Transcontinental (or “Not-So-Long Distance”) Residencies and Making It Work

My Match Day in March 2015 was probably one of the best days of my mid-twenties. I stood around a table with my best friends and my significant other — also a medical student — as we opened our Match letters together. It was our best day — I was headed to Baltimore, and he would be following behind in one short year — our plan for our future together was in play. Flash forward to 2016 and Match Day was upon us again, but this time as I scrubbed out of the OR to receive the call (residency preventing me from being by his side) we had the worst day. Our 800-mile distance from the past year paled in comparison to our new 3,000-mile divide. Yes, that’s right, 3,030 miles and three time zones would separate us as we completed some of the most formidable and challenging years of our lives.

We literally became a bicoastal couple overnight. Would it work? We definitely weren’t sure. We knew we had a good chance given our past year apart, but that was different — his schedule was more flexible, and at least we were in the same time zone.

Despite the (large) obstacle of, literally, 11 states between us, I can now say we have made it work and we can finally see the light (488 more sunrises) at the end of the tunnel, but who’s counting? We see each other every four to six months (yeah, you read that right) but have managed to strengthen our relationship, become more independent and better prioritize our time apart and together.

So how did we do it? Long distance isn’t for everyone.

  • First you MUST have trust. We had been together for four years before we had to attempt long distance, so we had already established a level of trust. This is key given that you might not speak (besides text) to one another for several days if you are on conflicting schedules.
  • Communication is also key. Wait, you just said we might not talk for days?! That’s what text messages, FaceTime while running to get lunch, and Bitmoji are for — share your love, whenever, and however, you can.
  • Get a frequent flyer card and start racking up the miles, which will make it easier for the next piece of advice: Plan some great vacations together. PSA: Planes are great for analyzing data, working on personal statements and catching up on sleep! I found out the hard way that accidently mass emailing your department instead of your chief residents about how long it has been since you’ve seen each other will actually help, not hurt your cause, or so my now fiancée says! It’s a happy ending — thanks to that great Hawaiian vacay bought with miles!
  • Lastly, remind yourself that this isn’t a forever situation, and lean on your co-residents when you need that support that you might not be able to get from your partner. You might end up developing some of the best friendships of your life; I know I have.

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