Nurturing Your Romantic Relationship With Your Non-Law Student Partner

Nurturing Your Romantic Relationship With Your Non-Law Student PartnerThis week we welcome back guest writer Tiffany Lo to discuss how to keep your romantic relationship going in law school, with a non law school significant other.

I have been with my partner through a lot of schooling. But when I started law school, I wondered how we could keep our long-distance relationship strong. I also wondered if both being graduate students in very different, but both demanding academic programs – I in law, and he in math – would change anything for the worse. Happily, 1L did not break us up, and after more than two years of juggling classes, teaching, work, research, internships, and other commitments, we are going strong.

I would be remiss not to mention that for couples, any strain that law school puts on the relationship is very real and valid. This would go for any other endeavor that is inherently time-consuming and taxing, My own experience is not representative of all, as my partner and I were lucky in many ways: we could visit each other once a month during 1L; we relied on technology when not physically together, we have dated through obligations in high school and college; we are both graduate students; and we spent a lot of time during work and zoom classes-from-home during the pandemic than otherwise possible. I am grateful for the circumstances that keep us connected, as well as the work we both put in to be understanding and loving. We tackled disagreements and mistakes with grace, and always supported each other.

Here are my thoughts on nurturing your romantic relationship with your partner, and especially one who is not a law student or a lawyer.

1. Share, But Don’t Overshare

The law can be very juicy and interesting. I enjoy telling my partner about crazy characters and facts or any controversial rulings. We often get a good laugh and talk about whether the judge reached the right result. However, I am careful not to overshare. I pay attention to my partner’s body language and interest level, and keep the discussion going or change it accordingly. As future lawyers, it is also important to be mindful of ethical obligations, and sharing information might actually be prohibited if you are working on real cases whether in clinics or at a law firm.

2. Set Expectations

Especially when your partner is unfamiliar with law school, it is a good idea to give them an idea of your schedule and a sense of the time needed to complete readings, finish writing assignments, attend events, visit office hours, and network with other students and legal professionals. Law school cannot always be a 9-5 job; late nights are quite inevitable, especially closer to exam periods and deadlines. Communicating early and often will help your partner understand what you’re going through, as well as give them an opportunity to make suggestions or help you, whether by doing the chores or planning fun activities. In general, it will be helpful to talk explicitly about what boundaries need to be set, for example, when quiet, distraction free work time is. “Winging it” is a precursor to differing expectations, and, in turn, disappointment and disagreement.

3. Plan, But Be Flexible

I firmly believe that law school should not dominate your life. As an organizer, I like to know when I should be knee deep in school work, and when I can turn to my hobbies, relax with a book or TV show, or spend time with my partner. When we were long distance, I would plan out my visits (after asking if it was a good weekend for my partner – an example of respecting boundaries), and then organize my reading or studying around them. It was also crucial for us to be okay with unexpected changes and miscalculated workloads. We would also stay connected by doing activities together, whether watching a baking show, checking out a new food place, or playing a game. During these times, we insist on being fully present, which allow us to be our full goofy selves.

4. Know When To Look Beyond Your Partner

Law school can make students stressed, anxious, tired, impatient, and negative. It is easy to take out your frustrations, whether orally or physically, intentionally or unintentionally, on your loved ones. But it is important to understand when your partner is emphatically not the person to dump your troubles or lay blame on. If you are frustrated with a legal concept, try talking to a classmate, the teaching assistant, or the professor. If you are experiencing anxiety or a mental health breakdown, a therapist is a good person to consult (law schools may have one in-house). If you feel jittery and that your mind is clogged, try exercising. Starting fights due to external factors will leave your partner confused as to what they did wrong and how they can address the situation, when they are likely not best equipped to do so. Understand your triggers, and identify productive ways and healthy outlets to manage them.

Some understandably worry that a non-law student partner won’t be able to relate to academic and career challenges. But relating is not necessary – rarely do both people in a relationship go through the same things in life. Even law students get and choose vastly differing experiences. What will help to avoid misunderstandings is communication, respect, and forgiveness. I hope that my two cents will help you not only maintain, but strengthen your relationship during law school.


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About Tiffany Gee Ching Lo

Tiffany Gee Ching Lo is a student at Stanford Law School. She spent her 1L year at the New York University School of Law, where she was involved with Alternative Breaks, Women of Color Collective, and Law Revue, and worked as research assistant. Tiffany received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley, graduating magna cum laude with double majors in Political Science and Rhetoric. Tiffany developed an interest in the law from a young age, and have worked in law firms and courthouses in Hong Kong–where she grew up, around the San Francisco Bay Area, and in New York. In her spare time, Tiffany enjoys painting, playing the piano and cello, trying out new recipes, and watching late night talk shows.

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