I’m coming up on 3 years of being with my partner. My girlfriend, my partner, my boo – it wasn’t an easy journey getting here. Entering a romantic relationship for the individualistic-minded physician is like jumping into ice-cold water.
In this article, I want to focus on some recommendations for physicians, especially the digitally nomad-minded ones, regarding entering a romantic relationship.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
I have written about relationships and romantic ones in particular before. This is my latest discussion of what I have overcome to be in what I consider a healthy and desirable romantic relationship.
Dating and the Single Life
Like other dudes, I didn’t get a lot of insight into romantic relationships from my male role models around me. My dad either commented on women’s appearance or emphasized what it takes to be a good mother or wife.
I dated with very little self-confidence or at least self-realization. And projected many of my insecurities on my dates … you’re welcome.
Dating was a way to pass the time and deal with the depressive thoughts of my existence. I’d get a jolt of confidence here and there.
I constantly tried to get further away from my identity and impress the other person. And this resulted in shorter and shorter relationships, in perpetual search of “the one.”
Marriage as a Solution to Dating
I was lucky in that the women I dated were incredible people. From what I remember, I don’t have any disaster stories.
My insecurities were insurmountable back then, with unbelievable jealousy and cinematic expectations. I hadn’t the slightest idea of romantic boundaries.
So, to escape the perpetual first-date disaster, I decided that the last partner I got to know was good enough to marry. And so I proposed, and we got married with a $50,000 engagement ring.
We lived together all of 4 months before I asked for a divorce. I was able to annul the marriage. We stayed friends, fortunately, something I have been lucky about with other ex’s.
Entering a Romantic Relationship as a Doctor – How-to:
1. Being Able to Set Healthy Boundaries
After my divorce, I decided to do the single thing for real. I wanted to get to know women, not as a means to an end but view them the same as dudes.
This meant learning to set arbitrary boundaries but helped prevent resentment and miscommunication.
2. Vulnerable Communication
Vulnerability for men comes as easily as holding another dude’s hand in public. We are taught the opposite and succeed in society despite its lack.
For me to communicate with my partner, I need to know what my boundaries are. Stomping on my boundaries will likely set me off or lead to resentment.
Communicating without sharing my feelings just wastes a lot of time. We never get to the meat of the topic. But for me to be vulnerable, I need to have less fear that we might break up, which means that I have to be okay with being alone.
3. Embracing Being Single
Shedding my identity as a doctor and relying less on my medical licensure helps me feel less enmeshed in medicine. It helped me thrive in healthcare consulting, coaching, teaching, etc.
Shedding my fear of loneliness and the negative connotations some have with being single or alone can help me lose the fear of breaking up.
It’s not that I think I will break up with my partner, but I’ll never be genuine if I constantly fear being alone again.
4. Aware and Open to Discuss Baggage
This is vulnerability, but it’s also the factor of being forthcoming, like telling a patient that you’re not good with their knees and that you’d like them to be seen by a knee expert.
My baggage in the past was my unbelievable jealousy which has completely dissolved now that my expectations from a romantic relationship are love and companionship and not egotistical ownership.
I didn’t want kids, want a lot of time alone, and can’t always explain why I want to do something. I like my boring routines and don’t like being told what to do. Some mornings – many mornings, I wake up grumpy. And I love working (on things I enjoy).
5. Setting Realistic Expectations
I wanted a partner whom I could sit down with and have awesome conversations and laugh. That’s it as far as what I want from her.
I feared arguments in the past, and now I know they will happen, but they don’t have to be any more unpleasant with the same arguments I have in my own head with my own self.
I expect that my partner is an individual with her own shitty days and may sometimes have unrealistic expectations. Fortunately, I have the communication skills to express how I felt to her that day and what would work better for me.
Start Slow and Learn Their Language
When entering a romantic relationship, I wanted to jump all in. Without this, I felt the relationship was doomed.
In fact, what worked out better for me was starting out as friends. As I said, getting to know a woman the same way I would get to know a dude.
I don’t have to tell anyone about any part of my life I’m not comfortable sharing. And if I open up slowly, I also get to know their language, whether their love language or their way of communicating.
Now, 3 Years Later
Since I learned how to enter a romantic relationship, I have enjoyed this wonderful journey with my current partner.
Now, 3 years later, we are getting to know each other and haven’t killed each other yet even though we spend nearly 24/7 together.
Could it end? Sure! I hope that we stay friends if it does. I hope she meets a better partner or enjoys a better life. The same goes for me.
I don’t fear being single, don’t fear being lonely. In fact, I make sure to take some trips alone and take time for myself.
I have a partner who supports my actions and can hold space for me when discussing my fears and vulnerabilities. I get a perspective from her that I would otherwise not generate from my own thoughts.
As much selfish time, I take to take care of myself, I try to consider her needs. How can I be there for her without overstepping my boundaries or doing something that might lead to resentment?
There is no perfection. Some days I wake up on the left side of hell. I need all my ATPs to hold space for myself. Those days I try to be self-aware enough not to take my shit out on anyone else.