10 Tips for Dating A Resident

Dating is pretty daunting. Dating someone in a surgical residency program (or really, ANY residency) is something of a myth. So rare is the meeting/dating/marrying during residency formula that when Surgeon made his graduation speech, the loudest applause was when he mentioned meeting/dating/marrying yours truly.

Surgeon and I met during his 2nd year of residency. I seriously had no idea what I was getting into back then. I am still learning things, but just in case you’re texting that really awesome, sexy doctor online (yes, gentlemen, I am talking to YOU too), there are some things worth knowing.

Inspired by the wonderful and talented Single With Scalpel‘s guest post on the equally savvy and fabulous Sassy‘s blog, here’s a handy list to keep around.

Tip #1: Be Flexible – Dates can and SHOULD happen anywhere. After my first formal date with Surgeon, it got not-so-formal. We’ve had dates in supermarkets (yes, we grocery shopped together and then went home). More dinner dates happened at the hospital than anywhere else. In the end, your where-to-have-a-date question should be: where can I spend the most time with this person? And then, DO IT, no matter how weird it seems.

Tip #2: Appreciate Time Constraints –  Residents don’t have a lot of free time. Surgeon worked 100+ hours for many weeks, and with 4 days off a month, it wasn’t easy getting a “weekend away.” Realize this and really appreciate that they want to spend that little time off with you, instead of, you know, SLEEPING.

Tip #3: Be Ready to Put in MORE Time – They say all is fair and equal in true love. HAHAHA. Ahem. I mean, yes, it is. But when you’re dating a resident, fair and equal doesn’t apply for many things, especially time-wise. It’s one thing being flexible, but you should also count on spending a lot of time prepping on your own for that date. By the first month, I knew a dinner date meant me cooking, packing and cleaning up afterwards only to spend 30 minutes eating with Surgeon. I was willing to give it that time. Did that mean Surgeon NEVER cooked for me or NEVER did dishes? Of course not! But I never held it against him when he couldn’t.

Tip #4: Be the NON-Work Person – I found out early on that I LOVED listening to Surgeon talk about his work. It became a habit for me to ask, “So, what procedure did you do today?” Surgeon was a good sport, but I realized it wasn’t as enjoyable for him as it was for me… he needed someone to take him OUT of the medical world, quite understandably after spending 17 hours of a day there. So we learned to talk about OTHER things. Do I still get stories and reports about the OR? Absolutely. But not because I asked 🙂

Tip #5: Be Honest About what YOU Want – Also on Single with Scalpel’s list, yet it’s important on both sides. Residency is hard, but don’t let it become an excuse. Be flexible, but also let your super awesome doctor know when you want something! I was always hesitant in bringing up issues, or suggesting things that I knew would be difficult for Surgeon to do. But you matter. They want to be with you. They just don’t have time for the wheedling about, so TELL THEM the truth, always. You’ll be (most likely) pleasantly surprised. I certainly was when I found myself on a hike with my favorite person on a post-call day…

Tip #6: Befriend Co-residents – and spend time with them, even if it means being the only non-doctor in the room. Some of my best allies in getting Surgeon to be somewhere on time were his co-residents. Better yet, you haven’t heard from your person all day? Text a co-resident and they’ll fill you in. Pay them back in homemade cookies. Or pies. Really, food. Any food. They are your best friends forever. Truly.

Tip #7: Know That You’ll Sometimes Come Second – but never by choice. That’s the most important thing to understand. It is NEVER by choice. There have been many disappointing moments in our almost 4 years together directly tied to Surgeon being caught up in some dilemma at the hospital. Delays upon delays. No-shows with delayed responses as to WHY the no-show. Cancellations. Once, he had to leave me mid-ordering a meal during my birthday dinner. It sucked. But it sucked for BOTH of us, not just my poor little self sitting alone at a table. Surgeon didn’t get to eat again for a whole night and day.

Tip #8: 99% of Bad Moods/Days are NOT About You – This was really a hard one to learn for me… I tend to take a person’s mood around me as a reflection of what they feel about me. This is not a bad way to judge whoever you’re interacting with, but when you’re dating a resident, it might come to the point where all you see is bad days, row after row. It took me a while to realize that Surgeon probably deals with a LOT of frustration that he CAN’T show at work, so he comes home and deals with it there. It’s not about me. We learned together how to deal with the stress and the emotional burden of it… but that’s a whole other post in and of itself!

Tip #9: Learn How to PROUDLY make Excuses for their Absence – All my friends knew I had been dating, but no one believed me until I finally posted up our wedding photos on FB. Even then, there were people asking me if I hired someone to mess with them, heh. Truth is, residency means NO TIME. I went to all my friends’ weddings during Surgeon’s residency without him. Hell, I still go places without Surgeon! But I tell everyone proudly: my boyfriend/fiance/husband is working hard… he would love to be here, but he can’t be. He really is sorry to miss this! Don’t ever belittle your other-half’s work through their absence. They aren’t there because the work they are learning to do might someday save the very person you’re explaining their absence to.

Tip #10: Know that You’ll Never TRULY Understand the struggle of residency, but you’ll know better than most. You can’t walk in a resident’s shoes unless you’re a resident, too! There are things I still don’t get, frustrations that I am still grasping to make sense of, hospital bureaucracy that I am still wondering angrily about. I cannot compare anything I do to what he does (and really, no one should ever compare in ANY relationship, resident or otherwise), but I can listen. And by listening, I can’t say I have worn his shoes, but I can say that I do love the shoes he wears and will always stand next to them in my own. Residency is tough, but love is stronger.

