Thursday, April 24, 2014

5 Ways to Thrive as a Law School Spouse

He did it!! Brad got through his first year of law school!! 
Finals are done, papers are in, and we are headed out of town!
Which means that I got through my first year as a law school wife! 
I actually feel pretty accomplished! 
(Can you tell by the many exclamation points that I'm WAY excited??!!)

I was thinking today about the beginning of the year when I went to a meeting for law school spouses. 
And it was pretty awful. I never went back. 
Basically, all of the spouses complained about how terrible their experience was 
and that they were counting down the days until the end. 
They said that they were surviving, but it wasn't fun. 
They felt tired, neglected, and frustrated a lot of the time.

I decided right then that I wasn't going to complain my way through the next three years of my life. 
I wasn't going to only survive. I wanted to thrive

Now don't get me wrong... I don't have anything against these girls, and I am not judging them. 
Law school is hard. It is difficult to be the spouse of a law student. 
But it doesn't have to be terrible... In fact, it can actually be pretty great. 
So I thought I would share some of my ideas, since maybe someone else could use them too.
And these ideas don't only apply to law school spouses. 
I think they could help at any time during your marriage.
I'm talking as a law spouse, because 8 of our 10 months of marriage have been in law school, 
so that's what I know. 

Prioritize with Your Spouse
At the start of the year, we went to a dinner at the home of one of the law professors. He gave us some great advice. He said that law school could easily take over your entire life if you let it. The key was to 
not let it. Brad and I took that advice to heart and came up with our priorities. For us, The Lord comes first. Daily personal and couple scripture study and prayer were musts. Weekly Temple attendance was definitely going to happen. Sunday would continue to be a day of rest, the Lord's day: no homework, weekly church attendance, etc. A close second on our list of priorities was our relationship with each other. Weekly date night was a must. We would eat dinner every night together at 6:30... even if homework wasn't done. Now, all of this meant quite a bit of sacrifice on Brad's part. He woke up every morning at 5:00AM and some nights didn't go to bed until well after midnight. 
But we had our priorities. 

One day, I skeptically asked Brad if he had actually finished all of his reading when he offered to help me with a project. He put it perfectly when he said "there will always be more to do. But I choose to be with you." Law school is such a place that there is always another case to read, always more policies to understand, always more outlining to do, etc. But put your marriage first. Law School (or Med School or MBA programs or life) will work out. 

Be Supportive
Law school is really really difficult. Your spouse will be learning how to study in a totally different way than they are used to. They will be asked to read hundreds and hundreds of pages every week. They will feel an immense pressure to be the best, do the best they can, and come out in a position that will get them the best job. They need you to be there to support them. I have learned to help Brad with his flash cards and outlines during finals, even when I am bored silly over the different policies and procedures. I try to remember when he has presentations and have a shirt ironed for him so that he doesn't have to worry about it. I leave little notes of encouragement. I try to have dinner ready right on time to show appreciation for him leaving his studies to be with me.

Now, it's important to also let your spouse support you. Marriage goes both ways.
It's okay to support each other. Which takes me to my next point.

Express Your Needs... And Know It's Okay to Have Them
When law school began, I thought I had to be there all the time and meet all of Brad's needs and make sure that I didn't need anything myself. In my mind, he was already so busy, and had so much to do that I didn't want to add to the stress. I made sure that I took care of everything I could, and didn't bring things up that I thought would burden him. But man, was I wrong. Eventually, I was feeling really burnt out and just so unlike myself. One night, I completely broke down and told Brad all these things that he didn't even know I was struggling with. And you know what? He was totally able to meet my simple needs. He just needed me to tell him what I needed. We were both happier after I learned to express myself. I was having my needs met, and Brad was glad to be able to help me with some things. They say that marriage is 50-50, but I don't agree. You both have to give 100%. It's a give and take... 
and it really is okay to take sometimes. 

Be The Best You
As wonderful as Brad is, the fact of the matter is that law school takes a lot of time. Even with good priorities including dinner, date nights, and Sundays at home, a law spouse will find that she is home alone a lot of the time. Saturdays can be especially long, and you may even spend week nights home alone. So it's important to find things that you love doing. Get a hobby. Take a class. Expand your talents. Serve. I am a lot happier when I spend my alone time doing things that matter most. 

Make Memories
Brad and I don't want to leave law school, never wanting to think about it again. We want to create fond memories and look back at this time as something really special. When we are together, we try to do fun things. We try new things, get out of the house, see different places, etc. We are present when we are together, putting away cell phones, computers, and homework. When we have to be apart, we make sure to remember important things to tell each other. We know that we are creating 
"remember when...." moments. 

From one of our Sunday walks up to the Temple.

This year has definitely been a whirlwind of emotions. Learning these five things took a lot of time, 
and we were never totally perfect at all of them. 
But I feel that we really thrived during this school year. 
Did I complain every now and then? I'm sad to admit, but Yes. 
But Brad loved me anyways. 
Even when I thought certain things were extremely difficult and made sure he knew how I felt.
And the good things far outweighed the difficult things. 
And the difficulties are the things that make the good times even more amazing. 

I love Brad so so much! I am proud of him for doing so well in law school. 
I'm extremely thankful that he chose to put The Lord and our Marriage Relationship first, 
while letting law school follow. He was definitely blessed for doing so. 
I can honestly say, that we are excited about the next two years. 
Are we looking forward to being totally done with law school? YES! 
But, we aren't dreading the journey to get to that point, 
for it is the journey that lets us find true joy. 

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