage has withstood the COVID-19 pandemic, several hurricanes and many communication failures, but we could not be happier. While we are approaching the one-year mark, Emily and I have already learned a vast amount about balancing a relationship with busy school and work lives.
One of the great things about being married while in dental school is that you always have someone in your corner rooting for you. Emily has been one of my biggest sources of support. She has been a tremendous help, especially when I had a rough day in the clinic or did not do well on an exam. There have been many times when I came home frustrated because my operative preparation was a little off, but Emily was there to encourage me. Try to leave your frustrations at school or attempt to work through them, but do not take them out on your significant other. This has been a lesson both of us have learned. It is easier said than done but can significantly help a relationship.
One of the challenges that we’ve faced is managing both of our increasingly busy day-to-day schedules. Emily is currently in a doctor of nursing practice program based out of Arkansas. It has been a struggle for us to find quality time with one another when we are not with our books or patients. Whether you are dating, engaged or married to someone while in school, you have to be able to set aside time for one another if you want that relationship to last. If Emily and I sit down at the beginning of each week and select a day to spend together, we are more likely to follow through and get that much-needed time together. Dental school can be go-go-go all the time, but try setting aside certain times or activities to dedicate to one another. Planning and communicating can decrease both of your stress levels, leading to increased individual and mutual success.
The holiday season is upon us, and with that comes lots of planning and organizing. Time management in a relationship is critical while in school, but it is also huge when you are on breaks. You always want to make time to see your family and friends, but you have to remember your significant other wants to visit their friends and family, too. I highly recommend sitting down and talking with both families before the holidays to understand which holiday you will be spending with them and which you will not. For instance, my family celebrates Thanksgiving in Louisiana, so Emily and I will typically spend Thanksgiving in Louisiana and most of our Christmas time with her family in Arkansas. When you ensure you are all on the same page, your break from dental school will go much smoother, and there will be more time for eggnog.
I cannot put words to many of the incredible benefits of being married while in dental school. When you have someone willing to love you through your good and bad grades, the good and not-so-great clinical outcomes, and the never-ending workload of dental school, you need to hold on to that person. In addition, being married in dental school carries with it an often-overlooked benefit: When you are in desperate need of patients to meet your requirements, your significant other has taken a vow to love you for better or worse and is inclined to let you operate on them.
Clayton Sorrells is the third-year AGD student representative at the Louisiana State University School of Dentistry. To comment on this article, email firstname.lastname@example.org.