And on that clichéd but very true note, I’ll leave you. If you have anything to add to the list, let me know below! I’d love to amend/discuss 🙂

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20 thoughts on “10 Tips for Dating A Resident

  1. Thank you for posting this!! I have been dating a general surgery resident for four months and this really helps. I’m lucky enough to have met him during his two year hiatus from residency (he’s currently doing research) but I know that come next July, my life will change drastically. The advice is super helpful and it’s always nice (and reassuring) to see other successful medical/non-medical relationships.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kelly Anne,

      Thank you so much for posting. I found it just in time. The love of my life will be here in 2 days after more than a month of near ghosting and I can’t bring myself to be upset with him. Everyone says I should drop him for the sake of my sanity. And, from the outside it makes sense. But, I don’t want to argue with him. I don’t want to cause him stress. I want to take it away. I just want to love on him. But, I’m afraid of getting hurt again.

      I’m going to try it your way b/c it aligns with my Spirit. Hope to have an update for you soon 🥰


  2. I am currently dating a surgeon resident and have found this article to be extremely helpful. My surgeon and I have had some difficult times and, right now, I’m trying to save the relationship. I would really like to know how you and your husband were able to work through the stress and emotional burdens. Please send me an email and look forward to hearing from you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Really appreciate you posting this. Sometimes It’s like like no one around me understands what it’s like to be dating a surgeon in residency and it’s nice to see some of my feelings validated. I’ve experienced many of those same things you mentioned and it hasn’t always been the easiest. It isn’t like any other normal relationship. Thank you for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am currently dating a resident as well. Time is very challenging 😦 It is always nice to have a positive view to make myself stronger. We live an hour and half away and it wasnt as easy to see him. With him being at hospital, he teaches as well so time is really very challenging. But I do my best to understand everything. He text few times a day and call once a day that makes me happy. I just need more understanding to keep up with all these challenge. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • That distance is definitely tough! Surgeon used to live 45 mins away, an hour if traffic was bad… it was really hard, but we mitually were okay with spending the weekend at each others place. That made dinners, movies, and just hanging out a lot easier. Plus it provided fuel for the week when we didn’t get to see each other.

      What would you like more of, though? Is it quality time, or something else? I think it helps pinpointing what you need (we ALL need things) and then relaying it to your partner.

      Thank you for reading and stopping by!


  5. Thanks for your post is extremely helpful sometimes I desperate and get disappointed very easy. I am 45 min away and some days are hard to see each other, especially I am an engineer, and he is a surgeon resident in the last year.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your blog. Thank you so much for this! I’ve been dating my surgeon for about a year now. I’m an academic researcher, and I always thought dating a scientist like me was bad, with all the long hours in the lab and unpredictable schedule…Then when I started dating my surgeon I discovered a whole new level of relationship difficulty. Truly, reading this post and the comments give me a tremendous amount of relief. My surgeon’s starting her fellowship in a few months, so it seems like things are going to get worse before they get better. Luckily, she’ll be staying in the same city for fellowship, but from the sound of things, it’s going to be a rough year. Please keep posting, I’ll be reading and enjoying all of your sage wisdom!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow – this was SO helpful to read. My boyfriend is in medical school right now, and he is pretty set on going cardiothoracic for specialty. It’s been tough to give him 100% support, but at the same time be feeling so scared inside about what this means for our future. Reading your post gave me so much hope that we can still make it work despite all the challenges that will come.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I didn’t research this topic until I was already very involved with a 3rd year resident. I think he has another year and then a fellowship … that might be here or it might not. I’ve never been in a relationship like this. I’m a little worried that I bit off more than I can chew not fully understanding the situation. Thanks for the insight.


    • It really is hard! And as they grow in their career, it doesn’t get much easier. But be sure to voice your needs and don’t be afraid to ask for more if you’re feeling it’s becoming one-sided. In the end, you’ll both learn to give and take in balance. While it hasn’t been easy, I truly am happily married (5 years now!) to my best friend 💓❤


  9. Hi – I randomly came across this blog post as I was trying to research what it’s like to date a resident and I would love to email you directly if you feel that’s appropriate. I just recently met someone and he seems absolutely amazing but I fear my anxiety is going to ruin the early stages of getting to know him and potentially an amazing relationship. I’ve honestly never met someone that I’ve liked this much and I’m beyond freaked out by it. The doctor world is extremely new to me and I’m just trying to navigate if I’m putting too much pressure on or what’s an appropriate amount of effort to put into this.


  10. It looks like it has been few years on this blog, could you provide us with some updates to what happened after residency over? Did things get better ? How’s the communication? Working hours ?
    Also, I am interested about communication during residency specially long distance. Were you texting and call often through the day or with long working hours everyday, it was not possible ?


    • Depending on the job, the hours vary. My husband has hectic weeks and not so hectic weeks. Communication is key, long or short distance. We text during the day, and we call each evening we are apart (when he’s on call, he always makes it a point to video call and say goodnight to me and the kids). It’s not often that we go a whole day without hearing from each other. If he’s busy, he takes a moment to let me know, especially right before a 7 or 8 hour surgery. Tell your partner what you want to know and when you need to know it… being direct always helps!


  11. Thank you, so much for your words of wisdom. I work in the medical field, and have some insight of the life of residency program. Few months ago a guy I met years ago; before he got into practicing medicine. Reached out to me to rekindle something with me. He’s in his third year of residency, and currently in a trauma rotation. I noticed he’s been out of pocket this rotation. Where he was more so communicating before with me. Reading this post; really put things in perspective for me. My friends telling me not text or call him, but what they don’t realize his career is more demanding than a typical job. I’ve been messaging him once a week words of encouragement. Let him know thinking of him through this rotation. You have some ideas to change it up?


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